Potential donor influence in politics ‘concerning’ – sociologist

Morning Talk 18/10/2018

A sociologist says the Jami-Lee Ross saga has exposed a potentially “concerning” example of donor influence within the National Party.

On Wednesday, outgoing MP Jami-Lee Ross released the recording of a conversation he had with Simon Bridges over a $100,000 donation. In the audio, Mr Ross and Mr Bridges discuss how the Chinese donors would like to have more than one ethnically Chinese MP in the party.

Massey University sociologist Paul Spoonley says it is not surprising to hear the National Party list could be on offer in exchange for sizeable donations.

In the recording, Mr Ross tells Mr Bridges one of the donors could become a candidate after going through "candidate college".

"I am deeply concerned that somebody who should give a donation to a political party should then expect certain political outcomes," Prof Spoonley told RadioLIVE, saying it might be typical in China, but not here.

"We need them to understand that in our society, we have certain requirements in terms of democratic process. That needs to be carefully explained to them."

But Mr Spoonley emphasises that it would be naive to think that influence was limited to the Chinese community.

Jami-Lee Ross leaked the recording on Wednesday.

“It might be quite interesting to see whether or not there are other companies or individuals or communities which are trying to exercise power in this way.”

In a press conference on Thursday, Mr Bridges was asked about his comments in the recording where the two politicians indicate Chinese candidates are preferable over Indians.

The National leader said it was a desire for the caucus to "reflect the face of New Zealand and its multiculturalism". 

"It was a blunt conversation," Mr Bridges admitted.

Asked by Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien if it was possible to "buy" a candidacy for National, Mr Bridges said "not at all".

Mr Bridges said he doesn't believe there had been any discussions between him and a donor about opening up a candidate slot. 

Listen to the full interview with Paul Spoonley above.

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