Foreign donations and anonymous social media ads are on the way out, as the Government seeks to ward off foreign interference efforts

The Government has announced it will ban foreign donations to all political parties and candidates, with legislation being introduced to Parliament under urgency this afternoon.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said there was “no need for anyone other than New Zealanders to donate to our political parties or seek to influence our elections”, while credible reports of foreign interference in other countries’ elections meant swift change was needed.

“We need to protect the integrity of our elections. These changes will reduce the risk of foreign money influencing our election outcomes.

 “We don’t want our elections to go the way of recent overseas examples where foreign interference appears to have been at play.”

Little said the legislation would contain a minimal threshold of $50 to ensure small-scale fundraising activities were not affected, but big donations were done.

Under present electoral law, foreign citizens are able to donate up to $1500.

The law would also introduce a new requirement for party secretaries and candidates to take reasonable steps to ensure that a donation, or a contribution to a donation over the $50 foreign donation threshold, is not from an overseas person.

The Electoral Commission would issue guidance on what reasonable steps they might take to check the origin of the donations, Little said.

Other changes would include a requirement for name and address details to be placed on election advertisements in all mediums, to deal with what Little described as “an avalanche of fake news social media ads” in other countries.

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

The Greens have praised the move, with justice spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman saying it would ensure New Zealand had a “thriving and healthy Parliament”.

“Limiting foreign donations to $50 will reduce undue influence from powerful vested interests and create a healthier and fairer system,” Ghahraman said.

Sam Sachdeva is Newsroom's national affairs editor, covering foreign affairs and trade, housing, and other issues of national significance.

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