4 Mar 2019

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman urges scrutiny of 'who controls purse strings of bigger parties'

11:53 am on 4 March 2019

Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman is pushing for a sweep of measures to ensure increased transparency and better representation in Parliament.

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman on the Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Trade select committee.

Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

The Green Party wants to give prisoners the right to vote, change the 5 percent party vote threshold to 4 percent and ban overseas donations to political parties.

At present, prisoners cannot register to vote, which the New Zealand Supreme Court has ruled inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act.

The bill also seeks to enable voters of Māori descent to change roll type at any time.

It aims to strengthen transparency, safeguard donations to parties and candidates, and implement the 2012 Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) review recommendations.

The bill was also designed to stop "unfair influence and potential corruption", including overseas political donations, and reduce the anonymity threshold, so it was more clear who was donating to political parties.

Ms Ghahraman told Morning Report the donation changes were part of measures that would bring the necessary transparency and safeguards around money and New Zealand politics.

"One of these measures is to ban overseas donations." she said.

"I think we've seen globally at the moment that international interference with individual nation state politics is a big problem, some would say the threat comes from the US, some would say Russia, some would say China and we want to make sure that New Zealand's laws are future-proofed against that."

She said the $35,000 cap on donations would include domestic donations.

"I think we have to get big money out of New Zealand politics." she said. "We've seen the damage that that can do...

"What we are looking at is who controls the purse strings of bigger parties. So internationally we know that big oil industry donations have managed to keep action on climate change at bay.

"We want know where donations are coming from and want to limit them so that big business doesn't have a disproportionate influence on our politics."

Under the MMP representation system the proportion of votes a party gets will largely reflect the number of seats it has in parliament. Political parties must win at least 5 per cent of the party vote to enter Parliament.

Lowering the party vote threshold to 4 percent as recommended by the Electoral Commission would make it easier for smaller parties to win seats and make it easier to achieve a diversity of political opinions in parliament, she said.

Ms Ghahraman said there was ongoing discussions between coalition partners over the issues and ideally the bill should be a government one.

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