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Bill pushes for prisoner voting rights, offshore political donation ban

Author
Newstalk ZB ,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Sunday, 3 March 2019, 2:58p.m.
Greens electoral reform spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman is introducing a bill which she said would "stop unfair influence and potential corruption in politics".

The Green Party is urging Justice Minister Andrew Little to adopt a Greens members' bill which would ban foreign donations to political parties and enabling prisoners rights.

Greens electoral reform spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman is introducing a bill which she said would "stop unfair influence and potential corruption in politics".

As well as cracking down on foreign donations, the bill would also overturn a ban on prisoner voting, enable Māori to change roll types at any time and lower the MMP threshold to 4 per cent.

Although New Zealand has a strong democratic system, Ghahraman said there is "definitely room for improvement".

"The bill seeks to stop unfair influence and potential corruption in politics," she said.

One of the key measures will give prisoner's back the right to vote.

Ghahraman defended the measure, telling the Weekend Collective that the current legislation is a breach of human rights, which goes against the criminal justice system. 

"By removing people from the community, we're trying to make the community safer, we're trying to rehabilitate them and reintegrate them back in. We know that being disconnected from society hinders that, so that should be the key aim of the criminal justice system."

She says prison is a punishment already, and taking away their rights erodes all our human rights.

"The punishment is encompassed in the imprisonment itself, it does not apply to other rights."

Ghahraman says we are an anomaly when it comes to this, and warns that it puts us on the same level as Iran and Saudi Arabia when it comes to human rights.

Given the example of Malcolm Rewa voting on sexual assault reform, she says that is an extreme example and that it would make for bad law.

The law will also tackle electoral donations.  Current electoral law prohibits overseas donations of more than $1500 to political parties, but Ghahraman said she wants that made zero.

"We should absolutely not be seeing political donations come from overseas and we need to reduce the anonymity threshold so that we can see who is donating to political parties."

She appears to have an unlikely ally in her quest to stamp out foreign donations.

Last month, veteran National MP Nick Smith signalled electoral reforms were needed to ensure the integrity of the New Zealand electoral system.

"The existing electoral law does put limits on foreign donors, but needs strengthening. Only Kiwi citizens and residents should be able to donate to political parties or to campaigns that seek to influence an election outcome," Smith said.

A members' bill goes into the ballot and are picked at random to be debated in the House. There are 70 bills in the ballot, meaning the likelihood of a bill being pulled is slim.

That's why Ghahraman is urging Little to pick up her bill, meaning the Government could introduce it at any time.

She has spoken to Little about it and he is now in the process of looking into it, she said. 
"I am hopeful that the Government will pick it up."

Her bill would also implement all 10 of the 2012 MMP review recommendations.

This includes reducing the proportion of votes a party has to win to get into Parliament from the current 5 per cent, to four.

Ghahraman's bill would also mean Māori would be able to choose which role they are on at any time. At the moment, Māori can only change to the Māori roll once every five years.

 

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