Chaos in the House: Winston Peters blasts 'dysfunctional geriatric' MP who labelled him a 'rat'

Winston Peters has described a fellow MP as a "dysfunctional geriatric" after the National member called the Deputy Prime Minister a "rat" in Parliament. 

The chaos began during a Parliament session held under urgency on Wednesday morning to get legislation passed that will ban foreign donations above $50.

But the National Party wanted an amendment passed that would also make it illegal for foreign donations to foundations, like the New Zealand First Foundation, which has been accused of hiding donations for the party. 

National MP Tim Macindoe accused New Zealand First of "utter hypocrisy" and described the party as "utterly disingenuous" for not supporting National MP Nick Smith's proposed amendment.

Macindoe referred to comments Duncan Garner Garner made on The AM Show, questioning the need to rush the legislation through Parliament, saying "I smell a rat". 

"Clearly the rat is sitting on that side of the House at the moment," Macindoe said, pointing to Peters. "Because what Mr Garner was talking about was the New Zealand First Foundation."

Peters fired back saying, "I won't have a dysfunctional geriatric call me a rat". 

Garner wasn't referring to New Zealand First in his comments. 

"Why is Labour so desperate to rush through Parliament... under urgency... a ban on foreign donations to political parties?" Garner said. 

"They clearly think some coin is heading National's way and are trying to block it... it's the wrong use of urgency and I smell a rat."

The Greens have also been accused of "tacit consent" by Dr Nick Smith who suggested co-leader Marama Davidson is turning a blind eye to New Zealand First Foundation allegations.

Dr Smith blasted the Government for trying to pass the law without the usual select committee process. He emphasised how he wants the law to include donations to foundations - a nod to the allegations involving NZ First.

The Electoral Commission is currently looking into allegations New Zealand First has been hiding donations through the New Zealand First Foundation.

"It's interesting that [Justice Minister Andrew Little] and not a single Labour member, not a single Green member, have said anything about this scandal involving New Zealand First," Smith said.

"I'd love to know if Marama Davidson thinks it's acceptable," he added, pointing to the Green Party co-leader seated on the opposite side of the House.

"Tacit consent," Dr Smith shouted when Davidson didn't reply, simply shaking her head.

"Tacit consent" means the approval of someone's wrongdoing. 

The Greens couldn't be reached for comment.

"If we're going to define a party donation, why not include the foundations?" Dr Smith asked.

"Here's the bizarre part: The New Zealand Fist Foundation can go out next week with this law and get a $1 million donations from a Russian friend because the foundation is not a political party.

"Why would Government members not support closing the loophole?"

Dr Smith's amendment did not pass.

But the National Party didn't walk away unscathed. 

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross blasted National - the party he was once a member of - for accepting a $150,000 donation from a Chinese billionaire channelled through a New Zealand business.

"That donation legally came from a New Zealand-registered company. That company is 100 percent owned by a Chinese foreign national in Inner Mongolia. If that is not a foreign donation in the eyes of right-thinking people in public land, then I don't know what is," Ross said.

"Drinking from the tap of foreign money is so beneficial when it comes to New Zealand-registered companies. It is an effective way for New Zealand parties to receive foreign money legally, but it is wrong."

Ross appeared to stand up for the Greens, after National MP Nicola Willis pointed out that the Greens - who have advocated for a ban on foreign donations to political parties - have received their fair share of foreign donations.

In 2018, the Greens declared 57 foreign donations worth $510, compared to National which declared none, and Labour declared 16 worth $900.

"If the member [Green MP] Golriz Ghahraman wants to be concerned about overseas donations and the influence they can have, she should perhaps start by looking at her own party," Willis said.

Ross said he "found it interesting" that his "old friends in the National Party said the Green Party had the majority of foreign donations".

"I have to say that the best example of a foreign donation that influenced a political party and a Minister of the Crown at the last election was the $150,000 that came from Inner Mongolia," Ross said.

"[National MPs] on that side will say, 'No, that wasn't a foreign donation. It was done within the law.' Yes, but our law is wrong."

Ross alleged last year that National leader Simon Bridges had asked him to split up a $100,000 donation from Chinese businessman Zhang Yikun into smaller amounts, so they could be hidden from the Electoral Commission.

The now-independent MP released a recorded phone conversation between him and Bridges, where the former National MP could be heard asking his then-leader what to do with the $100,000 donation.

Ross said the funds, before it entered National Party accounts, arrived in amounts smaller than the $15,000 disclosure threshold. He said the $100,000 donation "was offered by the donor directly to Simon [Bridges] on the 21st May".

Bridges has denied the allegations. A Serious Fraud Office investigation into the matter is ongoing. 

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