Inquiry into the 2017 General Election and the 2016 Local Elections – Hearing of evidence (27.08.19)

Inquiry into the 2017 General Election and the 2016 Local Elections – Hearing of evidence (27.08.19)

Posted by Justice Committee on Monday, 26 August 2019

New Zealand's two top spy bosses will address MPs this afternoon to personally present their submissions on the Government's inquiry into the 2017 general election.

After every general election in New Zealand, the Justice Select Committee undertakes a cross-party inquiry into electoral laws and makes recommendations to Parliament about how to conduct future elections.

But this inquiry has come under the spotlight more so than it has in previous years, as foreign influence into the 2017 election has dominated much of the focus.

This afternoon, New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) Director-General Rebecca Kitteridge and Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) Director-General Andrew Hampton will address MPs.

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Their submissions come as questions continue to be raised about a $150,000 donation to the National Party from a Chinese-owned, but New Zealand based, company.

Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry NZ (IMRHINZ) is owned by billionaire racing mogul Lang Lin, who met with then foreign-affairs minister Todd McClay, who former National MP Jami-Lee Ross is accusing of facilitating the donation.

New Zealand electoral law forbids donations above $1500 from foreign nationals but classes New Zealand-registered companies as local even if their control or ownership is foreign.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this morning questioned the donation.

"Arguably, what happened here was legal but I would argue that it was equally outside the spirit of what our law intends when it comes to foreign donations," she told media.

Both McClay and National Leader Simon Bridges say the donation was legal.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said the donation highlighted a problem within the country's election donation rules.

"Our country's regime makes it easy for donations to be channelled through that sort of process and that's something we have to be alert to."

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Any legislative changes proposed by the Justice select committee, which was due to wrap up its hearings in coming weeks, could be pushed through "reasonably quickly" next year, Little said.