Greens seek to ban corporate donations

Last updated 05:00 16/03/2014

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Banning corporates from donating to political parties is among changes the Green Party wants lawmakers to consider as fallout over Judith Collins' dinner date in China continues.

Collins last week was forced to reveal the full details of a dinner in Beijing last year with senior members of Oravida; a food export company which has offices in New Zealand and China, of which her husband, David Wong-Tung, is a director.

Oravida donated $55,000 to the National Party in the lead-up to the 2011 election.

Collins was last week accused of misleading her colleagues over a potential conflict of interest, something which was also alleged to have been done by one of her staunchest critics - Labour's Shane Jones - following a 2008 immigration scandal.

Jones, as Immigration Minister, granted Chinese billionaire Bill Liu New Zealand citizenship despite Chinese officials having previously posted a "red notice" with Interpol. Liu made sizeable donations to the Labour Party. Interpol claimed Liu was born Yong Ming Yan and allegedly stole the identity of Yang Liu in 1999, obtaining two false passports. He was also wanted by Chinese officials for alleged embezzlement.

A report by Auditor-General Lyn Provost later found no evidence of corruption, inappropriate motive, collusion or political interference, but was critical of Jones and officials for the way the immigration matter was handled.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said the scandals involving Collins and Jones highlighted the need for a more "transparent" political funding system in New Zealand.

"New Zealand has one of the loosest and weakest controls in electoral donations compared to other countries," Norman said.

"Given the scandals, one under Labour and one under National, if there is a new government we will be pushing to have another look at the donations law, to make sure that our laws are best practice."

In Canada, political donations can only be received by political parties from individuals, and not corporations or companies. European nations including Belgium, Austria, Portugal, Switzerland and France also ban all corporate donations.

France introduced its ban in 1995.

Other countries have outlawed any company which has a government contract from donating to political parties.

Norman said that one of the Green Party's "priorities" after the September 20 election would be petitioning the Electoral Commission and Auditor-General to review New Zealand's political funding model.

The Green Party's own funding policy would include "a much lower" anonymous donations cap compared to the present limit of $15,000. The Green Party's 2012 donations register filed with the Electoral Commission reveals just 14 donors who pledged the party more than $15,000 in that year; and all were its current MPs.

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Denise Roche was the largest donor, providing $18,345.28, Gareth Hughes donated $18,159.44, Kennedy Graham contributed $17,865, while co-leaders Metiria Turei and Norman donated $17,664.88 and $17,364.88 respectively.

Norman said he believed many New Zealanders would support a move to strengthen the country's electoral funding system.

"I am sure New Zealanders want to make sure that the political system is kept as clean as possible. That means having in place stronger rules around political donations."

- Sunday Star Times

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