Elections

Transparency Questionnaire 2017 General Election: Party Responses

Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) posed six key questions to each political party on issues of transparency, anti-corruption and protection for whistleblowers.

We asked each party to respond (in 50 words or less) to each of our six questions – on the basis that we would publish their responses verbatim. Accordingly, the parties’ responses compiled in the table below are “all their own words”. It is up to the public and individual citizens to form their own view on these responses.

TINZ Commentary

In addition, we at TINZ (as an apolitical, non-partisan organisation) have also evaluated the parties’ responses ourselves and offer our brief analysis below:

We were surprised prior to last year's local body elections at how little knowledge Mayoral candidates had about corruption and policies to address it. When asked, Auckland, Palmerston North and Wellington Mayoral candidates were largely unaware of New Zealand’s vulnerability to the impact of corruption. They were naive about how our international reputation for strong integrity accrues value to their cities or of the damage that could be done to New Zealand’s reputation through failure to protect against corrupt practice.

With housing top of mind during their campaigns and the Panama Papers a hot topic, they were largely unaware that external - and possibly illicit - funds were likely driving up local housing, property and high valued goods prices.

Issues related to corruption and transparency have garnered unprecedented attention in the run up to this year's Parliamentary elections:

  • There was a flurry of informed Parliamentary anti-corruption discussion in late 2015 leading to
    • unanimous ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.
    • a cross party vote for the comprehensive anti-corruption legislation with 92 MPs in favour.
  • The release of the Panama Papers in April 2016 sparked an active and informed debate in Parliament.
  • In May 2016
    • the then Prime Minister John Key (whose own advisor ran a business around foreign trusts) was thrown out of the house for contempt
    • while Corrections Minister Judith Collins, who had been re-instated after penance for the Orvida affair, was in London representing New Zealand at David Cameron’s Anti-corruption Summit.
  • The comprehensive Shewan Report arising from the Panama Papers was released at the end of June. It
    • provided a quick education for politicians about the impact of loose legislation around the registration of foreign trusts in New Zealand,
    • showed the benefits of ongoing policy work done in this area by public servants (who, in a rare gesture, were given well-earned personal recognition in the Report),
    • is a model review with evidence-based logic so compelling that all but one of the recommendations were taken up, including a speeding up of phase two of the anti-money laundering legislation.

Given all the debate last year and the spate of activity in the last quarter of 2015, TINZ had high expectations that political parties would be prepared and knowledgeable when responding to our six question Transparency Questionnaire for the 2017 General Election.

Sadly, many of the Parties' responses indicated a lack of the basic knowledge. If this had been an exam, more than a third of those tested (the Conservative Party, Act, NZ First and TOP, which might be excused as a newcomer) would have scored less than 50%.

Despite recent achievements in addressing corruption and a stated commitment to safeguarding New Zealand’s reputation, The National Party’s answers reflected limited knowledge. For example, they showed little understanding of the key features of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #16 to set in place (i) good governance to prevent corruption and (ii) a consistent international measure to monitor levels of corruption. The National Party’s approach to its candidates’ conflict is less rigorous than the policies it imposes on public servants. Its answers didn’t do justice to the record of the National Government over its last 3 years in office.

The New Zealand Democratic Party (which hasn’t been represented in Parliament for the past 30 years) showed a high level of understanding about more transparent ways of being accountable for political party funding, improving responsiveness of official information requests, managing conflicts and strengthening protective disclosure for whistleblowers.

United Future and The Labour Party both demonstrated some awareness of the need for greater transparency around the disclosure of party funding sources, access to official information, the need to monitor and review the effectiveness of corruption laws and of the protective disclosure law.

The Green, Labour and Maori Parties’ answers demonstrated greater knowledge than the others about the UN Sustainable Development Goals and, in particular, how Goal 16’s strong governance provision could assist in preventing corruption.

In past TINZ surveys, the New Zealand Maori Party has been the only party with evidence of an anti-corruption policy. So, it is pleasing to see that when it came to providing more detailed answers to some specific questions about what its policy is, the Maori Party’s answers showed an understanding of the issues.

It is the Greens, though, who describe their anti-corruption policies in the most detail through their answers to the six questions. TINZ heralds the Green Party’s policy to appoint a commission and citizens’ assembly to investigate public funding for political parties. While there may be other answers to providing a level playing for party funding, the Green’s explicit initiative is an opportunity to address ideas around what to do before it becomes too late with wealthy parties effectively crowding out those without resources.

TINZ also strongly approves of the Green’s policy to

  • take a zero-tolerance approach to corruption,
  • amend legislation to make facilitation payments illegal,
  • make lobbying transparent through a public register,
  • facilitate nationwide dialogue about open government/ constitutional issues,
  • support the UN SDGs,
  • to protect whistleblowers
  • and publish information about the pecuniary interests of all Green candidates on their website.

It’s great to know that somebody has read the recommendations in Chapter 6 of TINZ Integrity Plus 2013 New Zealand National Integrity System Assessment!

What is especially impressive are the Green’s fresh ideas to make lobbying more transparent by requiring Ministers to include organisations consulted in Regulatory Impact Statements and explanatory notes, and, to remove lobbyists’ Parliament access cards.

TINZ would like to take this opportunity to thank all ten Political Parties for making the effort to respond to its six questions. This wan an especially tough ask when the campaign period is as short as it is and when, in some cases, there has been no previous Political Party anti-corruption policy. This is a major step forward to have the policies of ten Political Parties on the record and provide the basis for greater levels of informed debate in the future.

Our country’s reputation and future prosperity will be the better for this.

Political party’s answer to questions about their anti-corruption policies

Compiled by Transparency International New Zealand

We asked each political party to respond to the following six questions and advised we will publish their results on our website, in social media and in releases to public media.

A. Campaign funding – what measures will your party take (for this and future elections) to ensure complete, detailed transparency of campaign funding from all funding sources to political parties?

B. Transparency – how will your party strengthen the Official Information Act process to ensure that Government entities provide timely and comprehensive information responses to the NZ public?

C. Anti-corruption – What measures will your party take to actively promote a wide-spread anti-corruption culture throughout NZ

D. Anti-corruption – In particular, what would your party do to support the development of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal # 16 to develop strong governance across public and private entities to prevent corruption?

E. Protection for whistle-blowers – What measures will your party take to strengthen the Protective Disclosure Act 2000 to support whistleblowing?

F. Candidates’ interests – Does your party require all your candidates to submit a full list of all of their beneficial interests and declare conflicts where/when they may arise? Please tell us how the public may access this information.

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