Donations to political parties should be transparent

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Editorial Two

Issue 432 February 15, 2020

In less than three weeks after the date of general election 2020 was announced, there has been a free trade of accusations – all to do with donations given to political parties.

It is time our political parties commit themselves to be more transparent with the donations that they receive to eliminate speculations and worse, allegations.

Our Electoral Laws are rigid and clear. Political parties must report to the Electoral Commission every individual, institution or contributor donating more than $15,000 in a year, every anonymous donation and overseas donation that is over than $1500.

Effective January 1, 2020, Party Secretaries are forbidden from accepting donations or  contributions of more than $50 from anyone overseas.

While there is nothing new (or nothing wrong) in political parties receiving donations from individuals, companies and other organisations, although donations from overseas may carry difficult demands.

However, they should be made public so as to avoid speculation and accusations.

The British example

Lord Alistair McAlpine, who was an Advisor (the Economist called him ‘The Chief Money Man’) to Margaret Thatcher during her tenure as Prime Minister of Britain recalls in his memoir, ‘Once a Jolly Bagman,’ how the man he blames for his heroine’s fall had been directly involved in raising money from foreign businessmen. Mr Major denied it.

Political parties have only themselves to blame if they continue to be embarrassed by allegations.

The obsessive secrecy with which they have shrouded their finances has given free rein to their opponents. More fantasy is probably written about party funding than any other political subject. New Zealand elections are still remarkably cheap. The two biggest parties are each expected to spend between $3 million to $3.5 million centrally in the forthcoming election campaign.

The ACT Party, which won in just one constituency and returned on MP, spent more than $600.000 in 2017.


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