28 Jun 2022

Justice Minister defends proposed changes to political donations

11:35 am on 28 June 2022

Justice Minister Kiri Allan has defended proposed changes to political donations saying it will lead to greater transparency in New Zealand's electoral system.

Kiri Allan

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

New legislation will require parties to publish the identity of any donor who gives more than $5000 a year - the current threshold is $15,000.

Parties would also be required to make public their financial statements, the number and total value of non-anonymous donations below $1500, and the proportion of total donations that are non-monetary.

Allan told Morning Report it was hoped the changes would lead to increased transparency and increase New Zealanders' trust and confidence in the funding of the political system.

"A recent study just done by Victoria University found 70 percent of those surveyed didn't trust where our funding comes from in political parties and institutions, so we have a real challenge on our hands here, we need to enhance the transparency for all New Zealanders to feel like our political institutions are safe and transparent."

The initial proposal was to require parties to publish the identity of any donor who gave more than $1500 a year, however that was changed to $5000 a year.

That was changed after consultation with ministry officials, Allan said.

"Particularly with political party secretaries, the administrative burden, there was a case that the administrative burden was going to be a little too much."

New Zealand political parties rely heavily on volunteers, so there was a balance between ensuring the system was transparent but also workable, she said.

"We're lowering that threshold to enable New Zealanders to still be able to participate in the electoral system - but it is about striking the balance."

Opposition parties have come out against the changes and Allan said the government would forge ahead with the changes without their support.

However Allan said she was not closing her mind to further good proposals that may emerge from the select committee process and she was open to changes.

National Party electoral law spokesperson Chris Penk told Morning Report the status quo had been working well and National did not believe it needed to be fixed.

"Any time you require someone to put themselves out there for possible public criticism and comment in terms of participating in a democracy whether that's donating their time or labour with a lower case 'l' or indeed funds, then you expose them to that."

Some limits on political donations were necessary, but the current system was robust and worked as indicated by cases currently going through the courts, Penk said.

"We want to respect the ability of people to contribute to a system in which they're members and part [of] and affected by and that goes across the board for all political parties."

It was important to see the legislation once it came through, Penk said.

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