Public Collections and Solicitations (Disclosure of Payment) Bill - First reading

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

STUART SMITH: Well, it is a pleasure to speak on this member’s bill, the Public Collections and Solicitations (Disclosure of Payment) Bill. I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague Matt Doocey. It is remarkable that he would have a bill pulled out of the ballot so quickly and I wondered whether it was Bedian luck or the luck of a Bedian that has led to this fortuitous event. But whatever it is, Matt, I cannot become a Bedian, I suspect, but perhaps you could give me some advice on how I might get some luck going my way in that department.

I have to say after hearing a previous speaker that I am confused—or perhaps he is—on a number of issues that were raised there, but I will come to that in a moment. New Zealanders, as has been stated earlier on in the piece, are a very generous bunch. We give, as my colleague pointed out, $40 on average per person per month to charities and that is a phenomenal amount of money when you think about it.

But that relies on people’s confidence in the people and the charity that they are giving that money to—that the money going through to the charity is going to achieve the things that it is being collected on the basis of. I do not think that there is anything wrong with people being paid to solicit money on behalf of a charity or other organisation, or, indeed, to solicit signatures for a petition. But there is a rider on that: so long as the person who is being approached and solicited for money is aware of that and they can make that decision.

It is about transparency and unfortunately we have not really had that until today—or until this bill comes through, and it looks like it is going to be supported across the House to go through to select committee.

A number of the questions that were raised by the previous speaker, Fletcher Tabuteau, I think are valid questions—or some of them were, at least—but the select committee is the place and the process in Parliament where those particular issues can be addressed and fully canvassed. That is where bills get their polishing and get all the bugs out of them, hopefully, before they come back to the House. I think that is where this bill should go—to the select committee—and I will certainly be supporting it to that stage.

There was a point made earlier about when you put your coin in a bucket, for example, and the person then has to chase you down the street and tell people that they will actually be paid for collecting that money. It quite clearly states here that those people must be told before any solicitation or collection occurs. We have talked also about signatures on a petition. It may very well change a person’s decision as to whether they are supporting a petition or not if they find that the people soliciting for those signatures are being paid. So I think it is right and proper that we should have that transparency.

Most of us in the House, I suspect, have had plenty of contact with charitable organisations and public good organisations, and most of us, I suspect, have done a lot of work on behalf of those organisations, raising money for the local sports club with a bucket or selling sausages at a barbecue on behalf of a charity. In all of those situations, certainly in my case, the people whom I have been getting money off or asking for money to support those causes have been well aware that I am not being paid, well aware that the money is going directly to those organisations that I am working on behalf of.

I think it is a great thing that New Zealanders keep their confidence in those particular organisations and that we really celebrate our volunteers and our voluntary organisations and the way that they are funded in New Zealand.

There have been some examples of behaviour that this bill will help to alleviate. Certainly, there were a couple of monks and a nun—or they were people masquerading as monks and a nun—in Auckland who were arrested or chased off the streets for soliciting for money. So it is with great pleasure that I support this bill and commend it to the House. Thank you.