NZ tackling foreign donations, fake news

Ben McKay
Justice Minister Andrew Little says NZ isn't immune from the risk of foreign election interference

Responding to the threat of foreign interference, the New Zealand government rushed legislation through parliament to effectively ban overseas donations.

Justice Minister Andrew Little made the announcement on Tuesday morning, pledging to pass the bill immediately.

"The risk of foreign interference in elections is a growing international phenomenon and can take many forms, including donations. New Zealand is not immune from this risk," Little said.

"There's no need for anyone other than New Zealanders to donate to our political parties or seek to influence our elections."

The bill limits foreign donations to just $50, down from the previous $1500.

The Australian limit is $1000.

The opposition National party have pledged to support the change but have attacked the rushed process.

The Kiwi government is also fighting against "fake news" and the growing proliferation of misleading online content.

The new bill requires all political advertising - in all mediums - to include a name and address.

"We've seen in other countries an avalanche of fake news social media ads that contain no information about who is behind them. That's not fair and we don't want to see it repeated here," Little said.

"If someone wants to advertise online they need to say who they are, the same as if the ad was published in a newspaper."

New Zealand's intelligence agencies have previously warned of efforts to infiltrate Kiwi democracy.

SIS head Rebecca Kitteridge said there was "foreign interference activity in New Zealand from a range of actors ... including some concerns we have about political donations being made by state actors".

Efforts to safeguard democracies from foreign influence have been in the international spotlight in recent years, most notably after the election of Donald Trump as US president.

A subsequent investigation into the 2016 election, conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller, found "sweeping and systematic" interference from the Russian government.

"We don't want our elections to go the way of recent overseas examples where foreign interference appears to have been at play," Little said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week announced a new ASIO-led taskforce to counter foreign interference.