Oral submission on waka jumping bill

Did my oral submission today against the bill. Thought it went well with some good questions. My submission is below:

I’d like to start with some time travel through history. I’ll start with the MP for Grey Lynn. Not the Rt Hon Prime Minister but an MP called John Alfred Alexander Lee or more famously John A Lee. He was kicked out of Labour in 1930 for demanding they become more socialist and democratic. I can’t say I agree with Mr Lee that the 1st Labour Government wasn’t socialist enough but his departure from Labour was on a point of policy and principle. We went on to form the Democratic Labour Party and stayed an MP until the election. I’d have little doubt Peter Fraser would have used this proposed law to expel Lee from Parliament

35 years before that a number of Liberal MPs defected form the New Liberal Party as they didn’t think Richard Seddon was progressive enough. Seddon was called King Dick Seddon for a reason. You don’t need much imagination to conclude he would have expelled those MPs from Parliament.

In the UK in the first half of the century an obscure MP defected from the Liberal Party to the Conservatives. Even worse than that he was a double defector as he had previously defected from the Conservatives to the Liberals. He was even proud of this, having said “Anyone can rat, but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat.”

That obscure MP was Winston Churchill who went on to do some quite useful things. Imagine how different history might be if the UK Parliament had this proposed law.

Mat Rata left Labour in 1979 due to dissatisfaction with their Maori policies.  Formed Mana Motuhake, a party which went on to become part of the Alliance and got Sandra Lee into Parliament. This was a principled departure.

Jim Anderton left Labour in 1989, or as he says Labour left him. He want on to form New Labour and was re-elected in 1990.

Winston Peters left National in 1993.  He chose to have a by-election but if National had the power to expel him from Parliament I suspect they would have done so much earlier in his career. It could have happened in 1991 or even 1989 and Peters may not have been in a position to set up a new party.

And finally in 1999 the Alliance MPs Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimons left the Alliance to stand for the Greens. Would that have happened if Jim Anderton could have kicked them out to replace them with Dave McPherson and Hone Kaiwai.

But this bill is not just about MPs who formally resign from their party. It also allows party leaders to expel MPs from Parliament so long as two thirds of their caucus agree with them.

Can anyone doubt Sir Robert Muldoon would have thrown out Derek Quigley from Parliament, not just Cabinet? Mike Minogue would have been a goner also and instead of having a general election in July 1984, Marilyn Waring would have been outski and it would have been a by-election only. History could be very different if 1984 had not seen that early snap election.

Nick Smith crossed the floor in 1991 to support a minimum wage for young workers – something Government MPs should applaud.  Nick wasn’t as universally popular then as he is today, so Jim Bolger could well have been happy to throw out Nick out for doing so, especially as his floor crossing mate was Michael Laws – two for the price of one.

Nikki Kaye publicly opposed National’s plans to mine on Great Barrier Island in 2009. Would she have been able to do so if she could have been expelled from Parliament for doing so?

Damien O’Connor crossed the floor in 2014 to support a bill on West Coast logging. He was being a good local MP. But if his party could expel him from Parliament for doing so, I daresay he may resisted.

Outside the two major parties, every new party in Parliament under MMP (bar ACT) has got here through current MPs defecting. This bill will protect incumbent parties and prevent that natural evolution of new parties.

The history of New Zealand is you can’t just lump every MP who leaves a party in together. For every Alamein Kopu you have a John A Lee. For every NZ Independent Coalition party you have the New Labour Party.

Parties have splits. MPs fall out. There are disagreements on policies. This is part of politics. And the NZ public have proven very able at sorting it all out at general elections. Our democracy will not be well served by a law that gives party leaders and their caucuses a power previously reserved for voters, to remove an MP from Parliament.

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