Politics

Govt set to U-turn on Brady block

China expert Anne-Marie Brady may be allowed to address politicians on the issue of foreign interference in New Zealand elections, with the Labour MPs who blocked her appearance having an apparent change of heart.

The decision to prevent Brady from submitting to the justice committee reviewing New Zealand’s local and national elections caused a stir, with National MP and committee member Nick Smith accusing the Government of “appalling behaviour”.

The committee’s triennial review of the electoral process, which closed for public submissions last September, was expanded a month later when Justice Minister Andrew Little asked it to “look at the resilience of our electoral system against foreign interference risks”.

Brady, a University of Canterbury academic whose work on China’s alleged influence and interference efforts in New Zealand, has attracted worldwide attention, wrote to the committee in February asking to appear before it.

However, the four Labour MPs on the committee voted against her being allowed to submit, resulting in a stalemate.

Committee chairman and Labour MP Raymond Huo, who has featured in Brady’s work for his supposed ties to Chinese government representatives, defended the decision on Thursday, saying it was “purely procedural” given the close of public submissions.

However, a spokesman for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Newsroom that Huo had reconsidered the Labour MPs’ original decision upon reflection.

He would discuss the inquiry at the committee next week, with a view to reopening it to public submissions from Brady and others.

While the decision to prevent Brady from speaking had been procedurally correct, the spokesman said there was merit in hearing from her and any others who wished to submit on the issue of foreign interference.

Neither Ardern nor anyone in her office had spoken to Huo about the committee's initial decision, the spokesman said.

Huo reiterated his view that the decision was based on procedure, telling Newsroom via text message he “would have always welcomed new submissions from anyone, incl Prof Brady”.

“The set-up from Dr Smith gave him the grandstanding but he has let Prof Brady down as the next step (in my personal opinion) is to decide whether we should re-open the submission,” he said.

Asked whether he would consider any perceived or actual conflict of interest given his appearance in Brady's research, Huo said he would discuss the issue with committee members.

Brady has been approached for comment.

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