Greens under pressure
By Richard Harman (author)
The Greens will come under more pressure today to end their support for the waka-jumping legislation.
One of the party’s founders and former co-leader, Jeanette Fitzsimons, will appear before the Justice Select Committee to oppose the Electoral (Integrity), Amendment Bill.
In doing so she will follow former Green MP, Keith Locke who appeared before the Committee on Tuesday to oppose the legislation.
Fitzsimons will tell the Committee she strongly opposes the Bill “in its entirety”.
The current Green MPs have given the Bill conditional approval, saying they will make a final decision when it comes out of the Select Committee.
But given that they have already had changes made to the Bill so they could support it so far, it would seem unlikely that it will emerge in a form unpalatable to the party’s parliamentary leadership.
That will set them at odds with many of the party’s rank and file and perhaps more importantly, with the party’s iconic figures from its past.
The Bill is probably the least liked piece of legislation currently before Parliament.
Real enthusiasm for it doesn’t extend beyond NZ First who made it a condition of their coalition with the Government.
Labour sources frankly admit it was a price they had to pay to get NZ First into coalition.
The presence of Fitzsimons today will add to the list of Green luminaries of who have opposed their party’s support of the Bill.
Waka jumping legislation has twice before been before Parliament in 2001 and in 2005 it was opposed by the Greens.
Rod Donald called the 2001 Bill, “the most draconian, obnoxious, anti-democratic, insulting legislation ever inflicted on this Parliament.”
The former co-leader Metiria Turei said during debate on the 2005 legislation said that the Greens had long argued that the voters and "only the voters" should decide whether an MP had left their party for the right or wrong reasons.
“Political parties must not be allowed to take away from voters the power to unelect members of Parliament.” she said.”
The Greens peppered their opposition to the legislation with attacks on Winston Peters.
Peters was behind the legislation then as he is now.
Green MP Nandor Tanczos said: “If Winston Peters wants the State to give legal power to his authority over his MPs, the Greens will not help him.”
Locke has described the Bill violating the right of Members of Parliament to free speech and the freedom of political association.
“These are fundamental human rights guaranteed in the New Zealand Bill of Rights,’ he told the Justice Select Committee.
“The Bill violates the right of free speech by allowing for MPs to be expelled from Parliament as a consequence of speaking or voting differently from their party caucus and subsequently being excluded from that party caucus.
“It violates freedom of association by expelling an MP from Parliament for voluntarily ceasing his or her membership of a parliamentary party, or transferring his or her loyalty to another party.”
And former Green MP Sue Bradford has said on “Spinoff” that if the Green Party leadership continued to undermine its hard-won integrity in supporting the Winston Peters driven law around disillusioned MPs, they could lose a number of their more thoughtful members and supporters.
Bradford has linked the support for the waka-jumping legislation to the decision by the Greens leadership to give their Parliamentary questions to National.
“Epic fail by party negotiators, & a sad side-lining of inner-party democracy,” she tweeted.
Bradford was a strong supporter of Marama Davidson in the recent greens leadership contest.
Davidson however, has been non-committal on the legislation.
Speaking after her election, she hinted at the pressures that are on the party by its confidence and supply partner, Labour.
"This new position of the Greens being in Government, there are going to be policies that come down the pipeline, and Bills that come down the pipeline that we are going to have to grapple with," she said.
The Greens leadership would argue that the party is getting big wins out of its confidence and supply agreement – on climate change and oil exploration in particular --- but whether that will be enough to counter the emotional weight of its founders in their opposition to the Bill is another matter.
The size of the majority of Davidson’s victory would suggest that the Greens rank and file are becoming impatient with James Shaw’s conservative style of leadership.
The waka jumping legislation could be the catalyst that saw the frustration more forcefully ventilated.