China expert blocked from inquiry by Labour MPs

Author
Lucy Bennett, NZ Herald,
Section
Politics,
Publish Date
Thursday, 7 March 2019, 6:29p.m.
China politics expert Anne-Marie Brady has been blocked from appearing at a parliamentary inquiry into foreign meddling in elections. (Photo / Supplied)
China politics expert Anne-Marie Brady has been blocked from appearing at a parliamentary inquiry into foreign meddling in elections. (Photo / Supplied)

Labour MPs on the justice select committee have voted against allowing China politics expert Anne-Marie Brady to make a submission on foreign interference in elections.

National MPs supported Brady, a professor at Canterbury University, giving her view on the issue which is a focus of the committee's inquiry into the 2017 general election and 2016 local elections.

The eight-strong committee is evenly split between National and Labour MPs and today's vote against means Brady cannot appear.

National MP Nick Smith, who is a member of the committee, said it was concerning that Labour blocked Brady from making a submission on the critical issue of protecting New Zealand from foreign interference in its democracy.

"This has become a huge issue in other liberal democracies, whether it's the United States, Australia, UK, Canada or Western Europe.

"If the committee is going to do its job for Parliament, we need access to both government officials but also New Zealand's most published author on the subject," Smith told the Herald.

He said the Labour MPs' reasons for blocking Brady's appearance were "disingenuous".

"They said 'we should only hear from government officials' when Parliament needs to be able to hear from a wide range of expert views to be able to complete its inquiry successfully," he said.

Submissions closed in September but that was before the committee and Justice Minister Andrew Little decided that the issue of foreign interference was going to be the focus of the inquiry.

Brady today declined to comment.

Questions have been put to Justice committee chairman Labour MP Raymond Huo.

The inquiry into the election is a regular inquiry held after every general election and the local body elections and focuses on a different theme each time.

Little wrote to Huo in October asking that the committee look at the resilience of the New Zealand electoral system against foreign interference risks, provide recommendations for improvement and reassure the public that they could vote in elections with confidence.

"Foreign interference in democratic elections is, and will continue to be, a matter of pressing concern ... It is vital that New Zealand's electoral system is protected against illegitimate interference by foreign states," Little wrote in his letter.

The decision comes against the backdrop of rising concerns about foreign meddling in elections around the world, with an ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the US election and claims of Chinese interference in Australian politics.

New Zealand's relationship with China is a sensitive subject for the Government at present, exacerbated by the GCSB's decision to ban Chinese telecoms giant Huawei from Spark's 5G network rollout.

 

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