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Te Pāti Māori co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi (Getty Images)
Te Pāti Māori co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi (Getty Images)

The BulletinApril 13, 2021

The Bulletin: Parties under pressure over undeclared donations

Te Pāti Māori co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi (Getty Images)
Te Pāti Māori co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi (Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Parties under pressure over undeclared donations, more emerges on exports to murderous militaries, and National refusing to back Climate Commission draft plans.

Both the Māori Party and National are in trouble over donations that weren’t declared in time, but one of them involves a much bigger tally. Stuff reports that donations of more than $30,000 over twelve months or less have to be declared within ten days, but in the case of the Māori Party almost $330k in donations weren’t declared until months later. The largest of these came from candidate John Tamihere. The Electoral Commission has referred this to the police to investigate further.

Speaking to Radio NZ, party president Che Wilson said it was an error from party volunteers who didn’t know the rules. Wilson took responsibility himself for making sure party donations were filed correctly, and put his hand up on that point. He also said that when the mistake was discovered, “four or five weeks ago”, the party contacted the Commission to get it cleared up.

On the other side of the opposition benches, the NZ Herald reports National is being looked at over $35k in donations from real estate tycoon Garth Barfoot. That came in a series of five-figure sums, donated over a 12-month period. A decision on whether to refer this to the police is still being assessed by the EC. The party declined to comment on why the disclosure was made late.

Meanwhile, the Act Party are backing their president despite an investigation into alleged financial mismanagement at a charity he runs. The NBR’s (soft paywall) Julie Iles has filed the report on Tim Jago, acting CEO and chair of The Lifesavers Foundation, which is understood to be under police investigation over not filing financials for almost three years. Act leader David Seymour has given Jago his “full confidence,” and said he continues to be an excellent party president.

National is refusing to back the Climate Change Commission’s draft plan on emissions reductions. Stuff’s Thomas Coughlan reports their objections are around how the commission came to their modelling on emissions reductions, and the level of detail around policy proposals. The party might get back on board if those concerns are met, but the way things are going it looks like the bipartisan consensus on climate change formed last term is gone (and even then, it frequently looked incredibly shaky then too.) That in turn leaves the government with the choice of whether to accede to National’s demands, or simply push on without them. According to Politik (paywalled) this morning, the government looks set to do the latter, and “call National’s bluff”.

More continues to emerge on sales of military-application technology to murderous regimes – a slow burn story over recent months. Benedict Collins for One News reports MFAT approved exports of technology related to mortars to the Saudi military, at a time when they were on a UN blacklist over the killing of children in Yemen. The military export control regime is set to be reviewed, reports Radio NZ’s Mackenzie Smith.

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Three pieces that sum up where the government is currently at on targets for vaccination rates, and the rollout: Justin Giovannetti has analysed the five key questions facing the government, including whether the current systems are fit for purpose for a mass campaign. Derek Cheng on the (paywalled) NZ Herald writes about how much information is still either hidden or unclear. And Newsroom Marc Daalder argues that the whole vaccine plan is basically being made up on the fly, with no clarity about what the plan is or what success looks like.

On the latest scare, our live updates reports all three cases are very closely linked via genome sequencing. That indicates that a chain of transmission including other people between them is unlikely. And on the subject of unvaccinated workers being moved out of frontline roles, Checkpoint carried an interview last night with employment lawyer Bridget Smith, who said there were likely to be legal issues with that, and criticised a lack of clarity in the PM’s statements about what the process would be.

Some feedback on the Sāmoa election, and there could be more in the coming days because I’m absolutely fascinated by it all: A well-informed reader in Apia wrote in to explain one of the allegations that had been thrown in the aftermath – PM Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi accusing his rivals in FAST of violating election laws. To quote:

In our electoral act, it’s an offence for candidates to commit bribery (give money) or treating (give food etc) to try to influence voters before/after elections. So when Tuilaepa accused FAST of violating electoral laws, he was alleging that FAST illegally tried to influence voters through these ‘corrupt practices’ (the term in our electoral act) by either bribing or treating voters. Whereas the integrity of the voting process itself is what the Commissioner was referring to, which is generally accepted by the public in Sāmoa & candidates to have been fair.

Regarding the PMs allegations, it’s not that big a deal in the context of Samoan politics (versus if say Labour or National was accused of this). Every election cycle after results are officially published, candidates take others to court to invalidate the winner’s results on the basis of corrupt practices. You’ll find those cases on PacLii’s (under Sāmoa) website. HRPP candidates’ wins have in the past been declared void due to the Supreme Court finding that corrupt practices had been committed. So this cycle, the expectation is that each party’s candidates will take the winners of their electorate to Court alleging some corrupt practice. The threshold for a losing candidate to take someone to Court is you must have at least 50% of the winners total vote tally. So not every loser can petition (these court proceedings are initiated via a “petition” filed in the Supreme Court) the winner.

We’ve also published a piece that gives a lot more context and background on the election. Former Samoa Observer editor Mata’afa Keni Lesa writes about the mood in Apia, with the first change in government in decades now a distinct possibility.

In answer to a question some people had, it is difficult for many in the Sāmoan diaspora to vote in elections. Electoral law requires voters to be in the country for six months before the election, but that has been particularly difficult given everything that has happened over the last year. The Samoa Observer reports some young Sāmoans living in Australia have been troubled about not being able to cast a ballot in the election.

And finally, a quick update to our style guide: We now put a macron on Sāmoa, in line with the views of some language speakers we canvassed on it, and to better reflect the correct pronunciation.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Melanie Sharma-Barrow criticises the message sent by the ban on travellers from India. Linda Burgess contemplates the decluttering of life, from shelves to friends. From the trauma of loss, Jean Sergent built a stage production that shows others the possibility that things can get better. And Alex Casey and Stewart Sowman-Lund team up for a look back at the ‘greatest’ reality TV performances we’ve seen on our screens.

You simply cannot stop Sophie Pascoe. Stuff reports the country’s most decorated paralympian will be back for another crack at gold, after being selected for this year’s Tokyo games. She already has nine gold medals to her name, and will be leading a swimming squad that can boast 20 Paralympic medals between them.

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