A plea to consider amendments to the Electoral (Integrity) Bill

The Winston Peters Electoral (Integrity) Bill has been very contentious. The Green Party has been strongly and widely criticised for opposing the bill (very strongly opposing similar legislation historically) but deciding to vote for it ‘for the good of the Government’.

Minister of Justice Andrew Little has also been criticised for refusing to budge on amending the Bill, leading to justified suggestions that Labour as well as the Greens are being dictated to by Peters on this.

There has been a lot of criticism of the Bill beyond Parliament, including from a significant number or academics with expertise in constitutional law, but it looks like it will pass. So attention is now shifting to amendments to improve the flaws in the bill.

Graeme Edgeler: Last call on the Electoral (Integrity) Bill: A plea for Labour, New Zealand First and Green MPs to consider some minor amendments

The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill is going through it’s final stages, and will likely pass this week.

It is going to pass, and amendments – such as a sunset clause – or the exclusion of electorate MPs from its scope – or a delayed start – are not going to be agreed to by a parliamentary majority either.

But it is not too late for Parliament to make some minor changes to the bill to make a slightly better, and to slightly better protect principled opposition within Parliamentary parties.

The point of this blog post is pretty simple: it is to ask Labour MPs, New Zealand First MPs and Green MPs to consider supporting three particular amendments proposed by National.

…the three amendments I seek support for are not “wrecking amendments”. They are very limited amendments, designed to ensure that the process for removing an MP from Parliament is fair, and identifiable.

These are:

  • Chris Penk’s proposed amendment in supplementary order paper 69. It would require registered parties to have rules around the process they would use to seek to expel an MP from Parliament.
  • Tim Macindoe’s proposed amendment in supplementary order paper 71. This would require that those rules would have to be provided to the Electoral Commission and available for public inspection.
  • Simeon Brown’s amendment in supplementary order paper 64. This proposes that the caucus vote to declare than an MP has distorted Parliament should occur by secret ballot.

Little has been unusually cranky about criticism of the Bill.

Justice Minister Andrew Little has accused bill opponents of failing to engage with various safeguards he says are in the bill that would prevent it being abused – in particular the requirement that two-thirds of the caucus must support the leader.

I think this is an unfair criticism…

Edgeler also said he would like serious consideration given to a suggestion in his submission on the Bill:

At present, the bill requires a two-thirds majority vote of a party caucus to expel and MP from Parliament. If an MP is really threatening the proportionality of Parliament, one would expect much greater unanimity from a party caucus as to that fact, than a mere two-thirds.

Under the current proposal, National could eject an MP even if 18 of their MPs considered the MP had not threatened the proportionality of the House, and Labour, could eject an MP with 15 MPs opposed. If the vote had anywhere near that many opposed, I think it must be seriously disputed whether proportionality would have been threatened.

When you are talking about ejecting an MP from Parliament, a much higher vote should be required, perhaps even near unanimity of the party caucus (ie unanimous, but the for the MP in question). An MP who has the support of even two or three of their party colleagues represents a significant party position likely to have been supported by at least some of that party’s voters, whose voice should not be silenced by other party factions. An MP with that level of support from the party Caucus should not be forcibly expelled from Parliament.

Chris Bishop (@cjsbishop) has responded on Twitter:

I have an amendment re “near unanimity” and a schedule that outlines what that means.

This is not online yet.

Also from Chris Penk (@ChrisPenknz):

Thanks for suggestion re near unanimity (and analysis of those already-tabled SOPs). Initial reactions:

(1) All-but-one would be preferable to a percentage basis, given distortions possible in latter where caucus small in number.

(2) Principled objection remains.

However, I acknowledge in relation to item (2) above you’re aiming for amendments that may be palatable to NZF-Lab-Green (esp last-named) given overall nature of bill and inevitability of it passing.

Edgeler asked Little, Peters and Tracey Martin for suport, and also the Greens.

I can’t find responses from any of them.

National MPs seem to be actively trying to constructively address flaws in the Bill.

Labour, NZ First and Green MPs seem to be avoiding fronting up on this.

The Greens in particular could at least restore a little of their tattered credibility by supporting amendments that will make the Bill less bad.

3 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  August 13, 2018

    The Greens are just hiding until it goes away. Gutless and they know it.

    • Gezza

       /  August 13, 2018

      Tru dat.
      That’s twice in the last month you’ve been right about something.

  1. A plea to consider amendments to the Electoral (Integrity) Bill — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition