9 Dec 2019

Report into 2017 general election tipped to be published shortly

7:53 am on 9 December 2019

The long-awaited and much-delayed Parliamentary report into the 2017 general election is expected to be published in the coming days.

Polling booths are open for New Zealand's general election in Auckland on September 23, 2017. (Photo by MICHAEL BRADLEY / AFP)

Photo: AFP or licensors

It's been a rough road to get the report completed by the Justice Select Committee, which has also been considering the influence of overseas actors and cash from other countries, as well as the 2016 local body election.

RNZ understands the report will be released this week following some last-minute additions related to the recent media coverage of the NZ First Foundation.

One of the first major roadblocks for the report's completion was in March when an expert in Chinese politics, Anne-Marie Brady, was blocked from speaking to the committee.

At the time, National Party spokesperson for electoral reform Nick Smith said it was deeply concerning Labour MPs had voted against her submitting.

However, the then-chair of the committee, Raymond Huo, said they had declined the request because her submissions had come five months late.

Within a day of the story being reported, the select committee had backtracked and Ms Brady ultimately did give her submission.

Ms Brady had previously named Mr Huo in her research as someone who "works very closely with PRC [People's Republic of China] representatives in New Zealand."

By April, Mr Huo had decided to step down as chair. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the choice was made because of perception rather than any actual conflict of interest.

New Zealand's intelligence agencies twice appeared in front of the select committee and both times fired a warning shot about foreign donations at both the central and local government level.

SIS director-general Rebecca Kitteridge told MPs they had seen concerning relationship-building and donation activity by state actors and their proxies.

Since then, there has been another local body election and it is highly unlikely any recommendations could be implemented in time for the general election next year.

Last week, Justice Minister Andrew Little made his frustrations known about the length of time the inquiry was taking when he rushed legislation through the House under urgency to ban foreign donations of more than $50 to political parties and candidates.

"The reason why this bill is here in its form being considered under urgency is because we had expected [and] I had certainly expected the very thorough inquiry that the justice committee has been conducting into the 2017 general election amongst other things might have been completed by now.

"We might have had the benefit of their wisdom and their report back, that would have informed changes relevant to the 2020 general election, that has not happened and I draw no conclusions as a result of that, that is just a fact."

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