Waka jumping bill “abhorrent in a parliamentary democracy”

Former Green MP Keith Locke on the ‘party hopping bill’ – “The idea that individual MPs should be legally restrained in what they say is abhorrent in a parliamentary democracy.on the proposed.

NZ Herald: Party-hopping bill is a restraint on MPs’ freedom of speech

The bill before Parliament to stop party-hopping has been misnamed. The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill should be called the Party Conformity Bill because it threatens MPs with ejection from Parliament if they don’t conform to party dictates.

Winston Peters has ejected MPs from the party in the past, and this is suspected to be because they don’t conform to his dictates. He is often claimed to effectively be the party.

The Bill is before Parliament due to a coalition agreement between NZ First and Labour: “Introduce and pass a ‘Waka Jumping’ Bill”.

A coalition agreement between two parties without a majority can’t guarantee it will be passed in Parliament. Greens or National will have to also support it.

Personal political integrity will be constrained, except on a few selected “conscience” issues, like the assisted dying legislation, where MPs are free to vote as they want.

The bill contravenes the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act provisions guaranteeing freedom of speech. The idea that individual MPs should be legally restrained in what they say is abhorrent in a parliamentary democracy.

It also runs counter to the spirit of parliamentary privilege, which gives MPs more freedom than the rest of us to say what they want, without the danger of libel suits, when speaking in the chamber.

No other Western democracy has laws to stop party-hopping. In fact West Germany has a constitutional provision that once elected MPs are “representatives of the whole people, not bound by orders and instructions, and subject only to their conscience”.

It is common in the British Parliament to see MPs “crossing the floor” and it can serve a useful function.

Under our proportional system parties rise and fall, often helped by rebels from other parties. In fact, each of the smaller parties which have won seats in our MMP Parliaments have initially been led by rebel MPs from existing parliamentary parties.

Before MMP (and since for electorate MPs) an MP could resign from Parliament, then stand as an independent or under another party in a by-election. This can still happen for electorate MPs, but it can’t be done by list MPs.

MPs in a list only party (currently NZ First and Greens) can only wait until the next general election.

Former Labour MP Richard Prebble was not an MP when he became Act leader but the other rebel MPs setting up new parties were all sitting in Parliament at the time.

  • Jim Anderton left Labour mid-term to set up NewLabour (which later merged into the Alliance).
  • Peter Dunne split from Labour to form Future NZ (which later became United).
  • Tariana Turia went from Labour to the Maori Party.
  • Winston Peters went from National to found NZ First.
  • Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimons left the Alliance for the Greens.
  • Hone Harawira exited the Maori Party for Mana.

Splitting from a party to form another has been quite common, and has added substantially to the diversity of Parliament.

Resorting to legislation to get rid of an MP potentially involves the courts, which are not equipped to handle political or process disputes within parliamentary caucuses. It is safer, and more democratic, to leave decisions on the makeup of Parliament to the voters.

Rather than distorting the proportionality of Parliament, new parties set up by the rebels have provided the electorate with more political choice.

Previously, the Green Party and its co-leaders have been strongly opposed, in principle, to party-hopping legislation. As Donald said in the 1999 speech to Parliament, MPs are not “party robots”, “MPs must retain the right to be answerable to their own consciences, and political parties must not be allowed to take away from voters the power to unelect Members of Parliament.”

As a Green MP at the time I made similar points in the debate on that bill.

But the Greens have supported the Bill, initially at least.

Stuff – National: Waka jumping bill ‘an affront to democracy’

The Green Party is breaking its long-standing opposition to waka jumping legislation after getting several concessions from Justice Minister Andrew Little.

The Labour-led Government introduced the Election (Integrity) Amendment Bill to Parliament last week, part of a promise made by Labour to NZ First during coalition negotiations.

Green Party leader James Shaw said Little worked with the party to get the legislation to a point that the Greens were comfortable voting for it and ensuring it goes to select committee.

Shaw said while the Greens have traditionally opposed this sort of legislation, the MMP environment meant proportionality had increased as an “important principle in our Parliament”.

“It wasn’t on our list and of course we have opposed it in the past, but I think with the changes to the bill that have been made we’re preserving the principles of proportionality, which is important.”

Locke thinks that preserving the integrity of the principles of the Green Party is important.

The Greens have switched from strong opposition in the past to support after a few tweaks.

In 1999, speaking against an earlier party-hopping bill, Green co-leader Rod Donald reminded the House that “had this bill existed prior to the last [1999] election, we [Donald and Fitzsimons] would have been removed from this House and denied our opportunity to stay here for the full parliamentary term”.

Fitzsimons and Donald had been elected as Alliance list MPs in 1996 but left the Alliance Party in 1997 along with the rest of the Green Party. If these two MPs had been excluded from Parliament in 1997 it is unlikely the Greens would have reached the 5 per cent threshold for parliamentary representation in the 1999 election, or that Fitzsimons would have won the Coromandel seat.

This is something for the current Green caucus to ponder before continuing to support the current party hopping legislation.

It seems to be a done deal between Shaw and Labour. Did party members get a say?

It’s hard to understand why the Greens didn’t stick to their past principles over this bill.

Is Shaw concerned about unity in his Green caucus? Or did he do Labour a favour, putting his relationship with them ahead of his party and it’s past principles?

 

 

 

 

 

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24 Comments

  1. I am never surprised at moral capitulation. Self service is the prime motivator in most people – the salary, the baubles have almost always triumpe

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  January 11, 2018

      I can’t agree; there are many people who are not like that.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  January 11, 2018

        I have known a fair number of MPs and a few Ministers-and with one exception, all were better off financially before-especially if the hours worked are taken into account.

        Being an MP is not the life of luxury that some people imagine.

        • Blazer

           /  January 11, 2018

          seriously doubt the veracity of your…statement.Interesting that they share the stae of their private finances…with you.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  January 11, 2018

            Don’t be a fool, or don’t be more of one than you can help being. And don’t call people liars; it is insulting. Of course people don’t share their private finances with me, as in how much their net worth is, but when one knows what their profession was, one knows that they were making more in it. One who was a physiotherapist wasn’t, of course. You speak from ignorance-I have mentioned the 17 hour days before. How many people outside work such hours ?

            My late husband was involved with politics and politicians for many years. Just accept that I know more than you do about this.

            • Blazer

               /  January 11, 2018

              I’ve been involved with politics and politicians my…whole life.17 hour days…you’ll believe..anything.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  January 15, 2018

              Not my whole life-do outgrow putting words in people’s mouths, it’s very tiresome. And it’s become tedious.

              The 17 hour days are true, even if you deny it. You may imagine that anything you don’t know is untrue, but this is not so.

  2. David

     /  January 11, 2018

    Mr 7% keeps winning against the political neophytes

    • He hasn’t won on the waka jumping bill yet. It is currently at the first reading stage in parliament.

      Electoral Integrity Amendment Bill

      It will be interesting to see whether Green members let this backflip quietly pass, or if they put pressure on their caucus.

  3. Sorry my iPad has a mind of its own today.

    Salary, baubles always triumph over principles these days and the end justifies the end is the soothing mantra that enables evil to triumph. What can one expect when the two minor parties in coalition have not a single electorate seat to bind them to the people and represent only their narrow ideological and personal careerist interests. It’s the main argument against MMP as I see it.

    A sad day in our Parliament when the authoritarian nature that binds these parties puts such an anti-democratic law on our books.

    Watch us belly crawl further down the corruption list.

    • Blazer

       /  January 11, 2018

      An interesting opinion that needs to be seen in context.National is way out on its own as the party that reinvented protocols of political integrity.Gaming the O.I.A,burying reports it doesn’t like,interfering in media that does not support them,forming a dedicated black ops unit to indulge in dirty politics,creating a cabinet club to sell influence,telling voters to vote for ACT to have a partner in Parliament,threatening to withdraw funding from organisations that criticise it,and generally lowering the tone of political discussion.Of course the fact its leader and finance spokesperson are list M.P’s seems to have …escaped you as well.As for ‘corruption’….a very camouflaged beast draped in board appointments,consultancies and various devices to assuage sensibilities.

      • Trevors_elbow

         /  January 11, 2018

        SQUIRRRRRREEEEELLLLL.

        We get you hate National. Whats you view on the proposed Bill?

        • Blazer

           /  January 11, 2018

          My response was to the points trav raised.I’m in favour of the Bill.The option of standing as an independent or for another party is available to any M.P who wants to test…their own popularity.

      • Chuck Bird

         /  January 11, 2018

        You have a point on attacking organizations like Family First but allowing liberal ones to get tax benefits. I think Peter Dunne had something to do with this.

    • Gezza

       /  January 11, 2018

      You’re flogging a dead horse if you’re trying to argue a case for the return of MMP trav.

      Whatever gripes National supporters might have about the party getting the most votes not automatically becoming the government will always be overridden by the realisation of the public that FPP results in a government that can & does ignore it when more voters overall voted against just one party comprising the government.

      MMP will possibly work better when Winston retires.

      • Gezza

         /  January 11, 2018

        * Oops – You’re flogging a dead horse if you’re trying to argue a case for the return of FPP trav – that should’ve said.

        (Sorry – overtired still from watching Fox News for several hours from 3am this morning. I didn’t realise you could watch it live on Youtube.)

  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  January 11, 2018

    What could you expect from Shaw after his failure to stand for anything except his salary re Metiria. The Greens are beyond disgusting now.

    • Blazer

       /  January 11, 2018

      Which party do you support and why Al?Maybe you and Perigo can get a libertarian Party going or is ACT enought for…you.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  January 11, 2018

        I support good policies, B, not parties. I think that is far more admirable.

      • phantom snowflake

         /  January 11, 2018

        “Neo-Randians” perhaps??

        (“Ayn Rand – How Is This Still A Thing?” 3min40sec)

  5. Kitty Catkin

     /  January 11, 2018

    If I vote for ACT, which I do, for my party vote, I am voting for the party, not for Joe Brown or Jo Black. If they get in and then defect to another party, they have done what one man said of Auntie Alamein-stolen my vote. I strongly believe that if someone can no longer accept their party’s policies, and they are a list MP, they should leave and let the next one on the list take their place.

    I wonder how Keith Locke would feel if all the Green List MPs buggered off to another party.

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