NZ First’s $300k clause is old news

It’s surprising to suddenly see that NZ First have a clause in their constitution that seeks to impose a $300,000 dollar cost on and MP who resigns or is expelled from the party.

Surprising because it is not news – I posted on this four years ago


May 2014

NZ First’s $300,000 fine threat

NZ First have a clause in their party constitution that tries to enable the party to fine any list or electorate MP who resigns or is expelled  $300,000 at the discretion of the Board.

NEW ZEALAND FIRST PARTY CONSTITUTION 2013

57 Parliamentary Division

(g) Upon a member of the Parliamentary Division ceasing to be a member of the Parliamentary Division because he/she has resigned from or has been expelled from the New Zealand First parliamentary caucus, or has ceased to be a member of the Party, then whether the member is a constituency member of parliament or a list member of parliament, he/she must resign his/her parliamentary seat as soon as practicable and in any event not later than 3 days after the date of cessation.

(h) In order to provide the means for enforcement of the preceding article 57(g) concerning the obligation of a member or former member to resign his/her parliamentary seat, and as a condition precedent to selection as a New Zealand First parliamentary candidate, and in consideration of selection as such, every member who agrees to become a candidate, and every member who stands as a candidate, and every member who is elected as a New Zealand First list member of parliament or as a New Zealand First constituency member of parliament, before being selected as a candidate, before standing as a candidate, before election as a New Zealand First member of parliament, and before accepting his/her seat in parliament and before being sworn in as such, and at any other time when required by the Board to do so whether before or after election and whether before or after being sworn in as a member of parliament, shall agree to give and shall sign a written undertaking, intended to be a legally enforceable contract (the resignation obligation contract) , under which he/she agrees to uphold observe and perform all of the provisions of this article 57 of this constitution and its amendments, and in particular to a fundamental term of the contract which will be the essence of  the contract, and which will impose a liability for liquidated damages in the sum of $300,000 (three hundred thousand dollars) for any breach of article 57(g) of this constitution and its amendments, concerning the obligation of a member or former member to resign his/her parliamentary seat, if he/she ceases by any means and for any reason and in any circumstances whatsoever to be a member of the Parliamentary Division during the term for which he/she has been elected. The Board may however compromise the amount of liquidated damages payable or waive the imposition of liability for liquidated damages in its sole and unfettered discretion without having to have any reason for doing so, without having to give any reason for doing so, and without being under a any obligation to do so or to consider fairness, natural justice, or any other consideration whatsoever;
and the Board shall not enforce the resignation obligation contract under this article 57(h) at any time that legislation exists which requires or determines that a member of Parliament to resign or relinquish his/her parliamentary seat upon the grounds contained in or similar to those specified in article 57(g).

NZ First  Party rules:  nz_first_constitution_nov_2013.pdf

Law professor Andrew Geddis takes it apart: I’m right, Winston’s not, so there

The $300,000 figure here clearly is designed to present an MP who leaves NZ First with Hobson’s choice. Either quit as an MP, or face ruinous financial consequences. And because the rule has this effect – it is designed to force an MP from Parliament – I don’t think it will be enforceable in court. And a rule of this nature only has teeth if there is a court that is prepared to, as a matter of law, make someone actually pay up the penalty figure.


But it has become a thing today for some reason. National call it Revelations, which it clearly isn’t. It’s a rehashed story four years later.


NZ First MPs signed $300k good behaviour bond

Revelations that Government MPs are required to sign a legally enforceable contract meaning they must pay $300,000 if they do not follow their Leader’s instruction is an affront to our parliamentary democracy, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Nick Smith says.

“The 2016 amendment to NZ First’s constitution states its MPs must pay damages of $300,000 if they personally disagree with Winston Peters, turning them into indentured workers with an extraordinary price tag hanging over their heads.

“It means every time an NZ First MP votes or comments on an issue, they have 300,000 reasons why they should just parrot Winston Peters and not to speak out even if doing so would be in the public’s best interests.

“This is abhorrent. These types of contracts are illegal in other workplaces and would be unconstitutional in most democratic countries, so why are they at the core of our current Government? They turn elected representatives into puppets of a party leader who is now attempting to impose the same restrictions on free speech on Parliament’s other MPs, in spite of universal opposition to the Waka Jumping Bill.

“It is a sad commentary on the NZ First Party and Mr Peters that such draconian contracts are required to maintain caucus discipline – and now to keep the Government together.

“It also contradicts Mr Peters’ previous hollow position that MPs ‘have to be free to follow their conscience. They were elected to represent their constituents, not to swear an oath of blind allegiance to a political party’.

“The contracts were revealed after I was contacted by a concerned NZ First source who advised that all NZ First MPs had signed them except Mr Peters.

“NZ First must publicly release the full details of these contracts, outlined in article 57 (h) of its constitution, so the public can see the restrictions imposed on its elected MPs. This is even more important with NZ First playing such a pivotal role in the current Government.

“Disclosure is also required to be consistent with the Government’s pledge to be the most open and transparent ever, a claim looking increasingly ridiculous when even the Minister responsible for Mr Peters’ Waka Jumping Bill, Andrew Little, had no idea about the clause.

“That’s despite his legislation increasing the legal weight given to party rules and his acknowledgement that MPs should be able to do their job with being subjected to such restrictions.

“New Zealand needs MPs who are not bound by orders or instructions but whose responsibility is to act as representatives of the people.

“The existence of these contracts opens the question as to whether New Zealand needs additional protection to prevent its parliamentary democracy from being manipulated by these sorts of oppressive contracts.”

 

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22 Comments

  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  August 16, 2018

    It must be legal….but it shouldn’t be !

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  August 16, 2018

      The NZF MPs must be mugs.

      • Gezza

         /  August 16, 2018

        If you are prepared to to stand as a candidate for NZF & think you won’t be subject to the requirement to remain ABSOLUTELY loyal to Winston Peters, personally, no matter what he says or does whether it is in accordance with NZF policy & Winston’s bottom lines or not, you must be either:

        1. mad as a hatter, or
        2. functionally illiterate or unable to engage legal advice when reading their Constitution, or
        3. completely ignorant of Winston Peters’ history, or
        4. thick as pigshit

        or any combination of the above.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  August 16, 2018

          I’ll bet you $1,000,000 that you get this wrong: In which book of Lewis Carroll’s does a mad hatter appear ?

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  August 16, 2018

            Through the looking glass comes to mind?

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  August 16, 2018

              Wrong.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  August 16, 2018

              So is Alice in Wonderland wrong.

              Lewis Carroll’s Hatter is not called the Mad Hatter by him; the Alice Hatter is just the Hatter.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  August 16, 2018

              I see it was a Mad Tea Party.

          • Pickled Possum

             /  August 16, 2018

            “You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret all the best people are.”
            ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  August 16, 2018

              That line is NOT in the book. Bonkers was not in use then.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  August 16, 2018

              Bonkers is a 1940s word; possibly wartime slang.It sounds like an armed services one to me.

              Lewis Carroll never at any time referred to the Hatter as the Mad Hatter. I have read the book many times, in more than one language, and can vouch for the fact that ‘the Mad Hatter’ is not in it.

              Alice says that the tea party is the stupidest one that she has ever been at.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  August 16, 2018

      Who on earth thinks that NZF’s punitve clause is all right ?

  2. PartisanZ

     /  August 16, 2018

    Dum de dah … Old news … Fake news … does it really matter?

    Sounds like a good, hearty, old-fashioned negative incentive?

    Boards representing the shareholders should impose similar things on the CEOs of large corporations maybe?

    • Gezza

       /  August 16, 2018

      Now there’s an idea. Usually it works in reverse. Golden handshake anybody?

      • PartisanZ

         /  August 16, 2018

        Well, in reality it operates in reverse but mostly doesn’t work …

        • PartisanZ

           /  August 16, 2018

          … except on behalf of the CEO (and high management) who are often overpaid to begin with …

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  August 16, 2018

            I bet that you’d take it if it was offered to you.

            • PartisanZ

               /  August 16, 2018

              Thus money doth make prostitutes of us all Miss Kitty …

            • PartisanZ

               /  August 16, 2018

              The point isn’t whether I’d take it or not. The point is that it’s being offered at all!

              Like the point is that there’s any poverty AT ALL in Aotearoa New Zealand?? Any poverty AT ALL amidst the plenty …

        • Gezza

           /  August 16, 2018

          Huh? Works extremely well for the handshakee … ?

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  August 16, 2018

            NZF’s idea is a golden handshake, all right, but the gold’s passing in the other direction.