A weakness of parties, not of MMP

Karl du Fresne claims that the way coalition negotiations were conducted (with Winston Peters in charge) is a problem with MMP, but I think he has the wrong target. Peters was allowed to run the post election process because National, Labour and the Greens let him.

All political systems have weaknesses. It largely comes down to how much politicians try to exploit them or allow them to be exploited.

Stuff: Winston Peters top of the political pops with willingness to exploit wonky system

For the first time since New Zealand adopted the MMP system in 1993, the party that won the biggest share of the vote didn’t form the government. How we arrived at this outcome was down to one man: Winston Raymond Peters.

Nope. There were four parties and four party leaders responsible for the procedure and the outcome.

The Peters party, aka New Zealand First, won 7 per cent of the vote. It lost three of its electorate seats in Parliament, including Peters’ own.

That’s incorrect. NZ First only had one electorate seat, won by Peters in a by-election in Northland early last term. They lost that plus reduced their list seat allocation.

Despite this less than resounding endorsement by the people of New Zealand, Peters ended up determining the makeup of the new government.

Many insist, bizarrely, that this is an example of MMP working exactly as intended, but I would argue that it points to a gaping void in our constitutional arrangements – one that allows a politician whose party commanded an almost negligible share of the vote to decide who will govern us.

7% is not ‘almost negligible’ in this situation.

The MMP system allowed for a wide variety of ways for negotiations to be conducted and for a Government to be formed.

The National, Labour and Green parties al played a part along with NZ First, as did three party leaders as well as Peters.

Nonetheless, for his willingness to exploit this wonky system to his advantage, and for the sheer audacity of the way he went about it, Peters is a hands-down winner of my award for Politician of the Year in 2017.

It isn’t ‘a wonky system’.

It’s in the nature of politics for leaders and parties to work a political system to their advantage as best they can, it would be ludicrous if they didn’t.

Peters was allowed to run the negotiation process simply because the other parties and leaders allowed him to. That isn’t a fault in the MMP system. It was how all parties and leaders and MPs allowed it to happen.

And, so far at least, the end result has worked ok, with a secure majority in Parliament.

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.

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?

 

 

 

 

 

Why is Winston Peters Foreign Minister?

  asks: Why is Winston Peters Foreign Minister?

I’m wondering this today because one of the books I read over the break talks about proportional representation in Germany, and how the system gave disproportional power to the third party (the FDP).

And the FDP exercised this by making their leader the Foreign Minister when they went into governing coalitions. And when the FDP declined and the German Greens became the kingmakers, their leader Joschka Fischer became the foreign Minister.

And this is Peters’ second round in the same position and he’s chosen the same portfolio. So that seems to be a thing. But Foreign Minister seems like a bad portfolio to have when you’re leader of a minority party in government!

You’re out of the country almost all of the time. It’s hard to stay in the loop, either with your own party or broader political developments. It’s the job Prime Ministers traditionally give to valuable but ambitious rivals or caucus trouble-makers to keep them out of mischief.

And its hard to deliver on retail politics or distribute pork from that position. Peters, like McCully before him will doubtless find a way, but certainly nothing as lavish as Shane Jones will deliver with his infrastructure fund.

It is a VERY prestigious post, though. You get to meet kings and queens and drive through Beijing in a motorcade! Do (some) third parties favour the Foreign Ministry because it’s the most prestigious position in government that a major party will concede?

Or is there some other political advantage to the position I don’t know about?

One possibility is that it is part of Winston’s succession plan.

He gets to hold the top position that NZ First has gets to hob nob with governments and royalty around the world, and gives the rest of the NZ First MPs some space to work out how to work together without him hovering over them all the time.

When he is out of the country media are forced to go to a different NZ First MP for comment on party related issues.

Shane Jones being given five ministerial positions including the regional pork distributor suggests he is Winston’s favoured successor. His portfolios:

  • Minister of Forestry
  • Minister for Infrastructure
  • Minister for Regional Economic Development
  • Associate Minister of Finance
  • Associate Minister of Transport

That covers key NZ First policies and gives him an influence in Finance. And is too much work for Peters, especially if he is considering retirement by the end of this term.

Deputy Ron Mark has been given relatively lightweight and inconsequential (for NZ First) portfolios:

  • Minister of Defence
  • Minister for Veterans

That doesn’t look like leader-in-waiting level responsibilities – but it gives Mark more opportunity to campaign and lobby to take over the party should Peters step down.

Another reason for Foreign Affairs for Peters could be Labour’s doing. He is (on paper at least) our #2 politician and deputy Prime Minister, so he will probably get to act as the big cheese occasionally and briefly, but most of the time he is out of the country and out of sight, so gives him little chance to grandstand over Jacinda Ardern.

Foreign Affairs is also a job Peters has done before so knows the ropes, so it will be easier for him than taking on a major domestic workload that he would first need to familiarise himself with.

And it could be that Peters just likes Foreign Affairs, and wanted a job he would enjoy.

Reaction to the UN vote on the US and Jerusalem

There has also been some predictable wailing at the Whale:

Curiously Whale Oil has not mentioned this reaction (1 News): Winston Peters backs NZ vote against US, calling for withdrawal of decision on Jerusalem

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has backed the United Nations vote calling for the United States to withdraw its decision to recognise Jersualem as the capital of Israel.

“The resolution reflects New Zealand’s long-held support for a two-state solution to the conflict.

“The resolution called for the acceleration of efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasing peace in the Middle East.

“This is something we all can support.”

Prime Minister Ardern’s reaction (NZ Herald): NZ votes against US over declaring Jerusalem as capital of Israel

“New Zealand has long supported the two-state solution. This is not about any other nations relative position be it Australia or be it the United States, it’s about maintaining our independent foreign policy and our position around support of that two-state solution so I don’t think it should be something that is framed that is for or against the US.”

When questioned why not, Ardern said anything that happened before it was resolved “would be premature”.

“Certainly any moves like those taken by the US don’t take us any further towards that resolution and that’s the argument that New Zealand has made and obviously a number of other countries have made that point as well so to sit alongside hundreds of other countries I think it’s fair to say that there’s a real sentiment there, but yes, ultimately we need to find a peaceful solution but that’s what needs to come first.”

This was repeated an an Al Jazeera Asia-Pacific report: Australia, Pacific nations sidestep overwhelming UN vote on Jerusalem

Australia and other Pacific nations did not join almost 130 countries in an overwhelming vote at the UN demanding the United States drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reports RNZ Pacific.

A total of 128 countries — including New Zealand and Papua New Guinea — backed the resolution, which is non-binding, nine voted against — including Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau and Nauru — and 35 abstained.

Twenty-one countries, including Samoa and Tonga, did not cast a vote.

New Zealand supported the UN resolution calling for the US to withdraw a decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

New Zealand’s longstanding foreign policy position supports a two-state solution.

Weekend Herald editorial: Bid to sway vote with foreign aid threat was a disgrace to the United States

Every time it seems Donald Trump could not do much worse, he does. His crude attempt to sway a United Nations vote with United States foreign aid discredits his country on a worse level than the leadership it has lost in the world under his presidency. It is one thing to pull out of treaties on trade and climate change and the like, it is quite another thing to try to bully or bribe other countries to do his bidding.

The threat to “take names” of aid recipients who supported a resolution in the General Assembly against his decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was as foolish as it was disreputable.

Destitute places who defied him probably will not lose their aid, if only because better people far below the President in the ranks of US policy making can probably see that they keep it. At the end of its first year the Trump Administration is being described as chaotic and dysfunctional, leaving space for responsible office holders to work around the impetuous utterances and late-night tweets of the President. It has reached the point where other countries’ leaders seem not to take him too seriously.

Britain and other European allies went ahead and voted for the UN resolution, as did New Zealand.

Just as Trump can ignore world opinion, the countries of the world (apart from a handful of tiny nations who voted against the resolution) can ignore Trump’s threats.

After nearly a year under Trump the US is rapidly losing its claim to be any sort of model of human rights and democracy. Bullies and autocrats around the world are citing his attitudes and statements to justify their own treatment of opponents, critics, women and minorities. A presidency could hardly sink much lower than this but it probably will.

Unfortunately Trump and the US will probably sink lower.

New Zealand seems to have got little attention internationally on the vote apart from being listed amongst those countries supporting the resolution.

Israel Institute of New Zealand: New Zealand sided with the mob in yet another anti-Israel UN resolution

New Zealand has further entrenched UN discrimination against the only Jewish state by voting with the mob, against sovereign nations being allowed to declare their own capitals.

There are 193 member states of the United Nations. Of these, 125 – the Non-aligned movement, which includes the 57 member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation – are inherently anti-Israel and anti-democratic. It is little wonder that there are disproportionately more resolutions passed against Israel than any other country (by a ratio of 20:1) when countries like Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela dictate the agenda.

And New Zealand “joined the bullies” in voting for the resolution, as Israel Institute of New Zealand director, Dr David Cumin, told RadioNZ.

And talking to Te Karere, Dr Cumin said it was disappointing that New Zealand was not standing up to the bullies at the UN who push resolutions that “seek to deny Jews access to their most tapu sites” and to ignore the tangata whenua status of Jews in Israel.

However this is about more than “sovereign nations being allowed to declare their own capitals”.

The (draft) resolution states:


Status of Jerusalem

Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and reaffirming, inter alia, the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force,

Bearing in mind the specific status of the Holy City of Jerusalem and, in particular, the need for the protection and preservation of the unique spiritual, religious and cultural dimensions of the city, as foreseen in relevant United Nations resolutions,

Stressing that Jerusalem is a final status issue to be resolved through negotiations in line with relevant United Nations resolutions,

Expressing, in this regard, its deep regret at recent decisions concerning the
status of Jerusalem,

  1. Affirms that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council, and in this regard calls upon all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem, pursuant to Security Council resolution 478 (1980);
  2. Demands that all States comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the Holy City of Jerusalem, and not recognize any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions;
  3. Reiterates its call for the reversal of the negative trends on the ground that are imperilling the two-State solution and for the intensification and acceleration of international and regional efforts and support aimed at achieving, without delay, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet road map, and an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967.

 

 

 

Political carols

Excerpts from Toby Manhire: Walking in a Winston Wonderland

We Three Things:

Jacinda Ardern solo:
Just a kid from Moh-orrinsville
Keen to help out Andy Little
It’s not hubris, to just do this
Truth is that I quite like Bill
*
James Shaw solo:
Great Together, I believe in
Speak the truth – that’s how we win
Metiria, great co-leader
Popped into recycling bin
*
Winston Peters solo:
Had enough? Too right they had
Status quo was very bad
Need a deadline? Watch it, Sunshine
Covfefe, believe me, sad!

We Wish you a Merry Christmas
Feat Bill English

We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And would just note in passing that the National Party won more votes than anyone and yet is not in government which a lot of ordinary New Zealanders will find surprising as they approach their Happy New Year.

Gareth the Red Mo’ed Reindeer
As sung by Gareth Morgan

Gareth the Red Mo’ed Reindeer
Had a very small ego
But all the lipsticked reindeers
Were a bunch of thick bozos

Fiscal Spells
As sung by Steven Joyce

O! Fiscal spells, fiscal spells
Fiscal hole, OK?
O what fun it is to ride
When you’re running the campaign.

Little Drummer Boy
As sung by Andrew Little

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
Just a new deputy, pa rum pum pum pum
Must replace Annette King, pa rum pum pum pum
Anyway you know what happened after that and it’s all fine now.

Mārie Te Pō
As sung by Don Brash

Mārie te pō, tapu te pō
Marino, marama
Ko te Whāea, me te Tama
Tama tino, tapu rā
Moe mai i te aio
Moe mai i te aio.

Google doesn’t translate that well, but it is obviously

Silent night, holy night, calm, bright etc.

Whāea is mother, Tama is boy/sun but no sign of a virgin there.

 

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.

Provisional support from Ombudsman for secret document

The Chief Ombudsman has given provisional backing for Jacinda Ardern to keep the so-called secret coalition document secret – or at least the contents of it anyway.

Newsroom:  Ombudsman sides with Govt over coalition document

The refusal of the new coalition Government to release a lengthy coalition negotiation document, despite promises of transparency, led to a complaint to the chief Ombudsman. Peter Boshier has now ruled that the Government was within its rights to withhold the material.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters revealed the existence of the document in late October after signing his party’s official coalition agreement with Labour, describing it as “a document of precision on various areas of policy commitment and development”.

“These are directives to ministers with accountability and media strategies to ensure that the coalition works, not in a jealous, envious way, ‘We got this and they got that’, but as a Government successively, cohesively working.”

While Peters said at the time the document would be publicly released, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s office refused to release it to Newsroom under the Official Information Act, arguing it was not official information.

Ardern later described the document as “notes” made during negotiations that were yet to be finalised, not a formal government document.

“Where we’ve committed ourselves to a piece of work and a policy piece of work, we’ve released that. Where there’s more work to be done, that will be released at the time when we’ve reached a conclusion.”

In a provisional opinion sent to Newsroom, Boshier said he had “carefully read and considered” the document, saying it was “clearly made for the purpose of assisting the parties with coalition negotiations”.

“It contains discussion points designed for negotiation and, despite certain public comments to the contrary, does not include information such as directives to Ministers,” Boshier said, in an apparent reference to Peters’ comments about the document.

Ardern’s office told Boshier the document had not been passed on to any ministers or government departments, or used by any ministers in carrying out their official duties.

“It has played no part in policy decisions, and is not available to Ministers as reference material when making official decisions.”

Boshier said he was therefore satisfied that the information had not used by Ardern in her role as Prime Minister, and was held “solely in her capacity as Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party”.

He said he would consider any comments on the provisional opinion before forming a final opinion.

So a provisional win for Ardern.

I don’t really care whether the document remains secret or not, especially this long after the negotiations. It’s not likely to change anything.

Bridges v Jones on work-for-the-dole

In Parliament yesterday Simon Bridges question Shane Jones on his proposal for a work-for-the-dole scheme (see Slouches off couches in ‘Work for the Dole’).  Jacinda Ardern joined in, as did Winston Peters whose petty personal attack on Bridges resulted in a reprimand.

“In respect of how many people the programme will deal with, I would point out that it takes 1,250 planters to plant a million trees a day”

“… the first thing that I’ve taken on board is some sage-like counsel: when one front-foots an issue, do not completely shoot one’s own foot.”

“I’m sure that you’ll find there’s a suitable blend of stick and carrot.

To Ardern: “…on matters of nomenclature, what is a name? A rose by any other name is just as sweet.”

 

10. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: Does he stand by his statement, “I am going to take proposals to Cabinet. I’m calling it Work for the Dole”; if so, how many jobs does he expect his programme to create?

Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): Yes, in relation to taking proposals to Cabinet along with the Minister of Employment. In relation to what it will be called, no doubt Cabinet will suitably christen it. In respect of how many people the programme will deal with, I would point out that it takes 1,250 planters to plant a million trees a day. A hundred days’ work—a hundred million a year; times 10—a billion trees.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does he agree with the New Zealand Herald‘s editorial this morning that said his “work scheme deserves a chance” and that “he has the energy and experience to make it work”; and if so, what arguments will he be making to convince his Cabinet colleagues that it’s a good idea?

Hon SHANE JONES: In relation to arguments that I might muster, the first thing that I’ve taken on board is some sage-like counsel: when one front-foots an issue, do not completely shoot one’s own foot.

Hon Simon Bridges: Well, does he agree with Barry Soper, who said, “It’s hard to see Jones winning, considering the trade unions are against it.”; and if not, what arguments will he be making to win the unions over?

Hon SHANE JONES: It’s a rather perverse outcome that I should be talking about the unions in my particular role; suffice to say I’m working with the Minister of Employment. Proposals will wend their way through Cabinet, and I’m sure that you’ll find there’s a suitable blend of stick and carrot.

Hon Simon Bridges: What consequences does he think there should be for young people who decline to participate in his programme?

Hon SHANE JONES: Once again, I’m sure that other Ministers belonging to the Cabinet will provide their perspectives and balance my views that I reflect as a Ngāpuhi chief.

Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern: Can the Minister confirm that we are in total agreement that placing young people in paid, decent employment is an aspiration this Government totally shares?

Hon SHANE JONES: Yes, and on matters of nomenclature, what is a name? A rose by any other name is just as sweet.

Hon Simon Bridges: Well, given the seeming consensus on the other side of the House, what is wrong with there being consequences for failing to work?

Hon SHANE JONES: What is wrong is that for nine years, former Ministers on the other side of the House talked a big book and did jack.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the Minister backing down on Work for the Dole, meaning many will be destined to meaningless lives on the couch, when he’s spent years on this, and many in the media as well as the general public absolutely agree with him?

Hon SHANE JONES: Once again, prior to Christmas, I’m confident—such a busy schedule in our Cabinet committees—that answers will reveal themselves for the other side of the House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Minister if one of the employment programmes he might contemplate would be training a number of diction trainers so that they could possibly help that member ask questions that are halfway understandable in this House?

Hon SHANE JONES: Not wanting to trivialise—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Sit down! Sit down! You are going to withdraw and apologise, aren’t you?

Hon SHANE JONES: I certainly would never trivialise the House or the House’s man.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon SHANE JONES: I stand, withdraw, and apologise, sir.

Mr SPEAKER: No. The member stands up, and he says, “I withdraw and apologise.”

Hon SHANE JONES: Sir, I withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: I think the member’s been absent for some time, but I don’t think his memory’s that bad.

English v Ardern on sanctions on benefits

In Question Time today Bill English asked Jacinda Ardern about the use of sanctions in relation to getting unemployed people into work.

Winston Peters chimed in with a question/comment about saddling up a gift horse.

2. Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): In the context in which they were given, yes.

Rt Hon Bill English: Does she stand by her statement in regards to her Ready for Work scheme, or Work for the Dole scheme, that: “Our view was that you couldn’t compel people to take up a job.”

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: When I was discussing the way that we would role this programme, we were acknowledging that there’s a range of ways in which we could encourage the uptake of the opportunity for employment. I have also acknowledged that sanctions have long been a part of our benefit system, and that won’t change. Ultimately, though, this is a Government focused on getting young people into work.

Rt Hon Bill English: Does she agree with the statement of her Minister for Regional Economic Development in regards to the Ready for Work scheme that, “They’ll be made to go to work. … there will be no more sitting on the couch.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve said, sanctions have long been a part of our welfare system, and that won’t change.

Rt Hon Bill English: Does she therefore agree with her parliamentary under-secretary Jan Logie who said: “Benefit sanctions punish families who are already struggling to get by …. These are not the actions of a decent and compassionate government—benefit sanctions are punitive and cruel, and it’s going to take a change of government to get rid of them. … The Green Party in government … will immediately end … sanctions.”

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister has no responsibility for Green Party policy, or statements made by someone who was not an under-secretary at the time.

Rt Hon Bill English: Does she agree with the statements made by members of the Green Party in support of the Government that they oppose sanctions on benefits and intend to roll back those that exist?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I absolutely stand by the Labour Party’s confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party, which says that we will look at the excessive use of sanctions within the welfare system. I have to say, the excessive use of sanctions ballooned under that last Government, because rather than focusing on providing employment opportunities like this Government, that’s what they resorted to.

Rt Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister now outline Government policy on sanctions as they may apply to young people who have been on the unemployment benefit?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have already given a general statement that sanctions have long been a part of our welfare system, but details around the way our particular policy around getting young people into work will go to Cabinet and decisions will be made collectively. But what I am happy to say is that, unlike the last Government, we are not willing to allow more than 70,000 young people not in employment, education, or training to have their lives wasted.

Rt Hon Bill English: If a young person who may be eligible for a scheme of this nature refuses to participate, or attends for a day or two and then refuses to attend, will the Government apply sanctions to them?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve given the general principles that we’ll be working to, but final decisions of the programme will go to Cabinet. But, again, this Government is entirely united behind the idea that young people deserve opportunities, and under this Government they’ll get them.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Prime Minister whether it’s her Government’s attitude that the wealth of a country is in its working people, and whether it would be refreshing if some people, instead of looking a gift-horse in the mouth, decided to put a saddle on its back and be grateful?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: This is a Government that is focused on providing employment opportunities, and that’s exactly what our Minister for Regional Economic Development has been speaking to. Unlike the last Government, who labelled young people “pretty damn hopeless”, we’ll get them into jobs.