Politics in Full Sentences, 23 November 2019

Sat, 23 Nov, 2019

The Podcast

Last night, the Politics in Full Sentences podcast covered the New Zealand First Foundation saga, the counterproductive changes to tenancy laws, and the Government’s effective surrender on the gun ‘buy-back.’ If you’d like to watch the podcast, it is available here, and also in audio format in on all the usual platforms courtesy of Podcasts NZ here.

Standing Up for Free Speech

David Seymour appeared on Newshub Nation and Q+A defending free speech over the past week. He launched a new Private Members’ Bill. The Education (Freedom of Expression) Amendment Bill would make upholding freedom of expression a condition of funding for tertiary institutions. It comes in response to Massey University publishing a policy saying speakers could be blocked from expressing their views on its campuses if it thought the ideas expressed might cause mental harm. We wish we were making that up.

The New Zealand First Foundation Scandal

Stuff reports the Foundation received half a million dollars in donations. What is strange is that New Zealand First the political party reported no donations over $15,000 in either 2018, or the election year of 2017. By comparison, in 2017 there were 59 donations of over $15,000 to the National Party, 28 to the Labour Party, 12 to the Green Party, and seven to ACT. The identities of these donors must be and are reported to the Electoral Commission and published.

What's Going On?

The story broke when it was reported New Zealand First the political party has received loans from the Foundation. It was speculated that the rules around loans could have been used to hide the identities of any $15,000+ donations the Foundation might have received (unlike donations, the source of loaned funds does not have to be declared). However, one of the Foundation’s trustees says that the loans were genuine and were repaid, implying there was no permanent transfer of funds.

So Where Did the Money Go?

Nobody knows where the Foundation money goes. Except, a Stuff journalist appears to have a massive leak of documents answering that question. So far it has been reported that the funds have been used for a New Zealand First MP’s travel and legal fees, and for a marquee at the Wellington races. No doubt those involved, including Winston Peters himself, would claim that this is all in aid of promoting democracy.

They Will be Exonerated, For Now

The Electoral Commission is investigating. Politics in Full Sentences predicts that the Commission will not refer any wrongdoing to the Police or Serious Fraud Office. All donations that were used for party purposes were declared, as required. But that leaves a bigger question.

What Did the Donors Think They Were Giving To?

Media are also reporting that people who gave to the Foundation thought they were donating to the Party. Did those who solicited the donations explain that they were not donating to the New Zealand First political party, but to a Foundation with a different purpose? If this explanation was not given, then some might believe they were deceived, giving money for one purpose but having it used for another.

What You’d Have to Believe

It’s possible there’s been no wrongdoing. However, in our view you’d have to believe that (1) people gave a total of around $500,000, (2) the amounts were all either under $15,000, or not used for any kind of political campaigning, and (3) those who gave understood all this and were happy to give the money for some purpose other than a political party’s campaigning activities. Politics in Full Sentences understands it will be well worth buying the Sunday Star Times this week.

In Other News

Well, there hasn’t been much other news. When a scandal of this scale takes hold, it is challenging to get much else reported. If you are interested in policies that would make New Zealand a better place, please take a look at ACT’s. Our Flat Tax would give New Zealand the fairest, simplest, most competitive tax regime in the world. Our Student Education Accounts would put parents in charge of their kids’ share of the education budget, to be used in public or private schools equally. Our Regulatory Constitution would finally give New Zealanders some enforceable rights against abrupt government meddling.

We Don’t Have a Foundation

If you’d like to see policies like those above become law in New Zealand, please consider donating to ACT. All donations will be used by ACT to grow its support under the direction of the party’s Board of Trustees. Any donations exceeding $15,000 will be reported in ACT’s annual declaration, in accordance with the Electoral Act.