The best Electoral System that money can buy

Written By: - Date published: 10:33 am, January 19th, 2024 - 22 comments
Categories: act, democracy under attack, democratic participation, election 2023, elections, labour, maori party, national, political parties, Politics, same old national - Tags:

In a carefully reasoned and comprehensive report the Independent Electoral Review Panel, comprising of some highly respected academics and public servants, has made various recommendations to the Government about the electoral system.

The Government has responded by immediately ruling out some of the proposals, without even the ability for there to be a reasoned and principled discussion about the report.

From Radio New Zealand:

Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith has ruled out several recommendations from the Independent Electoral Review set up by the previous government.

The minister on Tuesday released the final report, which makes more than 117 recommendations, after it was delivered to him at the end of November 2023.

Goldsmith ruled out action on some recommendations, including:

  • Lowering the voting age to 16

  • Allowing all prisoners to vote and stand for Parliament

  • Freezing the ratio of electorate to list seats, which would lead to an increase in the number of MPs over time

  • Repealing the offence of ‘treating’ voters with refreshments and entertainment.

So much for the hope of the panel that the matter be approached independently and with open minds.

The motivation for opposing the lowering of the voting age is clear.

Clearly for Seymour the important issue is who they are going to vote for, not what is right.

My personal view is let them have a say in who our leaders are.  They have more at stake in the proper managing of our collective future than the rest of us.

Three proposals made by the panel that I believe needs to be given serious consideration are that donations from corporations and people not on the electoral roll should not be allowed, donations should otherwise be capped at $30,000 and that third parties should be obliged to disclose all donations they receive over $30,000 in value.

The Panel’s reasoning is contained in this passage:

58.  Parties and candidates mostly rely on private donations and loans to pay for their day-to-day activities and for their election campaigns. In Aotearoa New Zealand, people have the right to support any party. While the law should enable this form of participation, it also risks enabling the exercise of undue influence through financial means.

59.  We recommend that only individuals enrolled to vote should be able to make loans or donate to parties and candidates. This means that all entities, whether trusts, companies, trade unions, iwi, hapū, or unincorporated associations, would be prohibited from providing funding. They will continue to be able to participate as third-party promoters or by donating to third-party promoters.

60.  Currently there are no restrictions on the amount that an individual may donate or loan to a party or candidate. We recommend introducing a cap of $30,000 per party and all its individual candidates for each election cycle. We also recommend reducing the amount of money that can be donated anonymously from $1,500 to $500. The reduction will improve transparency while still allowing for “grass-roots” fundraising. The rarely used protected disclosure regime for larger anonymous donations should be removed.

61.  We make further recommendations in response to submissions about loopholes and avoidance issues. Registered third-party promoters who are required to declare their election expenses should also be required to disclose all donations over $30,000 received from any person (whether as a single donation or multiple donations) in an electoral cycle used for election expenditure. Increased monitoring and new offences would be required to enforce new restrictions on third-party promoters. These changes are needed to limit, for example, the potential for donors to collude with parties and subvert our recommended changes to private funding.

As to the first the right’s standard complaint is that the Unions fund the Labour Party.   While it receives generous donations from different unions the amounts are dwarfed by those corporations give to the right.

In the 12 months to December 31, 2023 Labour received the following Union donations over the sum of $20,000:

  • Dairy Workers Union – $95,000
  • Meat Workers Union – $35,000
  • Rail & Maritime Transport Union – $50,000
  • Maritime Union – $50,000
  • Etu – $90,000

It received no reported corporate donations over $20,000.

During the same period National received the following corporate donations over $20,000:

  • Rank Group Limited – $150,000.00
  • Christopher & Banks Ltd – $100,000.00
  • Velocity Freight Ltd – $100,000.00
  • VDB Management Services Limited – $50,000.00
  • Midland Seed Limited – $40,000.00
  • Hud Studio Limited – $35,000.00
  • ADN Commercial Ltd – $24,500.00
  • IEF Limited – $23,000.00
  • Buen Holdings Limited – $20,000.00
  • Oregon Group Limited – $62,000.00

Act was also the recipient of considerable largesse:

  • Rank Group Limited –  $104,000.00
  • Align Farm Investments Limited – $100,000.00
  • Christopher & Banks Limited – $100,000.00
  • Owens Properties Limited – $50,000.00
  • Cambrian Trust – $50,000.00
  • Atlas Concrete Limited – $50,000.00
  • Ateco Group NZ Ltd – $25,000.00

Even NZ First received some big coporate cheques:

  • Rank Group Limited – $100,000.00
  • AJR Finance Ltd – $50,000.00

These are not the final figures for corporate donations.  They are only the large amounts paid to the parties that were reported to the Electoral Commission.

The following table is my analysis of the potential change based solely on the large donations made last year.

Party 2023 Large  Donations Not allowed under proposal Allowed
ACT New Zealand$1,813,900$1,318,725$495,175
Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand$651,686$360,000$291,686
New Zealand First$831,141$621,141$210,000
New Zealand Labour Party$658,804$478,804$180,000
New Zealand National Party$2,429,816$1,562,796$867,020
Te Pāti Māori$50,000$20,000$30,000

You can see this would have a considerable effect on funding but if we don’t want our electoral system to be dominated by the interests of the wealthy the change is needed.  The shortfall would be met by an increase in state funding and reallocation of the Broadcasting Allowance.

The suggestion that third parties should be obliged to disclose all donations they receive over $30,000 in value I believe that this proposal is overdue.  Already there is concern that unregulated money is being used to tilt the electoral system to the right.

As I pointed out in this post the relationship between the Tax Payer’s Union and the right wing Atlas Network is of concern.  In the post I said this:

In 2017 [TPU head Jordan Williams] highlighted fundraising as a major challenge.  Back then the TPU’s income was $355 thousand and it had cash reserves of $11,000.

This has increased dramatically.  From public records we are aware that last financial year ending December 31, 2022 it received $2.826 million in income and had nearly a million dollars in cash in its bank accounts.  The return for this year will be very interesting.  The change in funding over 5 years is stark.

And as pointed out by David Williams this funding was used last year to pay for polling at the national and electorate level, the issuing of almost 100 press releases, hosting seven political debates, publishing four policy reports, starting a petition, drafting alternative legislation, and rolling out a debt clock gimmick all between August 1 and election day.  If only the left had a similarly resourced entity to drive policy formation and public opinion.

It has been suggested to me that all of TPU’s funding comes from small donations.  If so it has nothing to worry about.

George Monbiot has described the effect of dark right wing thinktank money on elections graphically in these terms:

These junktanks are like the spike proteins on a virus. They are the means by which plutocratic power invades the cells of public life and takes over. It’s time we developed an immune system.

The proposal by the panel concerning donations would be the start of an effective immune system to protect the system from the distorting effects of donations by the wealthy.  Which is why I suspect the Government will not have a bar of it.

22 comments on “The best Electoral System that money can buy ”

  1. Tiger Mountain 1

    Great piece Micky. This article should be left at the top of the feed for a while imo.

    Online is where so many people are at these days, and along with corporate funding and strategy by well known dark operators played a significant role in the Natzos electoral win.

  2. Aidan 2

    Who the heck is rank group and what do they want? Some pretty telling names on the list of donors. I would suggest some actual journalism is needed to shed some light. Not gonna hold my breath though

    • mickysavage 2.1

      Rank Group is Graeme Hart’s company. For those who don’t know he is reputed to be the richest person in Aotearoa.

      • Aidan 2.1.1

        Carter holt Harvey I see, among others.

      • Aidan 2.1.2

        I've never had cause to look st any of these kinds of corporate websites before. It's giving me the heebee jeebies. Some kind of uncanny valley effect

    • bwaghorn 2.2

      Rank is slang for rotten/smelly or off in my neck of the woods!!

  3. Tricledrown 3

    Even with all that money they didn't do that well at the ballot box .Given the reason Labour lost a lot of support was because Labour cabinet ministers continually let down the Party.

    Clare Curran broadcasting fiasco

    David Clark not one but 2 breaches of Covid rules

    Stuart Nash multiple stuff ups by this egotiscal idiot.

    Michael Wood stupidity

    Kari Allen a car crash drunk and belligerent to Police.

    Kiwibuild not organised a botch up that kept giving.

    If all of the Labour candidates had maintained discipline and decorum Labour would still be in govt .

    No one else to blame.

    Labour needs better quality loyal and competent MP's

  4. bwaghorn 4

    No to voting at 16 , let the. Be kids just a few years longer,

  5. Aidan 5

    I could never understand how we allow these kind of donations, it just seems like an obvious recipe for corruption. Like lobbyists they expect something for their money, I mean wtf?

  6. Thinker 6

    One thing I've noticed is that National and ACT appear as a coalition even when in opposition.

    Labour, Greens and TPM need to do the same, showing people a united front, with unique features being like different coloured icing on a single cake.

  7. George 7

    If you can get married and pay taxes you should be allowed to vote on what your taxes are used for. A lot of young people work at 16 and they are contributors to our public purse. My grandson earns wages at 16 and my son also earned at 16..they have a right to have a say.

    • David 7.1

      The minimum age for marriage in NZ is 18, unless you get permission from a Family Court judge. At 16, a person is still considered a 'youth' by the criminal justice system, and for good reason. They are kids.

  8. cathyo 8

    we surely need a really tight limit on how much people can spend on their campaign.

    'Luxon was bankrolled by the richest people in New Zealand': Dita De Boni says it's outrageous to say Luxon's own efforts got him across the line. Watch our panel share their thoughts on the Prime Minister Elect, Christopher Luxon

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljumI8VMASI

    [Please fix your email in your next comment, thanks – Incognito]

  9. cathyo 9

    sorry, i thought i had done so

  10. mikesh 10

    16 year olds pay tax. Every time they make a purchase they pay GST.

    But in any case payment of tax should not be the determining factor. They should have say in the services provided by government: education, health, etc. since they use those services. They have an interest in who governs us.

  11. Ghostwhowalks 11

    I would check some of the numbers for corporate donations for National

    https://elections.nz/democracy-in-nz/political-parties-in-new-zealand/donations-exceeding-20000/

    The register says, compared to MS figures of $20k

    New Zealand National Party
    18 July 2023
    Buen Holdings Limited
    48 Crooks Road
    East Tamaki
    Auckland 2013
    $200,000, 10 July 2023
  12. Ghostwhowalks 12

    I see a number of the donations are from Trusts.

    I would consider they arent 'personal donations' and should be considered along side companies.

    After all a Union isnt a 'company' either but an Incorporated Society

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