By Richard Harman (author)
The Greens have finally agreed to support the NZ First-inspired waka-jumping legislation.
It has clearly not been an easy process for the Parliamentary party to get agreement from the Greens grassroots members many of whom opposed the legislation.
“We ourselves do not like this Bill,” co-leader Marama Davidson told POLITIK.
“We share the concerns of our members and absolutely our senior party and previous MPs and co-leaders.”
That is a reference to a powerful submission opposing the legislation that was made to the Select Committee hearing the Bill from former co-leader and party icon, Jeanette Fitzsimons.
“The Bill is founded on the idea that parties are always right, and dissidents always wrong.,” she said.
“That is far from the case.
“It is not parties who should forever be represented proportionally, freezing Parliament in some kind of time warp, but the ideas they put to the electorate, and the will of the people as expressed in their votes.”
The Bill provides for an MP who resigns from a party to be forced to resign from Parliament.
The Greens have been talking internally about the Bill for most of this year.
“This has been something we have been discussing at length and we have decided to support the legislation to uphold the confidence and supply agreement.
But the waka-jumping legislation is not a confidence matter?
“It’s not but what is in the confidence and supply agreement, which our members overwhelmingly supported to change the Government, is good faith with Labour.
“And so (the Bill) is in Labour’s coalition agreement with NZ First which requires us to operate in good faith.
”That is why we have decided to support it.”
But MMP politics is about horse trading. Last year an internal email from the Greens’ Justice spokesperson, Golriz Ghahraman, and it contained a proposal from her that the Greens support the legislation only if they got support from Labour over another Bill she was propopsing.
Greens chief of staff, Tory Whanau, vigorously denied to POLITIK that there had been any horse trading.
Davidson said that what the party now wanted to see was action on the 20 priorities in the party's confidence and supply agreement.
But there are issues outside the agreement which the Greens have strong views on and the current debate to open up West Coast DoC stewardship land for mining is one.
“I’m not comfortable at all with that,” said Davidson.
“Clearly it goes against Green policy and what our members support us for and so that is an issue that the Greens will continue to be vocal on.
“We've been very clear; it is the opposite of what we want to see."
However, she was unwilling to say the Greens could win the battle.
"All parties involved in MMP have to make compromises, and we've already seen that with NZ First having to swallow no new oil which was a fantastic victory for our members and our voter base and we understand that is the reality of working in this MMP arrangement."
The question is whether that victory for the Greens required them to compromise over the waka-jumping legislation.
It would seem highly likely.
The Greens decision drew a sharply critical response from National.
Their electoral law spokesperson, Nick Smith, described it as a tragic day for the party.
"The Greens are selling their soul for power by voting for Winston Peters' Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill which contradicts the Greens' core values,' he said.