Bill would force political candidates to disclose criminal convictions

Momentum is building in Parliament for more transparency around who the public is voting for in local body and parliamentary elections.

National MP Matt King has put forward a Members' Bill that would require the disclosure of candidates' criminal convictions if the offence carries a maximum of two or more years' imprisonment. 

The proposal wouldn't disqualify people from becoming candidates or affect people with convictions concealed under the Clean Slate scheme, or if there is a court order or other legal requirement that prohibits publication.

King told Newshub the public deserve to know who they are voting for.

"We've got people that have been convicted of serious criminal offending that are actually being elected to council. I don't have any specific central Government examples but I do have local councillors that if the public knew what they'd done, I don't think they would have been elected."

The Northland MP wouldn't name names, but says it's a problem more widespread than people think.

"We've got gang members, one in particular that has served 22 months in jail for him and his gang mates assaulting two police officers, knocking them unconscious. A serious offence, a cowardly attack and you can't find any record of that.

"It'll defer people from applying. If they do apply they have to be able to stand on their own two feet and back themselves."

The Bill suggests the Electoral Commission would be required to request the information from the Ministry of Justice. 

King is confident if the Bill is drawn there would be support across Parliament.

"If the Government parties opposed the Bill, I would love to see their arguments".

He also has a Members' Bill that would create a specific 'king hit' or 'coward punch' offence which would result in a maximum sentence of 20 years' imprisonment.