Greens ‘unique kaupapa’ trashed by Peters ‘bill or bust’ threat?

The Green party voted twice in Parliament yesterday in support of Winston’s waka jumping bill. Golriz Ghahraman was chosen to speak out of both sides her mouth, claiming to oppose the bill but also committing to supporting it ‘for the good of the coalition’.

There must be a compelling reason for such a clash between past Green principles and coalition ‘pragmatism’.

While the real reasons are being kept secret by the Greens – despite past promises of transparency – the extreme nature of their sharply divided position suggests an extreme cause.

Ghahraman said that the future of the Government depended on Green support of the bill. This raises the possibility that Winston Peters has threatened bill or bust (the Government). Why else would the Greens contort so much over this?

The Green Party caucus has been under a lot of fire for saying they will vote for legislation they have always strongly opposed. Despite it being revealed that they have misled (lied to) the public over their knowledge of responsibilities as a part of the Government to try to justify this stance – see Greens appear to have lied over their waka jumping bill support – they went ahead and voted twice yesterday in Parliament to advance the bill.

The first vote was an attempt by National to send the bill back to an indecisive committee:

ELECTORAL (INTEGRITY) AMENDMENT BILL

Procedure

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I move, That the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill set down for second reading be discharged and referred back to the Justice Committee to enable the many amendments proposed by officials and submitters to be considered.

A party vote was called for on the question,That the motion be agreed to.

Ayes 56

New Zealand National 56.

Noes 63

New Zealand Labour 46; New Zealand First 9; Green Party 8.

Smith targeted the Green position in the second reading debate.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): …

The Green Party position over this bill sets a new low in parliamentary integrity. Co-leader Marama Davidson says this bill is undemocratic. She says it is a threat to democracy. She says it goes against Green Party principles and policies, but they are voting for it. She justified it by saying this, and I quote, “It is in our supply and confidence agreement and we had to.” That is untrue and contradicts the advice from the Cabinet Office that has now been leaked by horrified Green insiders.

Late last year, Mr Shaw stated that the advantage of the supply and confidence agreement was this, and I quote him, “Green MPs will not vote for anything they do not agree with.” That is exactly what is happening here. This betrayal of core values could not be more serious. A founding Green co-leader said of the same bill, in 2001, that it was the most Draconian, obnoxious, anti-democratic—

Hon James Shaw: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Dr Smith has now brought the memory of Rod Donald into this debate and into question time a number of times. I think this is the fourth time that I’m aware of—

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: Would you get to the point? Is there a point of order here?

Hon James Shaw: Yes, there is. I’m offended and I would like him to withdraw and apologise. It is called waving a dead man’s hand—

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: Everyone will sit down.

Hon James Shaw:—and he has no right to speak—

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: Sit down!

Hon James Shaw: —for Rod Donald.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: Sit down! When the Speaker is on their feet, members resume their seats. That is not a point of order. Unfortunately, you cannot take offence on behalf of another member. That member is absent; you cannot take offence on behalf of another member. That is not a point of order, and I call the Hon Nick Smith to continue.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Let me quote from the Hansard

Hon James Shaw: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: Are you going to re—

Hon James Shaw: I am not offended on behalf of anybody else; I am offended.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am sorry, but the point of your offence is on behalf of another person. You are taking offence at reference to another person. You cannot do that. It is not a point of order.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: A quote for Mr Shaw’s benefit from the parliamentary Hansard “the most Draconian, obnoxious, anti-democratic, insulting piece of legislation ever inflicted in this Parliament”, yet it is now to become the law with the votes of people like Mr Shaw. We also heard evidence from officials at select committee that this bill breaches the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Only six months ago, I heard the member in this House quoting the importance of those treaties and human rights, yet today is the vote on a bill that tramples on those very rights.

Greens left it to struggling rookie MP Ghahraman to speak for them.

GOLRIZ GHAHRAMAN (Green): …

Of the many, many decisions that we’ve made since the 2017 election, the decision to support this bill has been the most difficult for the Green Party…

So the difficult decision on this bill is not typical of the kinds of decisions that we’ve had to make in joining this Government. What does make this decision uniquely difficult is the strong competing principles. The first is that the Green Party has spoken out vehemently against a bill like this in 2001 and 2005.

The competing principle is that the Green Party is now committed to this new, multi-party Government, built on the merging of three parties’ priorities in the first truly multi-party MMP Government—MMP, a form of Government fought for and brought about in large part by the great work of the great man Rod Donald, a man who has been brought into this debate, whose memory has been dragged through this debate by members in the Opposition who worked so hard during his life to impede his great work. That’s disgraceful.

Some say, with some justification, that it is a disgrace to Donald’s memory for the Greens to support this bill.

Our confidence and supply agreement includes a commitment to act in good faith to allow Labour and New Zealand First to implement their coalition agreement. Mostly, that doesn’t involve the kind of proactive support in the House, but this bill does.

No it doesn’t. The Greens always promised to act with integrity in Parliament, they promised to oppose legislation that was against their principles.

So it is this commitment to good faith and our commitment to see the new Government succeed that has decided our position on this bill. We know that most out there—we know that nature can’t afford another three years of a neo-liberal National Party Government.

That sounds like she (and the Greens) see support of this bill as necessary to keep the Government together. Has Peters threatened to pull out of his Government commitments unless the Greens roll over on this for him? That’s how it looks.

I now wish to address the process we’ve taken to come to our decision. Far from some sort of smoke-filled back-door deal, the Green Party has gone through a robust internal process.

We announced initially that we would support the bill to select committee. That gave us the opportunity to reach out to our grassroots, and it also gave our members the opportunity to be heard and to have their views put on the record. We have discussed and debated the competing principles behind this bill, led by our party’s national executive and its policy committee, which represent elected members from the grassroots.

She doesn’t actually say that Green members approve of their support of the bill. They used to say important decisions were made by party membership, not MPs. They often gave that as a reason for not negotiating a governing arrangement with National.

Many people understood our support of this bill and some didn’t—some pushed for us to oppose it, including many who submitted to the Justice Committee.

She suggests here that the Green position has significant majority support, but doesn’t substantiate that.

I would like to acknowledge especially Jeanette Fitzsimons and Keith Locke, our great previous MPs who will be disappointed in our support. These people were heard and I’m sorry that the outcome will be disappointing them today. To be clear, we do not think that this is a particularly good bill.

New Greens seem to have quite different principles to Old Greens.

And we do have concerns about party caucuses being able to remove MPs from Parliament. So, yes, this was a difficult decision, but it has come about because we’ve decided that this new Government must succeed and we must support it in good faith to succeed.

Again this suggests that the survival of the Government was dependent on Greens supporting this bill, despite not liking it. Traditional Green supporters hate it.

So, the confidence and supply agreement does that but it also allows the Green Party to speak out on our unique kaupapa. That is something that’s close to my heart. Protest is close to my heart and I value you it as an out-of-Government—[Interruption]

Hon Gerry Brownlee: The member means flexible kaupapa.

The ‘unique kaupapa’ of the Greens has flown out the window, as extinct as a huia.

I can’t think of any reason for them doing this other than rolling over for Winston under threat of losing their place in Government.

 

 

Greens appear to have lied over their waka jumping bill support

A leaked document shows that the Greens in parliament have been gar from open and honest about their support of Winston’s waka jumping bill.

Why? Are they Winton’s wimps? Or are they trying to hide a secret deal? I’m not sure which would be worse for their reputation.

The Greens copped a lot of flak last week when they announced they would vote for the ‘waka jumping’ bill despite opposing it. They have opposed this sort of party leader power over MPs since they have been a party just about. Rod Donald was strongly opposed to a similar bill, Jeanette Fitzsimon is against the current one.

And it looks even worse for the current Parliamentary Green position – it looks like they have been dishonest about their responsibilities under their confidence and supply agreement.

Bryce Edwards:  A bad bill for democracy

A leaked Green Party caucus document from January, titled “Advice to caucus – Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill”:

In particular, the so-called “waka-jumping bill” has turned out to exemplify the worst ways of progressing policy. And the Greens have been at the forefront of this awfulness. They’ve been tricky throughout the whole debate over the waka-jumping bill, giving inconsistent and opaque explanations for their role in progressing the legislation.

The Greens have never been willing to front up over how they were going to deal with this contentious bill. First, when the coalition was formed, we were told by co-leader James Shaw that his party wouldn’t vote for any policies that they disagreed with. The Greens later changed this to say that they would support the waka-jumping bill through the first stages of the legislation, but wouldn’t guarantee that they would vote for it in the end.

Then last week the party finally revealed that they would indeed vote for the legislation, even though they still opposed it. They justified this capitulation with the notion that their hands were tied by the coalition agreement that they signed up to with the Labour Party – especially the part in which they promised to deal in “good faith” with Labour to fulfil coalition agreements with New Zealand First.

It turns out that the Greens have always known that there is nothing in the coalition agreement they signed with Labour that obliges them to vote for the waka-jumping bill. A leaked Green Party caucus document from January, titled “Advice to caucus – Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill”, reports on official advice informing the Greens that there is nothing in their coalition agreement that binds them to provide support.

The fact that the Greens have tried to tell the public the opposite therefore raises some big questions about why they’ve mislead the public on this, and what the real reasons are for their U-turn on the bill.

This is more damaging to Green Party integrity than their ‘oppose but will vote for’ announcement.

It looks like the lied, or at least deliberately misled, about their responsibility in Government.

So why have the Greens been so slippery and dishonest about this?

One must wonder what bigger embarrassment they are trying to hide.

Are they Winston’s wimps?

Or is there some so of secret deal they are trying to keep secret?

Either way, this looks very murky for the Greens.

Justice committee fails to report back on waka jumping bill

Greens copped a lot of flak after they announced they would vote for the ‘waka jumping’ bill to keep NZ First happy, despite being strongly opposed throughout the party’s history. See Why the Greens threw their integrity overboard

But they aren’t the only ones divided over the bill.

Stuff: Justice committee fails to report back on Waka Jumping bill

National’s Nick Smith says Labour MPs on a select committee inspecting the Waka Jumping bill refused to consider amendments because Winston Peters wanted it to pass unamended.

Labour and National MPs are bitterly blaming each other for the failure of the select committee to report back on Monday.

The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill would allow party leaders to expel MPs from their party from Parliament, if they could get the approval of two thirds of their caucus. List MPs would be expelled for good and replaced by the next person on the list while electorate MPs would be able to compete in by-elections.

The Justice Select Committee was due to report back on the controversial bill on Monday but failed to do so. The committee is evenly split between National and Labour MPs, and would need to pass a majority vote to send the bill back to the House with a report attached.

As a result the bill will go back to the House without any recommendations from the select committee.

That should make it even harder for the Greens to justify voting for it, but they seem to have already capitulated.

“The Labour members of the committee made plain that they were under directives as part of the agreement with Winston [Peters] for the bill to not be amended,” Smith said.

“They said it just that way: ‘No. Winston won’t agree to that.”

It seems odd that NZ First are forcing Labour to support this bill unchanged when it appears to be important only to Winston Peters, in contrast to Peters giving up so easily on a popular policy for NZ First voters – see Government has reneged on immigration ‘promises’.

Peters makes a big thing of letting ‘the people’ decide, for example on cannabis legislation.

But on the waka jumping bill he seems to be against the justice committee from addressing issues in his bill.

Labour MP and chair of the committee Raymond Huo said Smith was “throwing his toys” and could have put comments like that in a minority report had he allowed a report to be sent back.

Huo said by holding back the report Smith was letting down his party and the submitters whose voices would now be lost.

“He has not just let his party down but also the general public, including those submitters,” Huo said.

“The Justice Committee is a very busy committee. We have enjoyed a strong level of collegiality, until, very frankly the arrival of Nick Smith,” Huo said.

Or the arrival of the Winston waka jumping bill?

 

 

Waka jumping/oil and gas an MMP trade-off?

When the Greens supported the introduction of NZ First’s ‘waka jumping’ bill into parliament it raised eyebrows and angst. The Greens had until then always strongly opposed legislation like that.

When the Government announced they would not issue any new oil and gas exploration permits the body language of Shane Jones suggested a large degree of discomfort with having to support the decision.

The oil and gas decision turns out to have been made by Government party leaders only without going through Cabinet – see Party leaders made oil and gas decisions, not Cabinet.

Richard Harman at Politik that suggests the two dead rats may have been a tradeoff in Waka jumping and oil exploration

Did the Prime Minister get Winston Peters to support the petroleum exploration ban by locking in Greens support for the waka-jumping legislation?

That is a possible scenario suggested by the papers relating to the ban which were released under the Official Information Act on Tuesday.

The papers set out a timeline which eventually leads to both Peters and Shaw.

A detailed timeline covering March and April is shown, followed by some poindering, .

There is a chain of events here which strongly suggest that Ardern was having to play Peters and Shaw off against each other.

Peters clearly was not happy with the exploration ban.

So how was he persuaded to support it?

Did Ardern persuade Shaw to ignore the protestations of many in his party and support Peters’ waka jumping bill and was that enough to persuade Peters to forget his concerns about the exploration ban?

With a Government relying on two support parties with a sizeable number of MPs, and leverage, this may be a reality of MMP in action.

The oil and gas decision is a done deal – although the possible implications and negative effects of the decision are gradually emerging.

However the waka jumping bill is still going through the parliamentary process. A lot of pressure may go on the Green MPs to not support it through it’s final stages. However will Shaw insist on a dead rat deal being honoured despite party opposition?

 

Peters pulls rank and blows off two Labour Māori MP initiatives

Winston Peters sounds like he is acting Prime Minister already, throwing cold water on two initiatives being promoted by Labour MPs, a bill to protect Māori seats, and aims to make Te Reo compulsory in schools.

Predictably, Rino Tirikatene’s Māori seats entrenchment bill drawn from the members’ ballot has a promise of failure with both National and NZ First indicating they won’t support it.

Stuff: A bill to entrench the Māori seats won’t get NZ First or National support

A Labour MP’s bill to entrench the seven Māori seats will not have the numbers to pass due to opposition from both NZ First and National.

Rino Tirikatene, who holds the Te Tai Tonga seat for Labour, had his member’s bill drawn out of the ballot last week.

His bill would give the seven Māori seats the same protection as the general seats, meaning a 75 per cent majority is needed to overturn them – currently Māori seats can be abolished with a majority of just 51 per cent.

But NZ First leader Winston Peters who campaigned on a referendum to abolish the Māori seats at last year’s election said his colleague Shane Jones’ position that neither he or any of the party’s MPs would vote in favour of it was a “fair summation”.

It’s understood the National Party also plans to oppose the bill – the Opposition’s position on the Māori seats is that they’ll stay as long as Māori want them but they don’t stand candidates in the seats.

The NZ First caucus will officially decide which way its voting when it meets next week but Peters said entrenching the Māori seats was “not part and parcel of any coalition agreement and we’re here to promote the coalition agreement we’ve got”.

“Views like (Tirikatene’s) can nevertheless be promoted by backbenchers but they cannot command the coalition agreement as a consequence,” Peters said.

Peters is deputy PM at the moment, but it sounds like he is practicing for when he takes over as acting PM next month.

And Labour MPs trying to talk up Te Reo in schools have been been told to ‘watch their words’ by Peters.

Stuff: Winston Peters on compulsory te reo talk: ‘If they want to be in this Government they’ll be on the same page’

NZ First leader Winston Peters says if Nanaia Mahuta and Willie Jackson want to be in the Government they will need to watch their words.

Māori Development Minister Mahuta said compulsory te reo in schools was a matter of “not if but going to be when” on Tuesday morning.

This was a slight shift from the Government’s current policy, which only calls for “universal availability” and integration of Te Reo into the primary school curriculum by 2025. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has specifically avoided the word “compulsory.”

Associate Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson made a similar slip up in December.

Peters, the deputy prime minister and leader of NZ First – who oppose compulsory te reo – issued a sharp rebuke towards Mahuta and Jackson on Tuesday afternoon.

“Neither of them are speaking for the Government policy full stop. If they want to be in this Government they’ll be on the same page.”

If he pushes his deputy weight around like this what will he be like as acting PM?

With Peters at apparent liberty to pick and choose what he won’t support this will make the Greens look like wimps if they roll over for NZ First and Labour and support the flawed and widely opposed waka jumping bill.

 

Fitzsimons ‘deeply distressed’ by Green support of waka jumping bill

Ex-leader of the Green party Jeanette Fitzsimons has joined the criticism of the Green Party support of Winston peters’ ‘waka jumping’ bill in an appearance before the select committee hearing public submissions on the bill.

NZH: Former Greens co-leader ‘deeply distressed’ by party’s support for waka jumping ban

A former leader of the Green Party, Jeanette Fitzsimons, says she was “deeply distressed ” her party supported the so-called waka jumping bill to its first reading and she hopes wisdom will prevail.

She spoke about the internal dissent and crisis within the Green Party before the last election over the admission by co-leader Metiria Turei of historic benefit fraud.

She appeared before the justice select committee to speak against the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill, which allows a party leader to oust an MP from Parliament with the support of two thirds of the caucus.

If the bill becomes law, the Greens co-leaders with the support of two thirds of the caucus, could have had them booted out of Parliament.

“Integrity cannot be legislated for,” Fitzsimons said. “It is a matter of conscience and judgment.

“In some cases, leaving one’s party is an act of integrity – as when the party has departed from the policies it took to the election or has abused proper process.

“In other cases it may be just self-serving political expediency.”

Greens have always strongly opposed measures like those proposed in the bill, until they supported the bill at it’s first reading. Some Green MPs have also expressed concern about Green support of the bill.

Fitzsimons also referred to the upheaval in the Green Party before last year’s election.

“Dissent is a valuable part of the political process, ” she said. “Without it, MPs are just clones of their leader.”

Referring to the Greens’ internal strife before the last election when MPs Kennedy Graham and David Clendon withdrew from the party list because they could not persuade Turei to resign, she said she supported their right to dissent.

“I strongly disagreed with the stance of my former colleagues Kennedy Graham and David Clendon took on the actions of co-leader Metiria Turei, and I was highly critical of the way they went about it which was unnecessary and damaging.

“But I would defend to the end their right to freedom of conscience and to express their views in opposition to the rest of the caucus, without being thrown out of Parliament.”

I hope Green staffer and list candidate Jack McDonald hears that. He recently slammed and excommunicated Graham:

“In the context of Kennedy still apparently having many supporters in the Party who were upset he wasn’t allowed back on the list, we need to make sure there isn’t the ability for this to happen in the future and prevent the election of Green MPs whose politics are incompatible with fundamental Green kaupapa.”

See A culture of Green zealotry and intolerance

He could learn a lot from older wiser Green Party stalwarts. Fitzsimons:

“Dissent is a valuable part of the political process. Without it, MPs are just clones of their leader.”

But a seemingly growing number of Greens view dissent, and disagreement with and questioning of their ideals, as blasphemy that should not be tolerated.

It will be interesting to see whether the leader McDonald worships and clones, Marama Davidson, stands by fundamental Green kaupapa and votes against the ironically named Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill.

If anyone is respected for their integrity in the history of the Green Party it is Jeanette Fitzsimons.

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?

 

 

 

 

 

Waka jumping bill and integrity

NZ First negotiated a contentious ‘waka jumping’ bill (called the Electoral Integrity Amendment Bill) with Labour in their coalition agreement. All it stated was:

Democracy

  • Introduce and pass a ‘Waka Jumping’ Bill.

It isn’t on Labour’s “action in our first 100 days” list but they seem to be treating it as a priority, with legislation being introduced amidst the pre-Christmas rush last week.

However NZ First and Labour need a third party to pass the bill, and National aren’t happy with it.

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

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.

Waka jumping bills have their genesis in the collapse of the NZ First/National coalition in the late 1990s, when several NZ First MPs broke away from the party in order to keep the National government in power.

Labour passed a waka jumping law in 2001, but set it to expire by 2005.

National’s Justice spokeswoman Amy Adams says a new waka jumping bill will make MPs more accountable to their leaders than to voters.

Waka-jumping bills penalise or disallow candidates who were voted in as a representative of one party “jumping” between parties.

The bill under consideration allows MPs or their leaders to write to the speaker explaining that an MP is leaving a party.

If the MP is a list MP they would be forced to resign from Parliament and replaced by the next person on the list. If the MP was a local MP a by-election would be held in which the MP could stand for a different party.

This sounds reasonable to me.

List MPs get into Parliament through their party vote, so it seems logical to expect them to stay with that party as an MP. It seems ludicrous for an MP to become a list MP of one party and then to leave the party and join another, or to set up their own party.

Most electorate MPs are largely successful because of the party they are standing for. Under MMP there has never been an electorate MP elected from a party that isn’t already in Parliament. So if an electorate MP wants to leave the party they were elected with it makes sense for them to put their switch to the voters in a by-election.

But there are dangers with a party abusing this, as Brendan Horan found out in 2012 when Winston Peters dumped him from the party after “receiving substantive material that caused him to lose confidence” in Horan, who only found out after an announcement by Peters in Parliament. So Horan lost his seat.

Ironically Horan claimed his phone records had been leaked to the media – Peters has a long history of breaching privacy and making accusations under the legal protection of Parliament, but making a fuss when his privacy is breached, to the extent he is currently taking nine MPs, party staff and journalists to court alleging a leak.

In Horan’s case Peters made a complaint to the Serious Fraud Office, but Horan was eventually (in 2016) cleared by the police.

Back to the waka jumping bill. It needs Green Party support – and the Greens have been long time opponents of waka jumping legislation.

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

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.

Not only is this a major change in position for the Greens, the party was embarrassed after an internal email was obtained by media.

Last month Green MP Golriz Ghahraman came under fire from political parties after Stuff obtained an internal email where she suggested some horse trading with Labour to acknowledge the fact they were changing their position on the bill.

Ghahraman had suggested the Greens demand a national “Parihaka Day” in return for their support.

National’s Adams has blasted the legislation:

“Last week the Coalition introduced what is colloquially known as ‘Waka Jumping’ legislation. It might be more accurately called the ‘Winston Peters Self Preservation Bill’ as it was clearly his bottom line for entry into the Coalition.”

“The Bill would effectively prevent individual Members of Parliament from speaking out on points of principle and policy, and ensuring the voices of their communities are heard. Worse still, it would enable party leaders to advise the Speaker that a Caucus member isn’t acting as the leader would want and then move to force that member out of Parliament.”

“This makes individual MPs more answerable to their party leader than to the voters that elected them. Allowing party leaders to overrule the wishes of voters is fundamentally wrong.”

Adams said the bill simply aimed to keep factions within the coalition parties from speaking out about Government policy.

“Overriding democracy to entrench your own political position is an abuse of power of the worst kind.”

The Greens, normally staunch on democratic principles, are finding other principles with which to support the bill.

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.”

The bill would allow proportionality to be maintained.

But does it protect list MPs from unscrupulous party leaders? There is an important principle there too.

The bill for Winston is ironically called the Electoral Integrity Amendment Bill

This bill amends the Electoral Act 1993 in order to enhance public confidence in the integrity of the electoral system by upholding the proportionality of political party representation in Parliament as determined by electors.

The Bill:

So a party leader can

…state that the parliamentary leader reasonably believes that the member of Parliament concerned has acted in a way that has distorted, and is likely to continue to distort, the proportionality of political party representation in Parliament as determined at the last general election;

They do need party caucus support:

after consideration of the conduct of the member and his or her response (if any) by the parliamentary members of the political party for which the member was elected, the parliamentary leader of that party confirms that at least two-thirds of the parliamentary members of that party agree that written notice should be given by the parliamentary leader  under section 55A(3)(b);

They must also comply with party rules – but what about a party in which the leader makes the rules?

And what about a party leader who threatens an MP with “ceasing to be parliamentary member of political party” unless the toe a particular line? Like not challenging the party leader?

NZH reported that Greens got just one concession: Greens win extra safeguard in waka-jumping bill

The Green Party would need the support of at least 75 per cent of its party members to expel an MP under a new waka-jumping bill that was introduced to Parliament yesterday.

The 75% must be a Green party rule, because the bill requires only two thirds MP support.

The Greens successfully lobbied for an extra safeguard, which is the only notable difference to the 2001 law – any decision to expel an MP from a party would have to comply with the rules of that party.

That seems like a virtually inconsequential safeguard, as the Greens have no control over rules of other parties.

What if other party MPs are also threatened that if they don’t support the expulsion the same thing could happen to them?

Should any expulsion be subject to party leaders proving the claims, or police investigations proving allegations made about the MP being chucked out of the waka?

Perhaps there should be another amendment – call it the Party Leader Integrity Amendment Bill.

But party leader integrity might be a sensitive thing given Peters’ past record, and the Green capitulation over the waka jumping bill.