Justice Minister Andrew Little is considering looking into changes to the way political parties are funded, and areas such as donation transparency could be part of the discussion.

Little said there was a "natural concern" around the levels of transparency of how parties are funded and whether New Zealand's laws provide enough protection and transparency.
"I think there is scope for debate and I suspect we will have one."

Last week, a secretly recorded tape between National Leader Simon Bridges and Jami-Lee Ross raised questions about cash-for-candidates in New Zealand politics.

Bridges denied this was the case, but the tape – released on Twitter by Ross – prompted the Greens to call for sweeping changes to the way political parties are funded.


These include removing anonymity for donations over $1000, capping individual donations at $35,000, banning overseas donations and increasing public money for campaigning.

Currently, donations over $15,000 to a party have to disclose the donor, or over $1500 to a candidate.

Speaking to media this morning, Little said there were some minor technical changes the Government was anticipating for 2020, when it comes to electoral rule changes.

"In terms of the things that have been a bit more controversial more recently, like transparency of donations."

He said the Government wanted a good functioning democratic system with good strong parties, but those parties have to get revenue from somewhere.

Donations were a critical part of that, he said.

"People naturally want to see a system where favours cannot be bought, so the donations regime needs to be transparent."

He said given the controversy around the cash-for-candidates saga last week, there could be a perception regarding foreign influences buying their way into New Zealand politics.
"I'm not convinced it is, but I think people need to be reassured that there are laws and the legal framework that we have protection against them."


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would love to see a scenario where political parties didn't have to fundraise.

"There are overseas examples where [Governments] have chosen to opt-out of that, and to have a different system. I'm not sure whether there is the public license for that."

She said the Government was reviewing the 2017 general election, as it does with every election, and if there is public appetite for a change in political funding rules, she was open to listening to those concerns.

"If I hear from the public that that is something they want to have that debate around, then by all means.

"I would rather not have to focus on fund-raising to run political campaigns but at the moment, we're reliant on them for democracy."

Labour Party President Nigel Haworth said this morning the current rules around donations worked "tolerably well," but state funding could be looked at.

"But that's a question for the people."

He said donors were not buying their way into the Labour Party.

"We are very clear about how we select our candidates, which is based on competence."

National Party President Peter Goodfellow also denied National had a cash-for-candidates scheme.

"Ultimately, we don't give favours for donations ... [but] if that's the perception, I'm concerned, yes."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said there was no need to look at the law around electoral donations, only a need to "look at the National Party."
He did not agree with state funding for election campaigning.

"If you haven't got market demand for a political party, why should the taxpayer be propping them up?"