Andrew Geddis writes:
One of the more surprising matters included in the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement is their joint commitment to pass a ‘Waka Jumping’ Bill”. Such legislation effectively requires any MP who leaves her or his party, whether willingly or not, to also leave Parliament.
And it was a farce last time we had it:
We saw the problem with freezing representation in this way in 2002 when the Alliance Party fractured into two over the issue of supporting the post-9/11 invasion of Afghanistan.
Because neither grouping wanted to leave Parliament, they were forced to pretend they remained one united party even as Jim Anderton set about creating his own new one outside of it.
The opposition’s reaction to this charade was then cited by Helen Clark as a reason for holding a snap election in 2002. So rather than ensuring parliamentary stability, the anti-party hopping law actually contributed to an early end to its term.
A good reminder of the farce it was.
Second, the one occasion on which the original party-hopping law was applied – against Donna Awatere Huata – it resulted in proceedings that went all the way to the Supreme Court. It concluded that where an MP ceased to be a member of a party, that fact in and of itself justified the party leader having the MP removed from Parliament.
In other words, the Supreme Court collapsed the right of an MP to remain in Parliament into the right of a person to be a member of a particular party. If a party chooses to use its own internal rules to expel an MP from the party, that action thereby enables the party leader to get the MP kicked out of Parliament altogether.
And that is too much power for party leaders. We’ve seen Peters abuse his role as leader before such as when he suspended Brendan Horan from the caucus on the basis of allegations. There was no consultation with caucus or board – just fiat from Winston.