Keith Locke tells Greens to reject waka jumping law

Former Green MP writes:

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.

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.

Yep. Vote against the majority of the caucus, and you can be expelled from Parliament under this bill.

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”.

Much better.

It is common in the British Parliament to see MPs “crossing the floor” and it can serve a useful function. Recently several Conservative MPs crossed the floor to provide a majority for a Labour Party amendment requiring that the final Brexit deal be brought back to Parliament for a vote.

So this law will be about making sure all Government MPs vote for every Government bill – or face expulsion if they do not.

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.

So how low the Greens are going for a share of power. They’ll vote for a law that would have stopped the Green Party from ever being elected!

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.

What is a worry is this isn’t something the Greens agreed to do in their confidence and supply agreement. They’re backing it imply to appease Winston.

Comments (115)

Login to comment or vote

Add a Comment

%d bloggers like this: