New Zealand tightens rules on foreign donations to politicians

WELLINGTON • New Zealand will ban foreign donations to politicians and tighten disclosure rules for political advertising, the government said yesterday, as concerns over foreign interference intensify ahead of an election next year.

The government said it would introduce legislation yesterday banning donations of more than NZ$50 (S$44) to political parties and candidates by foreigners.

"The risk of foreign interference in elections is a growing international phenomenon and can take many forms, including donations. New Zealand is not immune from this risk," Justice Minister Andrew Little said in an e-mailed statement.

The new laws also would require the names and addresses of those funding election advertisements in all mediums to be published to reduce the "avalanche of fake-news social-media ads" that had marred elections overseas, Mr Little said.

New Zealand will hold its general election late next year and Mr Little said further action could be taken to counter foreign influence based on recommendations from a parliamentary committee that was looking at the issue.

New Zealand's allies in the "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing community - Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States - have all expressed concern over foreign influence in politics in recent years.

While the New Zealand government did not single out a specific threat yesterday, British and US intelligence agencies accuse Russia of meddling in domestic politics and elections of several Western countries, including the 2016 US presidential election.

Russia denies the allegations.

Australia has accused China of similar activities and has cracked down on foreign political donations and lobbying.

China also denies the allegations.

In New Zealand, questions about political donations were raised last year, after a lawmaker accused the leader of the opposition National Party of hiding a NZ$100,000 donation from a Chinese businessman to avoid declaring it.

The National Party leader rejected the charge.

New Zealand's intelligence chief said in April that the agency was concerned about activities by foreign state actors, including attempts to covertly influence politicians and monitor expatriate communities in the South Pacific nation.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2019, with the headline 'NZ tightens rules on foreign donations to politicians'. Print Edition | Subscribe