Being Vigilant about Corruption
Corruption is the root cause of so much poverty and mistrust in the world. New Zealand is fortunate to be largely free from graft in business and Government. I am proud that when National left office in 2017 Transparency International ranked New Zealand as the least corrupt country in the world. We must be vigilant in keeping it that way.
That is why I have in Parliament this week being questioning and challenging the Coalition Government over New Zealand First’s secret donations scandal. It matters because NZ First and not the public determined the final outcome of Election 2017. Every day NZ First is playing a pivotal role in Government decisions and giving out grants worth billions. The public has a right to know who is paying the piper.
Our electoral law requires donations over $15,000 to be declared. National, Labour, the Greens and ACT all complied, publicly disclosing 124 such donations in Election 2017. NZ First declared none. Mr Peters has publicly stated NZ First survives on “cake stalls and raffles” rather than high value donors. It was also odd that NZ First had over $340,000 of anonymous donations, ten times as much as Nationals $28,000 or Labours $26,000.
Late last year the President and Treasurer of NZ First resigned citing moral issues over the party’s finances. Journalist Guyon Espiner from RNZ and Matt Shand from Fairfax have subsequently disclosed that NZ First has a separate foundation that has received over $500,000 in secret donations from New Zealand’s richest people. Proberty questions need to be asked of the Government giving millions in new tax concessions for racehorses and betting in Budget 2018 and 2019 with many of these secret donations to the NZ First Foundation coming from the racing industry.
The Electoral Commission stated last week “the NZ First Foundation has received donations which should have been treated as party donations for the NZ First party,” and that “the donations were not properly transmitted to the party and not disclosed as required by the Electoral Act.” It has been referred to the Serious Fraud Office.
The Deputy Prime Minister’s response has been to threaten and harass those raising questions. I received a letter from Mr Peters’ lawyer threatening a $30 million lawsuit. A Newshub journalist was called “a psycho” for asking questions. Mr Peters admitted his party took photos of journalists meeting with ex NZ First officials. This ugly intimidation and bullying is wrong.
New Zealand has been here before with the 2008 scandal over Mr Peters’ denying he received a $100,000 donation from Owen Glenn. Then Prime Minister Clark rightly stood Mr Peters down. It was appalling that Labour MPs on the Justice Select Committee voted to block the request of the former President and Treasurer of NZ First from being heard. PM Ardern has refused to criticise her deputy.
I am pleased National has ruled out forming a Government with Winston Peters and NZ First. New Zealander deserve much better from their democracy and Deputy Prime Minister.