Little wins award for Beehive bollocks after bragging of “ban” on foreign political donations

Andrew Little comfortably won the “bollocks” award when the Point of Order team sifted through puzzling or contentious headlines from the Beehive yesterday.

Among the contenders were –

This introduced a press statement which said the new independent Cancer Control Agency, formally opened yesterday, was ”delivering on the Government’s plan to improve cancer care in New Zealand”.

The statement included the names of the advisory council members who will be supporting the new agency and outlined key components of the Government’s plan to improve cancer care and control.

But why – we wonder – has it not been called the Cancer Care Agency or something similarly caring?  “Control” implies a dubious ambition to maintain the incidence of cancer at current levels, rather than to reduce it. It also implies a central government obsession with keeping a firm grip on whatever happens in the domain of cancer treatment and care. 

This heralded news that small businesses which deal with government departments are set to be paid faster, which should improve their cash flows, under a new strategy.

The Government is backing recommendations from the Small Business Council and has agreed to implement three initiatives immediately to support business and a growing economy.

The government is setting a target for government departments to pay 95 per cent of domestic invoices in 10 business days by June 2020.

Access to finance will be facilitated via a new online tool on the business.govt.nz site. The Funding Explorer will be an interactive resource to help business owners identify the right finance options for their circumstances. It is a partnership with the banking industry and business and accountancy specialists.

More information about the SBC, including the SBC strategy, can be found HERE.

Small business owners will welcome these changes.

But let’s not overlook the PR hyperbole.  Prompt payment from government departments will not ensure prosperity, as the press statement headline implies.

And if it is such a worthy thing to do, why not require government departments NOW to pay ALL their domestic invoices in 10 business days?

But the award for bollocks (as measured by the magnitude of the deceit) goes to the Andrew Little team for …

This announcement said

“The Government is taking action to protect New Zealand from foreign interference in our elections by banning foreign donations to political parties and candidates, Justice Minister Andrew Little announced today.

Kiwiblog’s David Farrar (who wasn’t alone in sniffing out Little’s nonsense) huffed:  

“No they’re not. His very first line is a lie.

“Foreign donations over $1,500 are already banned. They are merely changing the level from $1,500 to $50. The level is a de minimis level recognising that it isn’t practical to check the residency status of every single person who say attends a dinner, or makes a minor donation.

“As far as I know the number of donations between $50 and $1,500 from foreign individuals to political parties is near zero. The change is cosmetic.

“$1,500 was probably too high. $50 is too low. But either way it is not a new ban. It is a mere change in threshold.”

But bollocks is only one element of the travesty.

Bulldozing the enabling legislation into law under urgency was the other.

Little has brandished his authoritarian credentials by declaring his intent to further control freedom of speech in this country.

Now he has denied the public any input into electoral reform legislation which was egregiously passed through all three stages in just one day.

Farrar thundered:

That is outrageous. There is no reason it should bypass select committee scrutiny and shame on the Greens for supporting ramming it through under urgency.

Some Government apologists have tried to claim it must be done under urgency tonight to stop a rush of mythical foreign donations flowing through before the law takes effect. But the apologists haven’t even read the bill. It doesn’t take effect until 1 January 2020 so passing it tonight under urgency still means you could have the imaginary flood of donations occur.

Farrar further noted that this law change doesn’t stop the NZ First Foundation from receiving unlimited foreign donations, and then using those funds to loan money to NZ First or possibly pay expenses on their behalf.  

If the bill went to select committee an amendment could be considered that would extend the ban (over a certain level) to foundations established by political parties to fund them.

But Labour and the Greens don’t want to do anything about any foreign donations to the NZ First Foundation, so they’re rushing it through under urgency. Shame.

Otago University law lecturer Andrew Geddis has been condemnatory, too.

In an item published by The Spinoff,he says the Electoral Amendment Bill No 2, is touted as

“ … send[ing] a clear signal that only those who are part of New Zealand’s democracy, and who live in, or have a strong connection to, this country, should participate in our electoral system.”

“Yet all it really does on that score is lower the amount that an overseas person can give to a candidate or party from $1500 to $50, while requiring political party secretaries and candidates to take a harder look at any donations they ought to suspect are coming from an overseas source.

“Unlimited donations to a party or candidate from a New Zealand company or an unincorporated body based in New Zealand are still allowed, even if that company is owned by an overseas person or the body has overseas members. Meaning that, for instance, the Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry (NZ) Ltd’s $150,000 donation to National will remain completely legal even as its owner, Mr Lang Lin, is restricted to giving only $50 directly to the party.”

Geddis notes that  Little doesn’t claim this bill is intended to deal with all issues of overseas influence in our elections. As his press release on the issue notes, “Further policy work in this area is ongoing”.

He also quotes MP Jami-Lee Ross , who has tweeted out the hard truth about this issue:

“The only way to effectively ban foreigners from influencing our politics is to restrict who can make donations to people that are entitled to vote.”

This is what Canada does.

As to the outrageous legislative haste, Geddis notes that yesterday morning was the first time the public (and the opposition) even saw this legislation.

Having introduced the bill into the House, the government then overnight progressed it through all stages of the legislative process under urgency. That means that there was no opportunity for select committee scrutiny, and no chance for the public to submit their views on the bill.

Why the need for such speed? After all, the next election isn’t for another 11 months or so. And there still are three weeks left in this parliamentary year, even if it is somehow essential that the law be in place by January 1.

Geddis then picks up something in Little’s opening speech in the first reading debate, a strong  hint – perhaps – about why he thought things had to be moved along with haste.

Noting that the Justice Committee has been sitting on its Inquiry into the 2017 Election (which also is examining the issue of potential foreign interference in elections) for nearly 18 months, he basically said that he’d had enough of its shit and so was cutting them out of the loop.

There may be something to that frustration. It’s notable, for instance, that the just passed Referendums Framework Bill was recalled from the Justice Committee without any report being made. So, it would seem that the 4–4 split between government and opposition members of that body has been a recipe for gridlock.

However, as the always astute and wise-beyond-his-years Henry Cooke notes, “This is good politics for Little, but is an appalling way to make law. A bad select committee does not excuse running roughshod over parliament.”

To which I say, damn right. What with the truncated select committee process for the Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Bill, and now the done-in-a-day approach to this law, Andrew Little is starting to betray a worrying habit. It would be good if he could break it.

At No Right Turn, Malcolm Harbrow joined the critics, too.

He had another word for ‘bollocks” and headed his post:

This is bullshit, and our democracy deserves better

Harbrow declared he agreed with the goal but saw no particular case for urgency, unless the government is concerned about a flood of foreign money being snuck in before the ban comes into place.  In that case – he suggested – a retrospective reporting requirement could be included, and let the parties face the voters.

 

One thought on “Little wins award for Beehive bollocks after bragging of “ban” on foreign political donations

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.