Peters v Geddis

May 9th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters is disputing leading lawyers’ views that his party’s rule to fine MP’s who jump ship up to $300,000 is unenforceable.

The rule was was inserted into NZ First’s constitution after Brendan Horan was ejected from the party in late 2012 but refused to resign from Parliament. However it is yet to be ratified.

Constitutional law expert of Otago University has said the rule has no legal foundation while public law expert Matthew Palmer pointed out that once an MP left a party they were no longer bound by its constitution.

“With the greatest respect to Mr Geddis, he doesn’t know anything about this stuff”, Mr Peters said this morning.

Yeah, Andrew knows nothing at all on – apart from writing the textbook used in pretty much every university in New Zealand.

Andrew blogs on why Winston is wrong, and he is right here.

No doubt if NZ First ever tries to enforce their clause and lose in court, Winston will claim the Judges all got it wrong also.

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20 Responses to “Peters v Geddis”

  1. Jack5 (4,819 comments) says:

    Ability to jump ship from a party is one of the many flaws of MMP.

    MMP worked okay for Hitler though. If you jumped from the Nazi Party, you would jump into a concentration camp.

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  2. Nick R (500 comments) says:

    Instant Godwin!

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  3. JMS (314 comments) says:

    Instant Godwin!

    Yes, but even his comparison is wrong; Hitler was long dead by the time MMP was introduced in Germany.

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  4. Pete George (23,297 comments) says:

    Text of NZ First’s grand clauses:

    NEW ZEALAND FIRST PARTY CONSTITUTION 2013

    57 Parliamentary Division

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

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

    http://www.elections.org.nz/sites/default/files/bulk-upload/documents/nz_first_constitution_nov_2013.pdf

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  5. Jack5 (4,819 comments) says:

    JMS (2.16): when the West German people were given back self-government after World War 2, the MMP system of pre-war was modified certainly, such as by introducing the 5 per cent threshold. However, much of it remained.

    As for Godwin: if Hitler was elected under an early version of MMP, this must be the most Godwinistic of all political topics.

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  6. jims_whare (399 comments) says:

    Shesh. Is it me or did I count only 2 full stops in that clause (h)?

    Lawyer was being paid overtime when came up with that legal mush

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  7. David Garrett (6,723 comments) says:

    There’s always a first….I’d back the Professor over the increasingly addled Mr Peters…

    Jims: Since there arent any lawyers better than Peters at electoral law, he probably drafted that clause himself…after the House rose at 10pm, or at least after the dinner break…

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  8. Manolo (13,514 comments) says:

    Jims: Since there arent any lawyers better than Peters at electoral law…

    @DG: Have you forgotten Graeme Edgeler, luminary and trusted advisor/counsel of the Internet party?

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  9. David Garrett (6,723 comments) says:

    Manolo: I was of course being sarcastic…and remember that Graeme E is acting as paid counsel to Dotcom (I assume he is still getting paid or he wouldnt still be acting for him..) Most lay people dont understand that a lawyer doesnt have to like his or her client, though in my experience it certainly helps if you believe you are fighting on the side of the righteous – even if on that particularly occasion the righteous might not have a very strong case…

    I have just read Geddis’s opinion and concur with it…although I am sure he thinks my view of little moment…Peters has obviously forgotten the lectures in contract law about contracts contrary to the public interest…they came after the ones on contracts contrary to public morals, like those compelling prostitutes to perform for a certain length of time for certain fees and contracts to assassinate people…

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  10. Rex Widerstrom (5,327 comments) says:

    To weasel out of facing me in court over the unconstitutional list ranking Peters got the High Court to declare that a political party doesn’t exist as a legal entity. It’s an unincorporated association and can’t be sued, or otherwise held accountable.

    That of course means it also can’t sue, or hold others accountable.

    Can’t have it both ways, Winston. Your contempt for your own candidates, and your members’ view of those candidates, is coming back to bite you.

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  11. peterwn (3,208 comments) says:

    I am wondering if he is right about the National party Board veto being introduced to deal with the Winston situation. I recollect my mother telling me that the (then) Dominion Council (now the Board) was always able to veto prospective candidates. However the rule is either little used or those vetoed do not make a fuss – there only being one pubically known veto in recent times – Roger Payne and this was upheld by the High Court. Perhaps the Party thought it appropriate to clarify the rule to better resist any legal attack.

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  12. David Garrett (6,723 comments) says:

    Rex: Excellent point…although the Great Charlatan would no doubt argue that political parties were legal entities for some reasons and purposes but not for others…and good luck in the High court with that one…

    Actually come to think of it, contracts for services (or contracts of service) for prostitutes are now presumably NOT contrary either to morals or public policy since the wonderfully wise legislation that legalised the world’s oldest profession..

    Of course now all hookers sign a written contract of employment; they can turn down clients as per the law; their employers pay ACC levies, holiday and sick pay; OSH visits regularly to ensure the beds are ergonomic, and the girls all pay tax…and a formation of pink pigs has just flown over my rural idyll…

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  13. David Garrett (6,723 comments) says:

    Pterwn: Didn’t some nut in the South Island take the Nats all the way to the Court of Appeal over the party’s refusal to select him for a seat? The seat Amy Adams now occupies IIRC…

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  14. Rex Widerstrom (5,327 comments) says:

    @DG my fat fingers on my phone screen gave you a downvote when I intended the opposite. My apologies.

    The old “for some purposes and not for others” argument… well corporations managed to get essentially that past the US Supreme Court so anything is possible I suppose…

    On the side issue of prostitutes, we’ve always paid the ACC levies, holiday and sick pay of Peter Dunne and Winston, AFAIK ;-)

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  15. alex Masterley (1,498 comments) says:

    DG,
    Correct. The fellow lost every round.

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  16. David Garrett (6,723 comments) says:

    Alex: Did you know the guy personally? I felt more than a little sorry for him as the case went on…He was obviously either not playing with a full deck or getting very poor advice, or both…

    Still, those kind of cases are one of the reasons the law is interesting (to a certain kind of mind)…I vaguely remember a case from law school…Bryne v. the Auckland Irish Society (I think) …a leading case (then) on the rights of incorporated societies to expel members, and the rights of said expellees to natural justice in the process of their expulsion…

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  17. MT_Tinman (3,043 comments) says:

    David Garrett and Rex Widerstrom I thank you.

    I would trust neither the pollie nor the schoolteacher in this argument so it was great to read some honest (and only slightly biased ;-) ) opinion.

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  18. peterwn (3,208 comments) says:

    David – “for some reasons and purposes but not for others” – unfortunately for Winston, Mr Craddock QC has now retired – he was the expert in this field.

    “Didn’t some nut in the South Island take the Nats all the way to the Court of Appeal…” Yes, Roger Payne. He was taking judges, etc to court over a matrimonial dispute – probably NZ’s second most vexations litigant after Vince Siemer.

    DPF vetoed Roger’s National membership application some years ago in his capacity as Nat local Branch/ Electorate chairman in Wellington Central (cannot remember in what precise capacity), Roger moved to the SI and managed to sign up as a Nat member there.

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  19. Martin Gibson (229 comments) says:

    Did anyone else notice that the camera lens had Vaseline on it during the Winston Peters interview on 3 news? His starchy white shirt was shining like an angel.

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  20. Nigel Kearney (914 comments) says:

    Paying $300k to get out of the NZ First caucus is still more attractive than paying $50k to stay in the Green caucus.

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