New Zealand's Justice Minister said the move to bar political donations over NZ$50 was made to protect the country's democracy Photo: AFP/File
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New Zealand to ban big foreign political donations

5 Comments
By Dave LINTOTT

New Zealand moved to ban large foreign political donations and misleading social media advertisements Tuesday amid concerns about offshore interference in next year's general election.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said the move -- which bars donations over NZ$50 (U.S.$33) -- was aimed at protecting New Zealand's democracy from a growing international threat.

"We need to protect the integrity of our elections. These changes will reduce the risk of foreign money influencing our election outcomes," he said. "We don't want our elections to go the way of recent overseas examples where foreign interference appears to have been at play."

Little did not say which countries prompted the ban but experts have consistently pointed the finger at China.

"It's in China's interest to extend an influence in New Zealand, there's nothing wrong with that –- that's what great powers do," Rodney Jones, a New Zealand economist based in Beijing told Newshub earlier this year. "It's up to us. We need to set boundaries well ahead of time."

US intelligence says foreign interference played a major part in the 2016 American presidential election and a Canadian intelligence report this year found cyber-attackers targeted half the national elections held in major democracies in 2018.

New Zealand goes to the polls in late 2020, when center-left Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will seek a second term.

Under existing laws, foreign political donations in New Zealand are capped at NZ$1,500 (U.S.$975), although some say loopholes effectively raise the threshold to NZ$30,000.

The new limit for foreign or anonymous donations will be NZ$50.

"There's no need for anyone other than New Zealanders to donate to our political parties or seek to influence our elections," Little said.

The changes also require online political advertisements to contain details about their creators, which Little said was aimed at stopping the "avalanche of fake news social media ads" seen during overseas elections.

"Anonymous online advertisements aimed at interfering with our democracy will be prohibited," he said. "If someone wants to advertise online they need to say who they are, the same as if the ad was published in a newspaper."

New Zealand's spy chief raised concerns about foreign political donations during a rare public appearance at a parliamentary committee hearing in April.

"In broad terms, I can say that we have seen activities by state actors that concern us," New Zealand Security Intelligence Service director-general Rebecca Kitteridge said.

The measures must now pass parliament, where the governing coalition has a majority.

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

5 Comments
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buh bye China

4 ( +4 / -0 )

China's got enough citizens in N.Z. and overseas to flood whomever with donations.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

fine for them but still don't entirely buy this notion of massive "foreign interference" ion elections being so influential or decisive.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"It's in China's interest to extend an influence in New Zealand, there's nothing wrong with that –- that's what great powers do," Rodney Jones, a New Zealand economist based in Beijing told Newshub earlier this year.

Now there's a fine example of posterior kissing from our Beijing-based advisor. He knows who butters his bread.

So far as the new laws, I think laws don't do much to stop influence peddling. They will find a way. People just have to learn to be aware and think critically. (I can dream.)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

They have no real way of stopping this. If foreign entities (ahem China) wish to meddle in local politics, they will just channel the funds through a friendly local.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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