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Green Party call for national discussion on political party funding and donations reform

Written By: - Date published: 7:10 am, February 19th, 2020 - 61 comments
Categories: democratic participation, electoral commission, greens - Tags: , ,

Press release from greens.org.nz
February 17, 2020 10:43 AM

The Green Party are calling for an independent citizens’ assembly to investigate cleaning up political donations, including public funding for political parties during election campaigns.

“It’s clear that Parliament is incapable of meaningful reforms to itself, as some political parties have a vested interest in the status quo,” said Green Party Co-leader, James Shaw.

“For instance the National Party vetoed recommendations for improvements to our democracy in both 2012 and 2018, which were made by the Electoral Commission and Appropriations Review Committee. They also ignored their own Constitutional Advisory Panel on improvements, showing a stubborn resistance to change.

“That is why the Greens are calling for a citizens’ assembly to take matters out of the hands of politicians and put them into the hands of the people. 

“Everyone should have equal access to democracy and trust in the political institutions that make decisions for their communities.

“At the moment, two out of five political parties in Parliament are under investigation for potential donations misconduct. Whilst we cannot predict or ponder what the outcomes of those investigations will be, ultimately we think these investigations wouldn’t be happening had parties had access to public funds rather than vying for large donations from private interests.

“That is why Golriz Ghahraman has a Members Bill in the ballot to strengthen our democracy. We did this before any Serious Fraud Office investigations into political party donations because we believe broadly the system is not working as it should,” said James Shaw.

Golriz Ghahraman said, “When trust in political parties goes down, our democracy suffers. The public turns away from the institution that is supposed to deliver from them.

“We’ve seen overseas the huge problems that have arisen when political parties accept huge donations from fossil fuel, tobacco, gambling and gun lobbies. Decisions are made that hurt our communities and democracy is corrupted.

“Currently in New Zealand political parties are operating in massive grey zones around donations. There is much to do to clean up the system but the Green Party believe that a national conversation about publicly funded elections would help prevent any potential misconduct in the future.

“Right now more than ever New Zealanders need to be engaging in democracy, not disenfranchised by it. We all must work together to ensure equality for all, healthy nature and climate action.”


Wikipedia entry on Citizens’ Assembly.


61 comments on “Green Party call for national discussion on political party funding and donations reform ”

  1. Billy 1

    This is a great push by the Greens. But they need to be open about the way interests are working across sectors politically, including on them. Nobody will fault them for being honest. They may win back some supporters.

    It they achieve equitable public political funding across parties, the work arounds they’ve had to implement won’t be necessary. But they need to address all forms of influence and big money in politics because the largely foreign superstructure they have relied on this time around will just be mimicked by the right and we’ll have TaxPayersStation funded by the Koch brothers and Peter Thiel to contend with.

  2. lprent 2

    What has become evident over recent years, as this press release points out, is that the MPs and party are incapable of administering or even putting the rules in place to counter a growth in donation driven corruption.

    MPs have effectively hamstrung the Electoral Commission for doing it as well, as much as anything else by making the process opaque and therefore untrustworthy.

    It is time for a substantive change.

    Thanks to whichever editor put this up… I think that it is should be the primary topic for today – so I bumped it to the top.

    • Gosman 2.1

      Where is the evidence for this "a growth in donation driven corruption"?

      I think you might be mistaking a number of examples of breaches of rules/laws around donations with actual corruption. Donation driven corruption would be if the actual donation lead to corrupt activities such as awarding a tender to a person or business who donated to a political party.

      • bwaghorn 2.1.1

        Oh oh please sir

        Does buying a spot on a political parties list qualify as corrupt.

      • Enough is Enough 2.1.2

        The racing industry…

        • Gosman

          What about the racing industry? What corrupt policy was smuggled under the radar as a result of donations made by racing industry representatives?

      • So a wealthy Chinese gave a $100,000 donation to the National Party because he likes the design of Soimun's tie?

        In fact, payback might have materialised in the 'economic' statement by Soimun saying the Natz would open NZ up to foreign (ie Chinese) house buyers.

        Grow up, Gossie.

        • Gosman

          The National party are being entirely open with this policy. They aren't trying to sneak it past the electorate. There are also reasons why the policy makes sense especially from a right wing perspective. This is called politics. If you don't like the policies you don't vote National.

          • Wensleydale

            The only people the National Party are entirely open with are the National Party. And given their historic enthusiasm for knifing each other, only when the mood takes them.

      • McFlock 2.1.4

        Oh, bullshit. At the very least, large anonymous donations are the equivalent of failing to disclose a clear conflict of interest.

        you want examples of corruption from donations, try opening Skegg, D. (2019). The health of the people. When ministers yell at officials because the officials are suggesting controls on industries that are large party donors, that's corruption.

      • lprent 2.1.5


        How many times have lousy and potentially illegal donations been referred to the police and SFO in past decades compared to the last decade.

        I know because I pay attention and have a memory.

        Perhaps you should get off your lazy dimwitted arse and look it up if you don't know. At the very least it would stop you wasting my time repeating the same message about your inate laziness over and over again.

        Personally I am getting rather sick of you never bringing anything to discussions apart from whining that others do the work for you. I suspect that we'd have more useful and robust discussions without you.

        • In Vino

          Coming in late, but full agreement. By and large, Gosman equivocates in that he queries without contributing.

  3. mary_a 3

    Excellent call from NZ Greens.

    Can't find this proposal in msm, where it should dominate headlines! No surprises there!

  4. Ross 4

    It’s a good decision to raise the issue now but taxpayers should not be funding election campaigns. It’s relatively cheap and easy to disseminate information. Parties do it throughout the electoral cycle. They stand up inside and outside Parliament and do it.

    The Electoral Commission could provide an online platform for all press releases, policy announcements and video presentations during a limited (3 months or less) election campaign. All fact checked of course! No donations would be required and the only funding required would be to run the website. Individual candidates would be free to spend a modest sum of their own money up to a limit.

    • UncookedSelachimorpha 4.1

      " It’s a good decision to raise the issue now but taxpayers should not be funding election campaigns. "

      Why not? Some public funding of political discourse is a good idea I would think. Benefits all of society.

      • Gosman 4.1.1

        Nope. It just cements the status quo (who will receive the vast bulk of the funding) and ties political parties to the largesse dished out by the State. Political parties should be independent of the apparatus of the State not beholden to it.

        • Incognito

          Our democracy should not be beholden to political parties. MPs who are told to meet certain levels of donations for the party are not serving the public good but are literally buying & selling for their party. Which allegiance comes first? The one they swear in Parliament or the one they ‘swear’ to their party?

  5. UncookedSelachimorpha 5

    Well done Greens.

    Don't reform political donations – just ban them entirely. Most come from wealthy individuals and their businesses – and none of them are giving political parties money without expecting something in return.

    My preference would be a limited annual membership fee (e.g. $100 max) and the rest funded by the state in proportion to either membership or share of vote.

    • Gosman 5.1

      That's nice. However if you attempt to push your ideas via this "Citizens Assembly" then people like me will attack you for having totalitarian tendencies and trying to impose your will via undemocratic means. Do you remember what happened with the Electoral Finance Act?

      • UncookedSelachimorpha 5.1.1

        Funding proportional to the number of people who support you. Certainly sounds undemocratic.

        Best to have a handful of rich people controlling things then – in the name of democracy!

    • Wensleydale 5.2

      Don't worry. Being attacked by Gosman is rather like being mauled by a cushion.

  6. Gosman 6

    Umm…. who is going to set up the rules for selecting this "Citizens assembly"? If it is not done in a manner that is agreeable to ALL parties in Parliament then it runs the risk of being declared a partisan body and any recommendations will be reversed by a subsequent parliament dominated by those parties who disagreed with it.

    • Billy 6.1

      Quite right.

      Parliament is supposed to be a citizen's assembly. If it is not now, then it needs to be reformed until it is. Chloe Swarbrick seemed to touch on this is a recent release. The solution is electoral reform, and democratic reform, not the establishment of a revolutionary vanguard or jury.

      Chloe wrote:

      “Parliament belongs to you. We accept the politics we think we deserve. With two out of five Parliamentary political parties now implicated in Serious Fraud Office investigations, I get some people wanting to wash their hands and sigh that all politics is the same.

      But when you give up on democratic improvement, you give licence to those with all the power and wealth to continue behaving in exactly the way you dislike.

      Our Parliament is formed by the votes (and the absence of votes) of New Zealanders. If you’re unhappy with politics, the easiest way to change it is to vote. The best way to change it is to actively engage and campaign for progress.

      Don’t accept the status quo – don’t give it permission.”

      I appreciate Chloe’s frustrations with the democratic process.

      But whomever is in power will be the status quo, and that goes for any sort of “citizens assembly” outside parliament, which will, presumably, have the extra downside of not having been voted in my the citizenry?

      We’ve heard quite a bit about citizen’s assemblies over the past few years. It’s right to be concerned about how they might be established.

      I note that they are often randomly selected, like a jury, in practice. But a jury isn’t voted in…

      • Billy 6.1.1

        Maybe the Greens are involved in a bit of philosophical wizardry aimed at calling out undemocratic processes in our democracy rather than arguing for rule by self-appointed moral guardians, much like Peter Singer is engaged in calling out our treatment of animals and the natural world by pointing out the logical inconsistencies in our positions over our treatment of animals vs humans that often hinge on arguments about superior human sentience or feeling (that’s Singer’s point)… I hope so.

  7. Chris T 7

    Apologies. Posted this on the wrong thread.

    Personally would prefer not having more of my tax dollars paying for the nutty Green Party, New Conservatives or the next Colin Craig.

    • Of course, and I would prefer not to have more of my tax dollars paying for National or ACT. However, I'd also prefer not to have wealthy individuals or foreign interests trying to buy influence over political parties and anonymising those attempts. Public funding of parties may not be the best answer, but the question is whether there's a better one or not.

      • Gosman 7.1.1

        Why would you prefer not to have wealthy individuals or foreign interests trying to buy influence over political parties and anonymising those attempts?

        Have you got examples of policies that have been secretly implemented as a result of the current set up?

        • Psycho Milt

          Why would you prefer not to have wealthy individuals or foreign interests trying to buy influence over political parties and anonymising those attempts?

          What, seriously? Who thinks that's a good idea? Apart from those involved in it, I mean – obviously it's great for them.

          Have you got examples of policies that have been secretly implemented as a result of the current set up?

          How would we know of any examples? The only reason we know about these particular National and NZF anonymised donations is that someone dobbed them in. We have no means of knowing how many times this has happened previously, who donated or what they got from it. National has expelled the whistleblower, so it's quite possibly happening right now for this year's election campaign and we'll never know for sure either way. Same applies to NZF. That's not a good thing.

          • Gosman

            You can hazard a guess at some policy that seemingly made no sense at the time that the National party did not push prior to announcing it's implementation that can be seen to benefit big money interests.

            • Psycho Milt

              Er, most of National's policies benefit big money interests. What we don't know is whether any big money interests (other than the Chinese Communist Party) made large, anonymised donations to National – which is the bit that needs fixing.

              • Gosman

                There we go then and National party policies are usually quite open and transparent. If you don't think this will benefit NZ then don't vote for them.

      • Chris T 7.1.2

        "but the question is whether there's a better one or not."

        Cleaning up and clarifying the rules round what we have

    • Puckish Rogue 7.2

      Agreed, this sounds suspiciously like using party donations as an excuse to sneak in what they really want

  8. Chris T 8

    Easiest thing to do is just make parties declare all donations, no matter the value and ditch the ability to donate anonymously

    • Ad 8.1

      Easy only if you are powerful.

      Every other working donor will fear employer retribution.

      Very bad idea.

      • Graeme 8.1.1

        It's not only working donors that are wary of the consequences of their donations to political causes being known. Happens at a business / corporate level as well.

        We really need to deal with the cultural / social reasons why both donors and political parties have a pressing need to suppress the identities of donors.

        Maybe if it was completely in the open at all levels a form of mutually assured destruction would develop and a more realistic culture would prevail.

      • Chris T 8.1.2

        So Labour donors

      • Billy 8.1.3

        That's actually a pretty good point.

    • Puckish Rogue 8.2

      I'd agree to this, simple to follow and easy to understand

    • bwaghorn 8.3

      Hear hear

  9. Corey Humm 9

    This is good.

    I think we should move to publicly funded election campaigns and the SFO cases prove this, it'll level the playing field stop millionaires starting new parties and flooding them with cash and it'll stop the incredibly unfairness of one party having a "five million dollar " ( and the rest imo) election budget and the other parties having 500 k to 1.2 million.

    Allow donations under $500 and limit the amount of times one can donate yearly maybe one donation per quarter and they have to be publicly disclosed.

    I think the public would be absolutely fine with this in fact I think they'd support it

    • Gosman 9.1

      Why is having a bigger election budget unfair but having a bigger active supporter base not?

      • McFlock 9.1.1

        Why is having a bigger election budget unfair but having a bigger active supporter base not?

        Because a democracy should be based on the citizenry, not the currency.

        • Gosman

          No, giving one's labour should be no different to giving capital. In fact in a society where much of politics is people who rely on capital for their income competing for power against people who rely on their labour removing the opportunity for one side to use their particular area of advantage is skewing the playing field. As the SCOTUS has noted giving money to political parties is a much a free speech issue as being able to knock on someone's door and tell them to vote for your political party of choice.

          • McFlock

            Bullshit. Everyone only has 24 hours in a day. The amount of money people has varies wildly.

            SCOTUS can suck my balls on that one. Fortunately, they have no jurisdiction here.

            • Gosman

              Except there are far more people available to help parties like Labour than there are for National as National party supporters tend to be busy doing other things.

              • In Vino

                Except that if you want something done efficiently, give the task to a busy person…. so it all evens out, you see.

              • McFlock

                National party supporters tend to be busy doing other things

                Evading tax and spitting on peasants can't be all that time-consuming, surely?

          • UncookedSelachimorpha

            The SCOTUS was completely wrong on that, in my opinion.

            One person can knock on one door, and then knock on another etc.

            A billionaire can buy the entire process and can induce thousands of individuals to knock on doors for them.

            Money does not equal people, nor should it.

          • UncookedSelachimorpha

            You seem to be under the delusion that the money of someone with billions was sourced the same way as that of someone with just a job. The below should clarify things for you.

            2000 most hard-working people richer than 4.6 billion laziest people combined

            You can't inherit billions of "labour" from your parents either.

          • lprent

            Hey Godman What exactly does the constitutional court of the USA have to do with our laws?


            Free speech doesn't even exist as a concept in our legal system. When you look at the BORA, freedom of expression is the closest thing to the constitutional amendment of the US.

            For the press that that it mostly actually applies to, we have some very constrained laws that grant very qualified privilege to our journalists.

            If you're going to waffle on like a dimwit troll about stuff that has no relevance to NZ or this post, find another post to do it in.

  10. woodart 10

    ban all political parties. all candidates stand as independents, with all donations made public.

    • Gosman 10.1

      How would you stop a situation where people ran as independents but agreed to vote with others of a similar like mind once they have been elected?

      • Incognito 10.1.1

        Nah, we can’t have that. They must vote along the party lines or they get whipped by the Whip. Befehl ist befehl und Ordnung muß sein! Our Parliamentary democracy is really a collection of authoritarian and totalitarian fiefdoms run by people with unique personalities and uncommon value systems.

  11. lprent 11

    Gosman: Where is the evidence for this "a growth in donation driven corruption"?.

    How many times have lousy and potentially illegal donations been referred to the police and SFO in past decades compared to the last decade.

    I know because I pay attention and have a memory. And that is my opinion. So prove that I am incorrect…

    Perhaps you should get off your lazy dimwitted arse and look it up if you don't know. At the very least it would stop you wasting my time repeating the same message about your inate laziness over and over again.

    Personally I am getting rather sick of you never bringing anything to discussions apart from whining that others should do the work for you. I suspect that we'd have more useful and robust discussions without you.

    I suspect that I could wind up testing that theory on an experiment…

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