Former Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons will be deeply disappointed in the anti-democratic position taken (“reluctantly” – ha!) by her party’s current bunch of Parliamentary incumbents. They will be voting in support of the so-called waka-jumping bill.
As reported by Newshub, Fitzsimons said of the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill:
“You can’t legislate for integrity. Integrity is a question of judgement. It’s a question of conscience,” she said.
The bill’s singular aim is to prevent disgruntled MPs from exercising their freedom to join or create another party if they fall out with their own.
The Greens have historically supported the ability of MPs to do that, the argument being MPs should be able to speak up according to their conscience.
This time around, the Greens are likely to support the legislation.
A leaked Facebook post earlier this year showed the Greens felt they had to support the bill as they hadn’t explicitly raised their objection to it during confidence and supply negotiations, and it’s a promise made to NZ First in its coalition agreement.
Fitzsimons’ advice, to the contrary, was that there is
” … nothing in the Labour-Green agreement that obliges the Greens to vote for the Electoral Integrity Bill.”
Another former co-leader, the late Rod Donald, expressed his opposition to similar legislation almost 20 years ago.
“The Green Party is fundamentally opposed to this anti-democratic piece of legislation, and we are outraged that it is being introduced under urgency in this House.
“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.”
He pointed out that voters do have the power to dump MPs who leave their parties without good reason.
At the previous election, Alamein Kopu and all other defectors had been defeated.
Donald went on:
“At the end of the day, it is better for voters to throw her out than to give people like Winston Peters the power to toss out the Neil Kirtons of this Parliament from the House.”
“It is vital that MPs are not turned into party robots. Anti-defection legislation is designed to gag outspoken MPs and crush dissent, which is why in Germany, the home of MMP and the country that suffered Hitler’s reign of terror, they do not have anti-defection legislation. In fact, they have enshrined in their basic law – article 38 – that MPs are ‘representatives of the whole people, not bound by orders and instructions, and subject only to their conscience’.”
Donald quoted former Labour Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer:
“MPs should make honourable undertakings, not legal undertakings. They may be coerced by argument, by public opinion, but not by stand-over tactics in closed rooms by party leaders.”
The Greens supported the current bill to the select committee stage, then said they would consider whether to support it further. They have now opted to do so.
But according to Radio New Zealand, former MPs and party members are not happy with the current caucus’ decision to support the proposed law, saying it is a serious departure from Green Party principles.
Green Party MP Eugenie Sage apparently agrees they are correct. She says the party was having to swallow a dead rat.
“It’s legislation I don’t like, but when you are part of a coalition there are just some things you have to do as part of the coalition agreement.”
Hmm. No. The Green Party is not part of the coalition, nor does their agreement with Labour require them to support the proposed law.
When TV One put this to her, Sage conceded it was correct but said the bill is important to another coalition party and the stability of the government.
In other words, they will abandon sound principles to support distasteful legislation in the name of stable government. Duh!
The impetus the legislation has gained suggests it will be plain sailing through the Parliamentary digestive system from here. Dead rat and all.
A Point of Order reader (preferring to remain anonymous) laments the failure of dissenting parties to put up an alternative as part of their criticism of the Bill.
Our reader observes:
“To have watched [Andrew] Little dismiss all the authoritative opposition has been watching him swallow something very large and very dead. Not as bad as the Greens saying they are opposed to a man/woman/transperson but bound by a coalition undertaking mocks democracy.”
The reader’s email was prompted by our post yesterday which aired the idea of legislation which enables voters to “recall” a delinquent MP and oblige those MPs to face a by-election.
He had spotted a fundamental flaw: how would voters petition to get rid of a list MP.
He also proposed a solution.
“I suppose the logical answer is the list MP would be attached to the electorate they stood for in the last election, or if they were list-only then the electorate where they vote. So the likes of Nicola Willis and James Shaw would be Wellington Central, Winston Peters would be Northland and the Kermadecs (sorry, cheap shot) and Andrew Little should probably be Island Bay.”
The Little situation posed an interesting issue, our reader pointed out, because he was list-only but has stood for New Plymouth previously. But he has probably been an Island Bay resident for many years.
Anyway, this was academic if the “appallingly undemocratic Bill” was enacted, and if it was, “the Greens should be utterly ashamed of themselves”.