The most damaging effects of the waka jumping law will be invisible and immeasurable

It is difficult to know what the effect of the ironically named Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill that passed it’s final vote in Parliament this week. We may never know for sure.

We do know that it has made Labour look like Winston’s patsies, especially Andrew Little who had to front the bill as it went through Parliament. And it showed the Greens as far less principled than they had made out for so long while out of government – this could be damaging to them in the next election.

However Audrey Young says that the most damaging effects will be “invisible and immeasurable” in Winston Peters wastes hard-won power on wretched law.

…the party-hopping bill passed in Parliament ahead of the party’s convention can barely be called an achievement, let alone qualify as a proud one.

It has been Parliament at its worst – indulging a powerful politician with an obsession with defectors.

The law is a fetter on dissent, and Peters’ decision to demand its passage as the price of power stands in contradiction to his own history as a dissenter and maverick.

The law will enable a caucus to fire a duly elected MP not just from the caucus but from Parliament if they decide that MP no longer properly represents the party.

The hypocrisy is galling. Peters built New Zealand First on party-hoppers such as Michael Laws, Peter McCardle and Jack Elder.

In those days, Peters was upholding the freedom of any MP to leave a party without having to leave Parliament if their conscience demanded it.

Self-interested hypocrisy is nothing new for Peters.

It was only when party-hoppers left New Zealand First rather than joined it that the notion became objectionable, to Peters. It was only after MMP that what the voters decided on election day suddenly became sacred to Peters.

Essentially, the new party-hopping law is based on self-interest disguised as principle.

It is a draconian solution to a problem of defection that has not existed since those formative days of MMP.

And Labour and the Greens went along with this and enabled it.

New Zealand First did not campaign on party-hopping at all last election but then put it up as a bottom line in coalition talks, while the vast number of bottom lines actually enunciated by Peters in the campaign were surrendered in the horse-trading of coalition talks.

The law does not have the true support of the majority of the House but the Greens have been blackmailed into supporting it against the alternative – a toxic relationship with Peters.

Electoral law changes should have wide support of any Parliament but the law was railroaded through by a party with 7 per cent of the vote because it held the balance of power at the election.

Will Greens learn from being backed into a corner by Peters and then painting themselves in? They could perhaps gain back some of their credibility on being principled it they  don’t campaign next election on a status quo governing arrangement leaving Peters in a dog wagging position.

The most pernicious effect of the new law is not the actual expulsion of an MP from Parliament. Rather, it is the chilling effect it will have on strong, independent thought and voice of MPs within parties and within Parliament. In turn that will have an impact on the selection of MPs.

The most damaging effects of the law will be invisible and immeasurable.

It was the impact on dissent that drew the harshest criticism from Green luminaries Jeanette Fitzsimons and Keith Locke.

Did Green support of this bill go to party membership for a decision? They used to claim that their membership played a part in any important decisions. Surely they must have done that, especially given that it was a change to electoral law, and it had an obvious impact on the party ethos and integrity.

It has been sad to see a raft of new Labour MPs kowtowing to Peters to convince themselves that the law will enhance democracy when it is really a management tool for Peters to keep potentially difficult MPs in check.

One could wonder what threats or promises were made between Peters and Labour and Green leaderships to make both parties roll over on this for Peters.

Dissent has been a strong theme throughout Peters’ career.

He talked about in his maiden speech in 1979 when he lambasted people whom he saw as destructive critics who criticised for the sake of it: “Opposition, criticism and dissent are worthy pursuits when combined with a sense of responsibility. They have a purifying effect on society. Areas in need of urgent attention can be identified and courses of action may be initiated. However embarrassing to community or national leaders, the results are enormously beneficial to the total well-being of the community. The critic I am [condemning] has no such goals. He sets out to exploit every tremor and spasm in society, the economy or race relations, seeking to use every such event as a vehicle to project his own public personality.”

An unkind person might say that Peters has gained power in New Zealand politics by becoming the sort of critic he so despised in his maiden speech.

It is a remarkable achievement to have built a party, and sustained it, and to be at the peak of his political power when most people his age are checking out retirement villages.

It is also remarkable that Peters should be wasting that power on such a wretched law.

And that Labour and especially the Greens have wasted their integrity by enabling the wretched law to pass with barely a whimper.

 

 

 

 

Waka jumping bill passes third reading

All Green MPs have voted with Labour and NZ First to pass the  Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill (commonly referred to as the waka jumping bill), so it will now become law.

Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill passes third reading

The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill has passed its third reading in Parliament and will become law, Justice Minister Andrew Little said.

“The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill is about enhancing public confidence in the integrity of our electoral system.

“The Bill ensures that it is the voters, not politicians or party leaders, who decide the proportionality of parties in Parliament,” Andrew Little said.

The Bill’s passing fulfils the Government’s coalition commitment to introduce and pass a ‘Waka Jumping’ Bill in this term of Parliament.

It has been challenged by some as ‘an attack on democracy’. It is unlikely to actually have much effect, but it will be difficult to know if it has a chilling effect on any MPs who oppose what their party does.

The most notable aspect of the bill is the Greens voting in support of it while strongly opposing it. This has somewhat dented the party’s integrity.

It has also raised questions about Andrew Little’s integrity in promoting the bill on NZ First’s behalf.

The bill is unlikely to make much if any difference to Winston Peters’ control over the NZ First caucus and MPs, but supporting it has been damaging to both Labour and the Greens.  Perhaps that is success for Peters – before Jacinda Ardern took over the Labour leadership last year Peters fancied NZ First’s chances of taking over from Labour as the second largest party in Parliament.

 

 

Greens may have to support waka jumping bill

The Greens have long been staunchly opposed to the waka jumping (party hopping) legislation, but due to their confidence and supply agreement commitments they may be obliged to back the bill prompted by NZ First. They have been caught out because NZ First did not campaign on this policy (voters would have good cause to question NZ First sneaking this policy in after the election).

From the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement:

Democracy

• Introduce and pass a ‘Waka Jumping’ Bill.

 

NZH: Green Party may have to support waka-jumping bill

The bill, which would ensure Parliament’s proportionality in the event that an MP leaves or is ejected from a party, is part of the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement – but needs the support of the Green Party to pass into law.

Young Greens co-convenor Max Tweedie, in a Facebook post last week following a call with the party executive that was screen-shot and posted to reddit, said that the party had no choice but to support the bill.

“James [Shaw] has explained why the Greens are supporting the waka-jumping bill,” Tweedie wrote.

“NZF and Labour, and the Greens and Labour, conducted blind negotiations for the agreement. Labour requested a list of NZF policies that we don’t support, and while we went through, we didn’t even think of the waka-jumping bill.

“As a result, because of the agreements between us, we have to support the bill because our opposition wasn’t flagged.”

A spokesperson for the Greens confirmed that the party did not raise it as an issue during coalition talks with Labour because NZ First had not campaigned on it.

“We looked at the policies that parties ran on during the 2017 campaign. Waka-jumping wasn’t one of them. We are now managing this issue within the Green Party.”

The spokesperson would not say whether the party had to support the bill beyond the select committee, where the Greens hope the bill will be improved.

The Greens have vehemently opposed similar legislation in the past, and co-leader James Shaw has sought to appease the membership by saying that the party’s ongoing support for the bill is not guaranteed.

From the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement:

Relationship to other agreements

Both parties to this agreement recognise that Labour will be working with other parties both in terms of
coalitions and confidence and supply arrangements.

Labour agrees that it will not enter into any other relationship agreement which is inconsistent with this
agreement and the Green Party and Labour agree that they will each act in good faith to allow all such
agreements to be complied with.

That seems to oblige the Greens to enable the Labour-NZ First agreement to be complied with. That means voting enabling the waka jumping legislation.

Some Greens are not happy.

It would be dishonourable of the Greens not to support the bill too. Caught between the two with no tidy solution – but expect an amendment to the bill that the Greens claim make it ok for them to support it.

This is another challenge of being in Government, especially as the junior of three parties.

 

Peters defends his waka jumping bill

The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill (aka ‘waka jumping bill’ or ‘party hopping bill’) has been criticised as being anti-democratic and giving too much power to party leaders. See:

It is a Government bill as a result of a coalition agreement between Labour and NZ First, with the initial support at least of the Greens, who had previously strongly opposed this sort of legislation.

In response to criticisms Winston Peters has come out in defence of his bill. Stuff – Winston Peters: ‘Waka-jumping’ bill makes our democracy more responsive to MMP

When voters go to the ballot box every three years they are choosing between alternative political directions for the country as a whole, expressed through their party preferences.

Under the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system, the party vote determines the overall distribution of parliamentary seats and then parties seek to form a government that reflects those preferences to offer purposeful and stable leadership.

Next to the voters themselves, political parties are the linchpin of our democratic system. They are democracy’s gatekeepers by recruiting parliament’s representatives. Parties then supply Cabinet members, making it essentially party government. It is recognised that MPs are expected to follow the collective opinion of their party colleagues.

In New Zealand this has been the general custom, but is it really a linchpin of our democratic system? Democracies in other countries, such as the UK and the US, operate without strict adherence to following party dictates.

Party discipline is therefore acknowledged as a guarantee of the voter’s choice.

Who acknowledges that?

Peters (like anyone) cannot know what voters want when they vote for a particular party. Somewhat ironically I think that quite a few NZ First voters are choosing Peters as an individual because he promotes himself as a maverick, not as a strictly conventional politician.

What if a party doesn’t do what they promised during an election campaign? NZ First has already reneged on some of their promises, so voters have no guarantee of getting what they thought they were voting for.

What if, for example, a New Zealand First MP voted in Parliament for what they promised rather than what Peters had u-turned on for political convenience? The waka jumping bill would potentially give Peters the power to throw that MP out of the party and out of Parliament.

It is also necessary to ensure that the party delivers on its commitments commensurate with its party-vote share and its strategic location inside any governing arrangements.

What about commitments made to voters?

Peters appears to be putting precedence on enabling party leaders to wheel and deal as they please once they get power, regardless of what voters actually wanted.

Given these verities, why should the individual will of one disgruntled Member of Parliament subvert the general will of voters expressed on election day?

Verity: a true principle or belief, especially one of fundamental importance

Why should the will of one party leader be able to put aside the wishes of voters as soon as the election is over in order to negotiate a position of power for themselves in Government?

The people are sovereign so except in the rarest of circumstances New Zealand First believes it shouldn’t, which is why the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill forms an important part of the democratic improvements set out in the Coalition Agreement.

The people are sovereign? The people had no say in the coalition negotiations. How many of ‘the people’ support the waka jumping bill? Has Peters bothered to find out?

So electoral integrity and legal integrity are questionable claims from Peters.

The so-called ‘waka-jumping’ bill protects the uppermost value in a proportional electoral system, namely proportionality, and we believe that decision should always be the preserve of voters, not politicians.

Except the bill would give a party leader (a politician) more power, and the voters nothing.

The bill does not, as claimed, give too much power to party leaders to get their MPs to bend to their will. There are protections built in to the bill and any party leader who does not have good reason for initiating action against one of their members or who does not understand or follow party principles of natural justice will pay a steep political price for it, whether with their own colleagues or the voters.

Party principles of natural justice? In 2011 people voted for the NZ First list that included Brendon Horan, who became an MP. In 2012 Peters expelled Horan from the party, claiming “substantive material” that caused him to ‘lose confidence’ in Horan.

In 2014 the executor of the Horan’s mother’s estate said they had found no evidence to support claims about Horan.

A police investigation subsequently cleared Horan: “There has been a comprehensive investigation by the Western Bay of Plenty criminal investigation branch into these allegations over the last two years, including a review of the file by senior detectives. After consideration of all relevant information and the Solicitor General’s prosecution guidelines, police have determined that there is insufficient evidence to charge any person with a criminal offence.”

See Former NZ First MP Brendan Horan cleared by police after Winston Peters complaint

But Peters had claimed he had evidence and judged and politically executed Horan.

New Zealand First considers it patronising and an insult to suggest that in these circumstances voters can’t discriminate between the principled actions of an electorate MP standing up to a wayward party and its leader or a more mundane expression of flawed character.

What if the flawed character is a party leader?

The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill is one of several democratic reforms the coalition sees as making our democracy more responsive to MMP. The new seating arrangement inside Parliament is another example of our better reflecting the collaborative nature of the new coalition.

That reflects the power of the Cabinet. It reflects collaboration between parties in Government, responsive to their own power, and not responsive to the people.

New Zealand First believes that democracy works best when people claim it as their own, so no apology is offered for reinforcing the centrality of proportionality to help achieve that worthy goal.

Peters would have done far more for ‘reinforcing the centrality of proportionality’ if he had negotiated a bill that substantially reduced the threshold, which is the biggest impediment to proportionality by far.

Instead Peters has put forward a bill that claims more power as his own, and the people remain powerless to stop him doing as he pleases as soon as the election is over.

Green horse trading bombed

A leaked Green email suggests an attempt at negotiating with Labour over some minor policies – and Martyn Bradbury is having a fit over it.

Stuff:  Horse trading between Labour and Greens to get NZ First’s ‘Waka Jumping’ bill across the line

Labour, NZ First and National have all decried a Green Party MP’s suggestion that horse trading could be used as a negotiating tactic to get a national “Parihaka Day”.

The Green Party is considering opposing NZ First’s “Waka Jumping” bill – a deal struck in coalition talks – unless Labour gives it a national “Parihaka Day”.

Green Party justice spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman, in an internal email obtained by Stuff, suggested some horse trading with Labour to acknowledge the fact the party has long opposed waka jumping legislation.

Ghahraman’s suggested her colleague Marama Davidson’s bill, which recognises the anniversary of the invasion of Parihaka by making it a National Day, be put on the table for Government support.

That’s an odd sort of policy trade.

Justice Minister Andrew Little, deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and National deputy leader Paula Bennett have all rallied against the idea of horse trading, saying its use is inappropriate when it comes to getting legislation through.

Little said he supported the idea of a day to commemorate the Māori land wars, but didn’t want to see a national “Parihaka Day” the subject of some “cheap horse trading exercise”.

The “Waka Jumping” bill has been drafted by Justice Minister Andrew Little and the email suggests he’s already agreed to some amendments.

Peters said he wasn’t aware of the conversations between Little and Ghahraman but NZ First didn’t horse trade.

“We don’t sell our principles, we don’t either half-way in or half-way out. If something is sound we’ll back it … but I think horse trading on matters of principle are thoroughly bad.”

Peters wouldn’t say if he supported the idea of a national “Parihaka Day” other than to say “if an idea’s got merit, it’s got merit on its own”.

Bennett said it was “disgraceful” for any political party to think they could horse trade on any matter.

“It should be seen on its merits, for what it is, for what value it adds to democracy and for the people of New Zealand, and not just something you can trade away for something else you see as important.”

Isn’t that what the post-election negotiations were all about? I thought deals and trade offs were a major part of politics.

In the email Ghahraman said Little had “unlawfully” shown her a “ministerial advice paper” about proposed waka jumping legislation but not the full text of the bill.

In response Little said Ghahraman had likely misunderstood his “dry sense of humour” and he was making a joke that he was possibly breaking “Cabinet protocol”.

“I made a flippant remark … it was the advice paper as a precursor to the paper that goes to the Cabinet, which is ultimately the basis of the legislation. No unlawful activity was entered into.”

A spokesperson for the Green Party said this was an “internal document that was sent in error”.

Seems like some inexperience from Ghahraman , and possibly also from Little.  It’s embarrassing that this has been made public.

Martyn Bradbury is seriously unimpressed:  How ill prepared are the Greens for Government? This ill prepared…

They want  to blackmail the Government into supporting an idea that stands on its own two feet? Wouldn’t that in fact dishonour the very values Parihaka Day is supposed to espouse?

Are they listening to what they are saying for Gods sake?

This leak means the idea is utterly dead. There’s no way Labour or NZ First could look like they have been blackmailed into supporting Parihaka Day when they would have likely supported it anyway.

I’ve had my concerns about the Greens for some time, this leak has been a cringeworthy exercise in seeing how right those concerns were.

It gets funny when Bradbury gets into Peters’ fiscal doom territory.

Why does Winston want this waka jumping legislation in place?

He wants it in place because he knows there is one hell of a global economic correction coming and he knows the first thing the right wing do when a crisis of that magnitude threatens their wealth is they buy who they need to protect that wealth.

Winston is inoculating his own Party from having MPs who can be bought by National when the economy hits the skids, that’s why he included it in the negotiations with Labour. With that law in place he knows he can hold his Party together when the worst hits. This is a stability measure that holds the new Government together, what the internal memo shows is that the Greens seems to have no fucking clue as to why Winston wants this law, and they don’t understand that passing it strengthens the stability of the Government they themselves are part of!

Some people have a bit to learn about being in and supporting a Government.

Bradbury seems to have forgotten how National handled an actual global economic correction – everything they do has to be bombed apparently.

Waka jumping ban

An inclusion in the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement:

Introduce and pass a ‘Waka Jumping’ Bill.

Given the problems NZ First has had in the past over MPs jumping from the party and remaining as independent MPs in Parliament there is obvious self-interest, but I support this. An MP who got into Parliament via a party vote for the party list should either remain representing that party, or leave Parliament.

Even electorate MPs have usually succeeded due to their party, so there’s a good case for stopping them jumping from their party and remaining in Parliament. The best thing for them to do if they feel compelled to leave the party that got them there is to resign, and stand in a by-election under their new circumstances.

Again I can’t find this in the NZ First policies and I don’t recall them campaigning on it, but it has long been a problem that Winston peters wanted to clamp down on.

Newshub in 2013: Public support end to ‘waka jumping’

Asked if there should be a rule change so rogue list MPs can be thrown out of Parliament:

  • 77 percent said yes;
  • 17 percent said no;
  • The rest said they didn’t know.

It was a public issue when Peters kicked Brendan Horan out of the party in 2012:

Newshub: Key: New ‘waka-jumping’ law possible

Parliament may consider fresh “waka-jumping” legislation to stop list MPs leaving their political party but staying on in Parliament without a mandate.

The issue of party-hopping is back in the spotlight after first-term MP Brendan Horan announced he’ll stay on as an independent MP after being given the boot from NZ First amid a family dispute over his late mother’s estate.

“Parliament might sort of hold hands and look at this issue and decide once more to try and put something permanently in place,” he told TVNZ’s Breakfast.

The issue, he says, is that “it’s really difficult to write the rules” so they are fair to all sides.

Regardless, Mr Key says there’s still an onus on NZ First leader Winston Peters to prove his case for kicking Mr Horan out, which feels “very odd” to Mr Key.

“Mr Peters did it under Parliamentary privilege so he couldn’t be sued – that’s not always the actions of somebody who’s absolutely sure that their position is right.”

Last year, despite Peters leading a kangaroo court and making unsubstantiated accusations to support kicking Horan out of the party:  Ex-MP Brendan Horan cleared by police after allegations he took money from late mother’s account – but that’s a different issue.

Waka jumping is a problem with our democratic system and could do with being dealt with, but the legislation will have to be careful it’s fair to both sides of any party dispute.

It’s interesting to see the historic list of waka jumpers here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waka-jumping

Due to the frequency of waka-jumping, New Zealand enacted legislation (the Electoral Integrity Act of 2001, expired at the 2005 election) which required any MP who had entered parliament via a party list to resign from Parliament if they left that party’s parliamentary caucus.

Waka jumping and Russel Norman

Patrick Gower doesn’t like waka jumping. It looks like he organised a poll that backs him, he got the support of three party leaders, and he thinks that’s enough to change the law regarding list MPs. Even a TV journalist doesn’t have that much power, yet.

Following the possibility that Aaron Gilmore may have jumped from the National waka and stayed in parliament as an independent MP (like Brendon Horan) 3 News reported on the poll:

Public support end to ‘waka jumping’

Asked if there should be a rule change so rogue list MPs can be thrown out of Parliament:

  • 77 percent said yes;
  • 17 percent said no;
  • The rest said they didn’t know.

The public supported throwing about 20 MPs out of Parliament, but that referendum was ignored.

Some party leaders were asked their views on waka jumping. National:

“I think there is potentially the need for legislation to support that view,” says Mr Key.

And National’s rank-and-file are calling for a law change too, clearly worried Mr Gilmore was going to do a Horan, and stick around on $144,000 a year.

Labour:

And the Opposition agrees the likes of Mr Gilmore and Mr Horan should not be able to stay.

“It wouldn’t have helped good government, and actually overall it brings the Parliament into disrepute as well,” say Labour leader David Shearer.

NZ First:

“People are voting for the party, not for someone who thinks they can behave any way they like,” says New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

Patrick Gower:

So there’s the Prime Minister’s personal opinion, public opinion and a clear majority in Parliament.

Paddy is not a party but seems to think he has the power of one. It’s odd that he can play fast and loose with democratic process like this when he is so strident in his objections to electorate arrangements between parties.

There was one party leader who bucked the majority in support of protection against leaders abusing their power:

But the Greens don’t agree.

“Party leaders like me would basically get to say to individual MPs, ‘If you don’t do what I like then I’ll expel you from caucus and you’ll be kicked out of Parliament,'” says Greens co-leader Russel Norman. 

And the debate has continued in Twitter.

So @patrickgowernz, Key, Shearer and Peters all want party leaders to have the power to expel from Parl MPs they dont like. Some democracy

@Phil_Wheeler

Whoa. Hang on. What about list MPs who were brought in on the party vote?

@RusselNorman

I’d rather that we wasted a couple of years salary on Horan than give party leaders dictatorial powers

An interesting point – if the salary wasn’t “wasted” on Horan it would be spent on a replacement anyway, and a new part tern NZ First MP is hardly likely to be a huge asset to Parliament.

@patrickgowernz

It doesn’t have to be that simple. There could be a mechanism for natural justice?

@RusselNorman

Like what? Why not just require the parties to have democratic list ordering processes and leave it at that

@patrickgowernz

You could have a board quasi-judicial like that decides whether a list MP is in wrong or not. Voila

@GraemeEdgeler 23m

Some judge gets to tell the voters they got it wrong? The US Supreme Court tried that in Bush v Gore.

One thing many people hate about MMP is that the list means MPs feel more loyalty to the party than to voters. Why would we make that worse?

I think Norman is right. List MPs jumping from parties and remaining in Parliament are a problem, but a relatively minor one – they are invariably MPs with little real influence.

Giving party leaders the power to effectively sack any list MP would be far more dangerous and undemocratic.