Two mayors under SFO investigation over donations

The Serious Fraud Office, already prosecuting four people including MP Jami-Lee Ross over donations made to the National Party and investigating  donations made to the NZ First Foundation, has announced two more investigations, one into Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel, the other into Auckland mayor Phil Goff.

Stuff: Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel under scrutiny as expenses complaint referred to Serious Fraud Office

Pressure is mounting on Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel after police referred a complaint about her election expenses to the Serious Fraud Office.

The SFO said police passed on the matter of Dalziel’s expenses on Tuesday, the organisation receiving the file on Friday.

Dalziel, who defeated Darryll Park and John Minto in October to win her third term as mayor, was criticised for failing to identify donors who made significant contributions to her campaign.

Minto made the complaint to electoral officer Jo Daly in December after Dalziel’s election return listed only her husband, lawyer Rob Davidson, as a donor at a campaign fundraiser in July.

But after coming under public pressure she revealed the names of six people who donated more than $1500 at the dinner by buying auctioned wine for prices higher than market value.

All six have connections with Davidson, and many have links to China.

The mayor has also previously declined to release details of her 2016 election campaign donations, despite the timeframe for any prosecution having expired.

Dalziel is not the first mayor to have difficulties with election expenses. This month the SFO revealed it has seen a 40 per cent increase in cases involving public officials, central and local government, in the past five years.

Stuff: Auckland Mayor Phil Goff referred to Serious Fraud Office over election expenses

The Serious Fraud Office has received a referral from police in relation to Auckland Mayor Phil Goff’s election expenses.

The SFO said it would be assessing the matter and had no further comment at this time.

Electoral law dictates candidates can accept anonymous donations under $1500, but must disclose the names of donors who contribute more than that sum.

A spokeswoman for the mayor said he had “no knowledge of a complaint being referred to the SFO nor of any irregularities”.

In September, Auckland’s electoral officer, Dale Ofsoske, passed on to police a complaint about Auckland mayor Phil Goff’s 2016 election expense declaration.

Goff’s $366,000 fundraising auction declaration did not specify individual donations or purchases, which included the sale at an auction of a book for $150,000. The book had belonged to Goff, a former minister of foreign affairs, and had been signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Police made “a number of inquiries” before the timeframe for any prosecution expired in December, rendering them unable to progress the matter.

Ofsoske told Stuff at the time the complaint was under section 112D of the Local Electoral Act 2001, ‘Filing a false return of electoral donations and expenses’.

Pressure is increasing on changing electoral laws on donations. The problem is, the parties who benefit the most from donations decide on what the rules should be.

The Press Editorial:  It’s time to end the secrecy over political donations

There are now questions over the funding of two of our major political parties, including one that is in Government, and the mayors of our two largest cities, both of whom are former Cabinet ministers.

Even if the process is not corrupt, the secrecy and the manipulation of the rules risks eroding public trust in our democracy.

Is there a better way to fund elections? Dalziel’s mayoral challenger, John Minto, who brought the complaint about Dalziel’s donations to the electoral officer, has suggested an overhaul of donation rules within wider electoral law reform. Minto argues that all donors giving over $50 should be identified, individuals should be named rather than companies and donors should be identified at least one week before the election.

Informed voters could make their choices accordingly.

But in Christchurch, neither Dalziel nor candidate Darryll Park was prepared to do the same. Minto volunteered that he had just one donation over $1500, from the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa.

Banning donations and publicly funding candidates and parties instead is not the answer. Rather, New Zealand voters must now start to demand greater transparency.

Listener editorial: A simple way to clean up the political donations mess

The Greens have an idea for cleaning up political donations, starting with “an independent citizens’ assembly” because, they say, “it’s clear that Parliament is incapable of [making] meaningful reforms to itself”.

Here’s a different idea for cleaning up political donations, which is simpler and more cost-effective than the Greens’ proposal: obey the law. Everyone else must, whatever their line of work, and political parties should, too.

Just because parties and individuals sometimes fall foul of electoral law does not automatically mean the law needs “reform”…

Good call. It just means that the current laws need to be applied.

The current prosecutions and investigations are likely to have a significant impact on potential donors as well as parties and politicians. They have been warned.

A robust democracy needs political parties to be sufficiently funded to actively participate in elections. That is not cheap and parties rely on donations to foot it in an election campaign. If the $15,000 limit above which a single donation must be declared – and the $40,000 from one donor in a year – is considered the wrong level, then parties can make a case to set it higher or lower. Whatever the limit, the incentive to give just under the cut-off point will always apply to those who would prefer, for whatever reason, not to have their names disclosed.

The ability to solicit donations is a reasonable way for parties to pay for their activities, and the ability to donate is, equally, a reasonable way for New Zealanders to support their preferred party. The alternative is state funding. Nothing suggests that would find favour with the public.

Regardless of the outcome of the investigations involving National and NZ First, perhaps all parties need to reconsider the training they provide to MPs, staff, officers and volunteers about the laws affecting donations.

I think the biggest problems seem to be at the top of parties and campaigns.

It’s hard to know whether the sudden splurge of SFO investigations is a sign of more questionable donation dealings, or more complaints, or more response to complaints by the SFO. It should at least serve as a warning too parties and candidates in this year’s election.

Applying the current laws may be all that is needed to ensure far better compliance.

A candidate for Christchurch East or Labour?

There are suggestions thyat Labour’s Christchurch East candidate selection Poto Williams may have been chosen for her potential as a Labour Party MP rather than a Christchurch East MP.

This is risky in an electorate where Lianne Dalziel was supported for her hard work in Christchurch and was not favoured in Labour HQ.

Labour are at risk of becoming further isolated from grass roots politics. Ironically Newstalk ZB reports Party president Moira Coatsworth saying Williams will be good for “grassroots community advocacy”

“She moved to Christchurch to actually get involved at a time when other people were feeling quite tired, so she’s really committed to representing Christchurch East at this time.”

Ms Coatsworth says locals believe Williams will represent them well.

“She’s got a very strong background in community service – she comes from the non-government organisation sector.

“And she’s really passionate about grassroots community advocacy.”

Labour’s grassroots in Christchurch may not agree. Comments from The Standard on, first from Tony:

I think this selection is a big mistake. To select the candidate with the least links to the electorate highlights what a liability Moira Coatsworth has become. She has handed David Cunliffe a hospital pass. National must be favourites to win the seat now. If that happens then Coatsworth will have to go.

Gobsmacked:

Obviously Tony is t-r-olling, and not very subtly, but anyway …

– Moira didn’t select the candidate
– She recently oversaw both the changes to the leadership election system, and then an election under that system, which has produced Labour’s biggest boost in years

Tony:

Moira was one of the votes on the selection panel and she convened the panel that overrode the local choice including the floor vote. If you don’t believe me then ask anyone that was there.

I am the first to acknowledge that Moira has done a great job in overseeing the changes to the leadership election system. So it seems rather peculiar that she has presided over a selection meeting where the demcratic wishes of members were completely overriden today. The locals aint happy. One can only assume Moira either has another agenda or knows sometning the locals didn’t!

Let’s hope Jim Anderton as camapign manager can do something amazing. He will certainly need to. This contest will be a real test of all his campaign experience and local knowledge.

And no I’m not a troll. I’m a signed up member. I wasn’t at the meeting but have talked to several that were.

PGM:

Tony, that’s not what I heard about the meeting at all. People I have spoken to are rapt.

You are undermining the integrity of the selection process. Williams won, fair and square, so it’s your duty as a member to get behind her to beat Gerry’s man.

Williams is an outstanding selection, just have a look at her CV. She’s no chardonnay socialist, shes the real deal.

She is authentically blue collar – to celebrate she and her whanau went to a sports bar in New Brighton to have a drink and watch the league.

She is a talented administrator, manager and leader with great people skills. She is exactly the sort of person who should be an MP and will make an excellent minister of the crown.

Others are applauding the quality of Williams – but this is as a potential Labour Party MP, not as a Christchurch East MP.

The by-election will show if there is a local backlash from Christchurch East voters for Labour HQ installing an apparent Party apparatchik.

Labour ‘s genders and agendas

Labour’s council have proposed enforced minimum numbers of female MPs, and want to allow electorates to exclude male candidates – this has been termed a man ban.

Should Parliament reflect what the voters want or a complex balance that parties try to force us to vote for?

What do voters want in their elected representatives. Would people prefer a Parliament that “represents Maori, ethnic groups, the disabled, sexual orientation and age groups” – or would they prefer people they think can best run the country while representing all minority interests? It might be that voters don’t think the token senile dementia candidate is as good as the Rastafarian transsexual (or vice versa).

Looking at the Labour list from 2011 I think they would be better trying to lift the quality more than the quantity of females. Instead they dropped one of their more respected and electable MPs, Lianne Dalziel, to 22 on the list and she would now prefer to be mayor rather than MP.

If Labour had followed the clear preference of their members when they replaced Phil Goff as leader they may not be losing Dalziel – and they would have a female deputy leader, Nanaia Mahuta (ticking the female and Maori boxes).

And perhaps Labour should demand that rankings aren’t skewed by criteria they haven’t included – factions. And leadership preferences overriding members wishes.

Labour have much more pressing issues than forced balance of gender and selected other minority demographics.

But if they want to improve gender balance they need to look at where they recruit most of their candidates from – staffers and unions. Oh, aren’t those two groups overrepresented?

Dalziel resigning regardless of mayoralty bid

Liane Dalziel has indicated that she will resign from Parliament before she knows the result of her Christchurch mayoralty bid.

She is timing her resignation from Parliament to keep as much time separation between the local body election and the Christchurch East by-election as possible.

Dalziel announced her mayoralty bid two days ago:

@LianneDalzielMP 19 Jun

Well it’s official now – I’m running for the Christchurch Mayoralty

She pointed to a news report that said she would be resigning.

Dalziel, who will stand as an independent, is saying little about her platform or her policies, but confirmed she will resign as Labour’s Christchurch East MP.

Graeme Edgler asked “When does your resignation take effect?”

@LianneDalzielMP 

Before the votes are counted – so all or nothing – want to push by-election as far away from council election as possible

That confirms she is putting everything on the line, and will resign from Parliament regardless of whether she wins the mayoralty or not.

Lianne Dalziel – MP or mayoral candidate?

Now that Lianne Dalziel has officially announced she will stand for the Christichurch maoyralty she is in an interesting position. She is still an MP until she resigns and ceases to be that role.

3 news report in Labour expects a tough by-election

The MP announced yesterday she would stand against Bob Parker in October, and if she wins she will quit Parliament.

I’m not sure how Dalziel can remain a Labour electorate MP and campaign as a different peson for mayoralty at the same time.

On Campbell Live – Strong contest for Christchurch mayoralty – Dalziel said that as an MP should took party political stances and in opposition had to challenge and hold the Government to account.

She said that as mayor she would be politically neutral and believed she could work well with the Government and Minister of Christchurch, Gerry Brownlee.

She is going to have to work hard to convince people she can transform herself like that – especially if she remains an MP while she campaigns for the mayoralty.

And there’s also the question of someone voted to be an eelctorate MP and paid to be a member of the House of Representatives should be able to use her time and parliamentary travel and expense privileges while campaiging for a different political position.

If she remains an MP while she stands for mayor she has a distinct and unfair advantage over other potential candidates.

Data security versus data usability

The EQC data breach has predictably had varying coverage. Labour’s Lianne Dalziel:

Gerry Brownlee must take full responsibility for the mishandling of the massive EQC privacy breach, which is seven times the figure admitted and of a scale unprecedented in New Zealand, says Labour’s Earthquake Recovery spokesperson, Lianne Dalziel

Dalziel said Brownlee needed to “make an appointment with the Prime Minister and hand in his resignation notice”.

David Farrar at Kiwiblog:

A staff member didn’t notice that his auto-complete function had inserted the wrong recipient name, and sent an attachment to the wrong person.

And Dalziel thinks this is a case for the Minister to resign.

All I can say is that Labour will need a very large caucus if they get into Government, because I expect Ministers will be resigning every week or so based on this new hysterical standard.

It has been reported that EQC have turned off the auto-complete function. So how will they send emails? Select from an address book list? It’s easy to click on the wrong address. Type the address each time? It’s easy to mistype. Or be mistaken about which person should receive the email. Etc etc.

If data is to be usable it has to have a degree of accessibility. And whenever there is accessibiolity there is vulnerability. This isn’t new, it is just accentuated by:

  • the ease of modern data exchange
  • the level of media interest in data breaches that become public (many breaches happen that never become public knowledge)
  • political pointscoring

Of course there needs to be reasonable levels of data security, appropriate for the type of data. But when human’s are involved in accessing and communicating data mistakes can’t be avoided.

In question time in parliament yesterday John Key played down the EQC breached, he was accused of being flippant and trivialising a serious matter – by David Shearer, who was trying to overdramatise various government department data breaches.

Data security is important, but not so restrictive that it makes legitimate use too difficult. A reasonable balance needs to be found, and mistakes will still happen.

And politicians will still try to pointscore regardless of the practicalities of achieving a sensible balance.

 

Chauvel swipes at Shearer, and calls for Goff and Mallard to go?

In his valedictory statement in Parliament today Charles Chauvel has been critical of David Shearer’s shadow cabinet, and appears to have called for Phil Goff and Trevor Mallard to step down.

Sir, I’ve been a member of ther Labour Party since 1985. In my view it remains the greatest force for meaningful social change in this country. It continues to offer energy, ideas and talent from it’s ranks that would adorn any cabinet.

I want to express publicly now, two hopes that I’ve confided to David Shearer in private.

First, I sincerely wish that he will be Prime Minister in a Labour led government at the end of next year. I regret that I won’t be his Attorney General, and I appreciate a statement that he share’s that regret.

Secondly, it’s unproductive to keep trying to locate and exclude the supposed enemy within.

Instead in order to avoid history repeating, it’s time for an honest, open and overdue assessment of why the 2011 campoaign produced Labour’s worst ever electoral result.

Those responsible for it should make dignified exits, and all the undoubted talent and diversity of the caucus should be included in the shadow cabinet.

To put it in another way, in Gough Whitlam’s immortal words, the party must have both it’s wings to fly.

It’s obvious Chauvel is talking about the deep division between what are seen as the David Shearer supporters camp (or ABC) and the David Cunliffe camp.

The recent reshuffle did not repair the rift. There have been pointed claims that Shearer rewarded those who backed  him in the leadership vote earlier this month, and punished those who did not vote for him plus David Cunliffe who pledged to vote for Shearer but seems to be still in the naughty corner after the overblown “coup” attempt last lear.

Chauvel does not think Shearer’s new lineup adequately addresses the division.

And Chauvel also called fore “dignified exits” of those resonsible for the poor election result (they are at least partly responsible for some of the division since).

IrishBill names names at The Standard:

I’m pleased he called for Phil and Trevor to go (10’50″) it’s about time someone from caucus came out and said that.

That’s just further identification of Goff and Mallard as major causes of disatisfaction and division in the party.

Anne:

I noted Moana Mackey and Lianne Dalziel appeared not too far from tears. Two equally fine and intelligent MPs who paid a price for supporting David Cunliffe.

I don’t know if it was coincidental or not that Dalziel and Mackey were in shot throughout his speech. Cunliffe was immediately to his left.

Chauvel valedictory

hush minx:

A fine and thoughtful speech. I noted there were some less than happy looks on the faces of the front bench at the end. He has set them a challenge that they have failed so far. Now is the time for them to step up, but it’s come at the cost of a good mp who understood the best of what labor can be.

The chances of Shearer, Goff or Mallard taken much notice of this let alone action is very slim, if past actions are any indication of their refusal to accept responsibility and repair the problems.

Video link: Valedictory – Charles Chauvel – 27th February, 2013

Update: See also The Chauvel valedictory at Kiwiblog and on Charles’ valedictory at The Standard

Charles Chauvel: Alcohol Reform Bill

(Reply to email requesting clarification on minimum pricing)

Having sat on the Justice and Electoral Select Committee and paid careful attention to the many thousands of submissions that were made to the Committee, my view is that the Alcohol Reform Bill as currently drafted, is too weak to make a difference to our binge drinking culture.

Much of that evidence is summarised in the report of the Select Committee to Parliament, which you can find on the parliamentary website – Alcohol Reform Bill – and which I hope you will read.  To change that, the evidence presented to the Committee showed:

  1. A minimum price regime for alcohol would make an enormous difference.
  2. More restrictions on advertising – ultimately with a view moving toward a health sponsorship council-type model as operates in the tobacco area – are highly desirable.
  3. Much greater restrictions on the availability of alcohol are urgently needed.

On the issue of age, I am not convinced that voting in isolation to raise the purchase age from 18 would make as much as a difference as a combination of the three measures I have referred.  However, thanks to the way the National-led Government has set the debate up, age has so far been virtually the sole focus of the reform debate.

Labour MPs have a conscience vote on the Alcohol Law Reform Bill and on amendments to it.

A number of Supplementary Order Papers (SOP) are expected to be put up from the Labour Caucus members to deal with the problems of availability, advertising and price that all the expert evidence indicated to the Select Committee contributes to our binge drinking culture.

The minimum pricing one will go up in the name of Lianne Dalziel MP.  I will put one up to give local communities a stronger say on the number, mix and opening hours of alcohol outlets in their communities.  My colleague Iain Lees-Galloway MP will put up others, including on advertising.

The aim is to do what most of the thousands of submitters on the Bill asked Parliament to do – continue to leave people free to enjoy a drink responsibly but to try to start tackling the binge drinking problem.

I am not aware of any concluded view on what price should be.  The SOP is an empowering provision only. It leaves up to the Minister whether to have a minimum price, and if so how it should operate.  That power does not even appear in the Bill at the moment.

The evidence at Select Committee was that targeting cheap wine in supermarkets used by younger people for “preloading” – ie excess drinking before heading out to onlicensed premises for a night out – ought to be the main aim.

A minimum pricing regime could simply target that product, say by providing for a ceiling or cap of say $12 per bottle of wine so that other beverages were not affected.  That would still double the price of the cheapest existing wine which can be bought at the moment for $6.  Or it could be more complex.

Obviously it would need not to create unintended incentives to purchase other products in lieu of cheap wine on which to preload, or to penalize responsible drinkers.

I listened to all the submissions to the Select Committee.  Apart from those from the alcohol industry itself, they overwhelmingly called for legislation that would better target binge drinking.  The evidence was that a careful combination of rules about price, availability and advertising could do that while still allowing everyone else to continue to drink responsibly.  All this SOP would do is allow price to go into the mix.

Charles Chauvel MP
Shadow Attorney-General
Spokesperson for Justice
Spokesperson for Arts, Culture & Heritage