ELECTORAL (INTEGRITY REPEAL) AMENDMENT BILL
Madam Assistant Speaker Dyson, having been here for quite some time—not quite as long as yourself—I have put a few bills into the members' ballot system and, finally, with one week to go, have had this bill withdrawn from the ballot.
Hon Member: There's a God.
Rt Hon DAVID CARTER: There is a God. I haven't canvassed other political parties, and I acknowledge that Labour advanced the legislation I'm attempting to repeal early in 2018, but I'm certainly hoping all members will give careful consideration to this bill, because this bill attempts to actually put integrity back into our electoral system. It's about improving the integrity of our system.
To become a member of Parliament isn't easy, and having got here, whether you come as an Independent—which is a very fraught way—or you come as a member of Parliament, you come with a conscience. You come with a responsibility to form an opinion on issues and to speak with your conscience, if you're a list MP, or, if you're an electorate MP, to speak with a conscience that represents the people that elected you to this House. Though this bill is about allowing MPs to exercise that conscience, it's about not coming to this Parliament to simply be—as some members of Parliament have described in the past—cannon fodder, or a puppet to a political party.
Now, we all know the history of this legislation that I'm attempting to change today. It was the price of the current Government—the Labour - New Zealand First - Green Government—doing a deal with New Zealand First, and I know why he needs that sort of control. History tells us.
I was the junior whip in this Parliament in 1998, when the New Zealand First Party, which at that stage had gone into a coalition arrangement with the National Government, split apart. They had 17 members, and eight members used their conscience over an issue—a single issue—which was the sale of a portion of Wellington Airport. Eight of those members used their conscience and said that they were not prepared to support the command—the command—that came from their leader, the Rt Hon Winston Peters. So every time he's gone into Government since, he's advanced this sort of legislation, which is simply about his mechanism—his personal mechanism—to control a member of his caucus.
Now, I have been here long enough and have been part of my caucus, and I think I know how other caucuses work. When you have discussion on policy items and when you have some dissent, you have some argument, and you actually come to a better position within a caucus, but the Rt Hon Winston Peters doesn't believe in that.
Most of the parties that operate in this place operate in a democratic fashion. You have your caucuses, you come to a position democratically, and you walk out of that caucus, whether or not you supported the position, but you adopt the position. As a member of that caucus, you have the responsibility and, in fact, the privilege of electing your leader and electing your deputy leader and electing your whips, but that's not how the New Zealand First Party wants to operate. So the inability of Mr Peters in the past to control his caucus is what this legislation is about, and I don't think that is right. I think that impinges on the very human right of an elected representative.
Over the last five years in the time I've spent here—it's been, in fact, over the last eight years—I've been deeply involved with the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The Inter-Parliamentary Union—the IPU—has membership from 179 countries. It, effectively, represents about 45,000 elected representatives all around the world, and as a contributor to the IPU, I was privileged—and, in fact, I'm the first New Zealander to be in this position. I was elected by the IPU as one member of a 10-member committee which investigates the abuses of elected representatives around the world. This legislation which I'm attempting to repeal today, which is in cohorts, or did put us in cohorts, with countries like Tanzania, countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, countries like Zimbabwe, and countries like Venezuela, and I say to all members that as we debate this tonight, think about why you are in this Chamber. Come with your conscience. Respect discussion that occurs in your caucus, but, ultimately, come to a view and do not ever—ever—become controlled by your party leader.
I read through all of the Hansards of the first reading, the second reading, and the third reading as this legislation passed through the House in 2018, and one of the spurious arguments advanced by the Hon Andrew Little and by the New Zealand First representative—I think it was Darroch Ball that spoke in most of the debates—was that this legislation was all about protecting the proportionality that the voters delivered at the start of an electoral term. Well, if you really believe that argument, Winston Peters, why did you then contest the Northland by-election in 2015 and go out of your way—and successfully—to defeat the proportionality that had been delivered by the voters of New Zealand in 2014? And there was no answer to that.
He did what he was entitled to do to contest a by-election, but in contesting that by-election, he changed quite significantly the proportionality of Parliament that the voters had delivered in 2014. No problem with that—he was entitled to do it. But don't come into this Parliament arguing, as we debate this bill tonight, that it's all about recognising and respecting the decisions that have made by voters on election night, because it's not. It's simply about a disciplinary measure. It's about controlling the MPs, because his own history of controlling people doesn't give credit.
I want to just, in conclusion, in my last couple of minutes, note for the House the number of times dissension has actually been significant and relevant to the New Zealand parliamentary process. I can think myself, long before I was here, of Marilyn Waring, in 1984. She threatened to cross the floor, and caused the well-known snap election that caused the end of the Muldoon era. Jim Anderton was a loyal member of the Labour Party until he argued that the Labour Party had left him and his principles, so he set up The Alliance. Dame Tariana Turia, one of the most respected members of Parliament I've had the privilege of working with, didn't agree with the Labour Party. She said so, walked out, and started her own party—the Māori Party—which made a significant contribution to New Zealand's democracy. And Mr Peters himself, a member of the National caucus, disagreed with National, walked out, formed his own party, and no one can argue that it hasn't been a significant contributor to New Zealand politics over that time.
So there will be robust debate around this bill. I certainly hope the Green Party will be careful with its contribution and will deliberate carefully, because I note as I read their contributions last time that they were never comfortable with being forced into the position of supporting this legislation.
GREG O'CONNOR (Labour—Ōhāriu): Let me be first to officially congratulate that member on drawing what he now reveals as his first member's bill after a considerable time here. I have to say, if you're going to do it, do it well, because he probably couldn't have drawn a more significant bill, perhaps, to be leaving on, one that whatever happens will guarantee that it will be discussed some time after his departure, of course, depending what happens later on tonight. Even the significance of it having been drawn, being debated tonight, after we've just sat through three valedictories, three very good valedictories—valedictories by members who, I should say, were going out with their boots on, who were going out under their own steam, having made the decision they would leave here and had the opportunity to do one. As a couple of them mentioned, it is something that many are denied, if they don't go out from here under their own steam. So it's quite ironic that we are now debating the first reading of this bill against that background.
Now, I was fortunate enough to be on the select committee that considered this bill, and, as a new MP arriving here, I have to say—a little bit like the significance of the bill having been drawn by the Rt Hon David Carter—it was actually an excellent introduction to this whole parliamentary process. It had a little bit of everything in it, as it does now as we debate the possible change of the bill and repealing of the Act. Of course, it was really all the debate that took part—we had 21 hours of debate through committee of the whole House, and it did dig deep into the democratic processes, the history of the democratic process. We talked about different parliamentary systems around the world and compared them to our own. So it gave me, again as a new MP, a very good context for what we're actually debating, and I think no one who had listened, been part of this debate, could go away without a much better understanding of the processes, and those same parliamentary process—I know, being on the select committee, we often had to get the Clerk involved at the select committee and later on to actually enlighten us on different aspects of it as well.
Of course, at the basis of all this, if we didn't understand MMP, I'm certain that we did at the end of it—MMP, mixed member proportionality; and of course, underlying all that again—coalition agreements, which we could hardly really understand; and also a history of some of those who went before us. The names that often were mentioned in debates either around the select committee or in this House were: Awatere Huata, Copeland, Kopu, Kirton, and Horan, just to name a few.
It was quite interesting that those names came up because, again, sitting watching it, before I came into the House, I often in my previous job had occasion to be speaking with politicians. I was often in different offices of different parties. And one thing I found was that whenever anyone had fallen out with their party—and those names that I just mentioned were some examples of what absolute lame duck MPs they became—of course, what you knew was that you never had any problems getting in to see them. They were desperate to see anyone that would go and speak to them, because they were essentially quite powerless in this place. They were occupying seats, generally occupying seats, until the inevitable guillotine came down on their careers on election day, the subsequent election day, and they were cast out into the employment wilderness. I came to understand just really what a disservice we were doing to the taxpayers of New Zealand, those who are paying us, to actually have people like that still sitting here in the House, unable to contribute, a complete inability to contribute. So when this bill came before the select committee I was on and we were able to consider it, it was great to have a context around that.
Now, look, it was a very passionate debate. Again, the fact that we spent 21 hours debating at the committee whole House will just give you some idea of that. Like so often in these things, and we've had some great debates, similar the debates—whether it be the end of life bill here, the abortion bill—you know, many people here have very polarised views, and that polarised view often leads people to believe that, really, if you were listening, perhaps the world as we know was going to come to an end if that legislation was passed. Well, the world didn't end. This legislation was passed. The world didn't come to an end, and we're now coming to the end of this Parliament.
There have been occasions—I mean, there's a member in this House. In fact, the irony of it is that those members opposite who so vehemently opposed this legislation, there was an irony that they may actually have been the first to use it. As I believe, historically, I think the ACT Party before them, who had again opposed the legislation last time it was actually implemented here—again, took occasion to become the first to use it. There were some High Court findings in that case, although it was never taken to its full length or its full logical end, because there was another intervention.
So it's good to be standing here debating this bill again relatively soon, because we now have the opportunity as the Rt Hon David Card has done and as I have done today, to look through some of those debate notes, look through some of those speeches, and look through some of those predictions. Here we are—that was in 2018, September 2018, and here we are. The sun came up this morning, and here we are. We've had some fine members giving their valedictories today. We've had bills going through the House, and—surprise, surprise—having read through those Hansard notes, having read those speeches, actually so much of what's predicted didn't come to pass and didn't come to the fore.
Look, I'd say to anyone who's watching tonight, I'm looking forward to a contribution from perhaps the Hon Dr Nick Smith. I have no doubt he will dig deeper into some of the arguments he used last time, and I did read that speech, before I came here. We'll just put "ditto", shall we, perhaps, Dr Smith? But again, I'll give credit. Some of the most dire predictions did come from the member from Nelson. And again, I think possibly there may be some more tonight, if this House doesn't move this bill and send it off to select committee. But I'll look forward to that contribution.
So, look, I will not be voting for this bill later tonight. Just for those that are, just to make sure that they do understand the details. There are some quite good safeguards in this bill. Where a parliamentary leader of a political party reasonably believes that the MP concerned has acted in a way that has distorted and is likely to distort the political party proportionality of the House, it really sets out what he or she must do before they can actually remove that person. They've actually got to give that member some written notice. One would think that it's a matter of sort of picking someone up by the scruff of the neck and marching them out of this House. Again, that is something that Dr Smith may like to comment on in his presentation. Also, the political party—of course, two thirds of that party must also agree. So any suggestion that all of a sudden a party leader can get out of bed in the morning on perhaps the proverbial wrong side of the bed and decide that he or she wants to get rid of one of their MPs on that day—there are certainly sufficient safeguards in here such that anyone that is concerned that the egregious, outrageous breaches of democracy that have been predicted are going to be visited upon this House, visited upon these individuals with wanton abandon, can rest assured that that will not be the case. So unless these safeguards have been disregarded, and even only then, will the actual proportionality then be considered.
I think that this legislation is unnecessary. Again, the two years that have now passed will show that we can put up with dissent in this House, we can have our ideas, we can learn, as most do, and understand how to use their leverage, how to use their power, and not have to fall out with their leaders. I will not be voting for this bill.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): Thank you, Madam Speaker. One of the things that makes me just so proud to be a New Zealander and a member of this Parliament is that we are the fourth-oldest continuous democracy in this world, and this Parliament has actually been at the core of so much of New Zealand's success. But democracy is a delicate flower that we must be continuously out to protect and safeguard and I want to congratulate my friend and colleague David Carter as an experienced parliamentarian and as a Speaker caring enough about our democracy to introduce this bill.
The electoral amendment bill that was passed in 2018 was the worst bill of the 52nd Parliament, and in these closing weeks it's entirely appropriate that we point out the failings of that bill and seek to repeal it. There is a very fundamental point of what makes a country a democracy, and it is this: the people elect its members of Parliament and the people alone are entitled to fire them—the people alone are entitled to fire them—and the moment we give party leaders the power to dismiss a member of Parliament that has been democratically elected, we erode the very fabric of what makes our parliamentary democracy so important.
This law that is being challenged today would be unconscionable in the Mother of all Parliaments in the United Kingdom. It would never have even got off first base. MMP was founded in Germany; it would breach the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany should anybody pass such an offensive law. As my colleague David Carter from the Inter-Parliamentary Union said, this law puts New Zealand in the company of Draconian authoritarian States like Zimbabwe or like Venezuela, which not a member of the New Zealand public or member of this House would want to associate ourselves with. It was a further disgrace that this law was the product of simple leveraging from the coalition negotiations. Actually, our electoral law needs greater protection than simply being a plaything of negotiations. Our electoral law, in my view, needs to have greater entrenchment to stop those sorts of rorts.
As Mr Carter said, this law change is the product of the paranoia of one member who simply wants the power to be able to fire his caucus as a consequence of his personal experience in 1996, and never in a democracy should our electoral law be dominated by one particular person's vendetta and experience. When this bill was introduced, it was exposed that every member of New Zealand First was required to sign a contract of $300,000 were they to leave that party, and that is equally unconscionable, as was displayed at that time.
Now, the member Mr Greg O'Connor asked: well, what's happened in the last two years and why does it equally concern me? It is because it is the change in the culture of this place that goes with this law. The moment members of this Parliament know that any one of the party leaders has the power to fire a member means that the courage of our convictions is watered down and the duties that we have as a member of Parliament to represent our people and to stand up for what we believe is eroded. One of the great values that I think is at the core of Kiwi values is a tolerance of dissent—that while we may disagree, we will vigorously defend the right of others to be able to respect their opinions, and in no place is the right of dissent as important as in this Parliament.
I want to conclude by making a tribute to Jeanette Fitzsimons, who we recently memorialised. I would invite all members of the House to reflect on her speech as we make a decision to send this bill to select committee and remove this blight from our electoral laws—
Hon PEENI HENARE (Minister of Civil Defence): Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. I rise to oppose this bill on behalf of the Labour Party. You know, the phrase that always comes to mind when I think about democracy, and in particular in the build up to this year's election, is "Let's keep moving." We're very proud of our record in terms of how we uphold our democracy, how we've made positive changes to our democracy. In the time that I've been here, which is just a minor six years, I've managed and been able to witness the changing of not only democracy but, more importantly, the public mood that sees us actually enforce and change legislation and change policy to make sure that our democracy best reflects our public.
Now, I'm a little concerned at some of the comments made from the other side of the House, which, as I understand it, are bending the truth or are so far from the truth that it's not even funny. The notion put across from the other side of the House is that colleagues are bound to their parties, they're bonded to their parties, and they give up their democratic right simply to be a part of a party. It's not true. It's not true. One of the great things about our democracy, as a member of the public or a citizen of this country, is we have the opportunity and the ability to join a political party. We're not forced into it. We're certainly not grabbed by the scruff of your neck and dragged into any kind of party meeting, nor are you bonded to that party for any particular sum of money—that's been indicated in tonight's debate. But, of course, you sign up to a party because you believe in principles. You believe in what they stand for, and that's why you do that. And by the same right as you having the ability to sign up to a party, you also have just as equal a right to leave that party. If you choose not to stand for their principles, if you believe that their direction isn't in your best interests or the interests of your community, you have the choice to do that.
What this bill sets out to do is repeal some good work. I've heard it this evening in the debate. I also heard it in the valedictory speeches earlier this evening, where they said that only robust debate can make for good policy and good legislation. It's been clear that the bill, this particular bill and its intention to repeal the legislation that's already been passed—it went through significant debate. In fact, I recall hours and hours in this House debating the original amendment bill, and I was confident that through that robust debate, we came to a better place.
Now, it's been mentioned about the Māori Party and how the Hon Dame Tariana Turia crossed the floor and the rest is history. Now, it's clear, and I'm quite confident, that the mechanisms in the legislation actually allow for you to disagree. What it did do was—and Tariana Turia proved it. She went across the floor. She clearly disagreed with the stance of her party, and she did that, and she was able to do that. The Māori Party was formed, and the rest is history. But any kind of inference from that side of the House that says that people can be fired by their leader I think is just absolute rubbish and scaremongering. I'm confident that the mechanisms in the legislation—and Mr Greg O'Connor has already covered this and says "Just because you woke up on the wrong side of the bed doesn't give you the power to sack somebody." It talks about having a caucus. It talks about having agreement, even from that member who is in disagreement with their party.
I'm confident that this particular bill actually takes us backwards. It takes us backwards. As I've mentioned, in the six years of my time here, there have been a number of recommendations from the Electoral Commission that have seen an improvement in our democracy, and I'm proud that on this side of the House, as a Government, we've forced forward on many of those issues. In fact, coming up in the election on 19 September, the fact that early voting, the fact that you can vote in places where people actually go to like supermarkets, the fact that you can actually enrol on the day of voting I think is absolutely fantastic for our democracy and makes sure that our democracy is stronger moving into the future. Any reference of likening us to third-world countries I think is gross scaremongering, and that's why on this bill, I can't support it.
Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Minister for Children): Kia ora, Madam Speaker. I rise on behalf of New Zealand First to oppose the bill. What we are seeing, and the New Zealand public needs to understand, is this is a personal vendetta by two members who feel that they have been personally slighted some 20-odd years ago. That is what this is about. And the member's bill ballot has finally provided them with an opportunity to take a dig.
The New Zealand First Party does not believe that this is how this House should be used, for personal vendettas. The purpose of the original bill—
Hon Members: Ha, ha!
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: And what you hear, ladies and gentlemen, is the sense of entitlement that wafts away from Mr Carter and Mr Smith. They believe that they are elected and once they are elected, even if they choose to deny the platform upon which they were elected, that you must suffer them. They will campaign, as National Party members campaign up and down the country, inside safe National Party seats. That is why there is such a competition amongst the National Party to get a safe seat. It is because you literally could put up a block of cheese with lipstick and a blue ribbon around it and they would win. That is because that is what they know to be true. They know that to be true.
So what they don't want, New Zealand, is to accept that the New Zealand public votes for the National Party's principles and policies at that time, not for them as individuals. So if they cross the floor, if they decide to go and sit up in the back and stand for something else, they are trying to tell you, "Uh, uh, uh! You elected me because I'm such a fantastic guy—I'm such a fantastic guy. So, therefore, you want me to now not vote on the policies and the principles that I actually campaigned on. You want me to be here and vote on my conscience." That is what those two members are trying to tell you.
The member that put forward this bill, the Rt Hon Winston Peters, actually went out and fought a by-election after he was no longer in the National Party caucus and he sought the mandate of the people again.
That is exactly what this bill is about. I would challenge both of those members to decide that that is the integrity that they have, that if they choose no longer to stand with the party that got them into this place on the policies and the platforms by which they were elected, then go back to the people and seek a mandate. But those two men will not. Those two men will not, because they have a sense of entitlement. Once you vote them here, that's it, New Zealand, unfortunately; you've got them—and you've had them for a hell of a long time, unfortunately.
So what we are talking about here—and it also completely ignores that we're in an MMP environment, where there are list members of Parliament, list members of Parliament that the National Party has, that the Labour Party has, that New Zealand First and the Greens have, list members of Parliament who vote on a party platform. If those list members decide they're now going to be an independent, what have you voted on, New Zealand? What have you voted on: for that person or for the party that they represented? This was a move to shift our democracy forward. To align it with Third World countries minimises the massive experience—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Tell us a country that's got it that you respect. Tell us about the UK.
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: —that David Carter actually has. He has minimised his experience. That is Nick Smith, who does not like the truth to be told in this House. That is him trying to shout me down, New Zealand.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Tell me a democracy that you respect that's got it.
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: There he goes again. Understand, New Zealand, this is not about your democracy; this is about a personal vendetta by Nick Smith and David Carter. That's what this is about. But New Zealand First will oppose it, because democracies have to grow and live.
I say to the Green Party that there is a time and a place to stand up and keep one's word. There is a time and a place to acknowledge commitments made and stick with them, and I'll be interested to see later tonight whether the Green Party has the integrity to vote their word, as opposed to deciding in the final days of a Parliament that they don't need a relationship any more, going forward, that they don't need to keep an agreement or a word given, and we will see what the Green Party does with regard to their integrity. We do not support the bill.
CHRIS PENK (National—Helensville): Thank you, Madam Speaker. We've heard some interesting valedictories tonight: Alastair Scott, Sarah Dowie, Paula Bennett, and now Tracey Martin. I've been accused, I suppose, of being part of the category of National Party MPs who are in a traditionally National Party electorate. I don't use the words "safe seat". The member said that you could put up a block of cheese with a blue rosette and it'd win—blue cheese, obviously. Let us just hope it is tasty cheese and that I become better with age, which isn't always the case in this place.
Anyway, the bill that we have before us—and I congratulate the Rt Hon David Carter for bringing it to this House—does a very important thing: it removes that which is no longer needed. We could actually say more accurately that it removes that which was never needed in the first place, and colleagues on this side of the House have made a very eloquent case along exactly those lines. But if the bill were needed, we can say very firmly that it is not any more, because the reason for it having been passed in the first place was clearly an insurance policy against ill-discipline of New Zealand First MPs, and I don't think we will be troubled by that spectre haunting our political landscape very much more in some 51 days from now.
I think that one very significant aspect of the Electoral (Integrity Repeal) Amendment Bill can be found in the name: electoral. The point about electoral law is not politicians; it is the electors. The word "elector" is in the name of the Act and the amendment bill that is before us. It is for the electors, those who vote—that is to say the citizens of New Zealand. It is their decision making in a democracy, if a democracy is to be the rule of the people, that must count when it comes to appointing representatives in this House of Representatives.
So it is that we examine the principle involved. We've had the example, as outlined, I think, by the Hon Dr Nick Smith, of the Northland by-election in which Mr Peters gained that seat—only briefly, mind; but that's been a pattern over the years too. He gained that seat in contravention of the principle that he would hold and delay the bill that the Government brought to the House. He went against that principle by saying that he wanted to represent the people of that seat despite the electoral result at the previous general election, and yet that's the basis, supposedly, of this whole regime that was brought in by the Government at the start of this term.
We've heard very clearly tonight in the speech by the Hon Tracey Martin the basis on which the governing parties made their decisions in relation to the bill, and her exhortation to the Green Party to keep their word, or some phrase along those lines. So I too will be very interested to see what happens in relation to them. I am quietly confident that the principles of the Green Party will be re-remembered and brought to the fore once more, and I am tempted to cut my own remarks short to bring forward that interesting moment that we will enjoy.
Speaking of interesting moments, I note that the situation of a member of the National Party who departed the National Party caucus, but not Parliament, earlier in this term, I would suggest, is a very instructive one. It is the exception that proves the rule. It is the proof in the pudding of the National Party's principled stance, as articulated at the time by the Hon Dr Nick Smith and others, that we do not believe that the electors of any given electorate should have their wishes disregarded, as expressed at one election. So it is that when the member for Botany decided that he would strike out on his own—to put it kindly—we said, in effect, that the people of Botany would have the chance to choose at the next election who would represent them. So they do have that choice, and that is one for them to make, having made a previous choice along those lines previously.
The fundamental question in relation to this is if a member of Parliament is said to have departed from the party manifesto on which he or she stood, who gets to make that decision: is it the member of Parliament himself or herself, is it their leader, or should it be the people? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people who make that decision. So the platforms on which we are elected will be standing again at the election. The people will decide. That's as it should be. I support this bill.
Everybody has stood up tonight and given pretty high and mighty speeches. There's been a lot of talk about principle, but the fact of the matter is not too many people have actually acknowledged the machinations behind the scenes here tonight, and that is politics. The Parliament of Aotearoa New Zealand is, as I think most in this House would be aware, one of the most whipped in the world. What that means is that even though we have heard some speeches from members of the Opposition about the importance of things like freedom of speech, you've still had a speech from one of your departing members today who spoke to the fact that they had to vote against what they felt was their conscience in coming forward with a caucus position.
There's also the case, as was noted by members on this side of the House, the fact of the matter that we have a very tribalist system. I think all of us have seen just how ugly that can get. That adversarial system has produced some of the worst behaviour in this place. But on top of that, it has resulted in some very archaic first-past-the-post thinking, particularly in what the major parties see and characterise as safe seats. I think that's a great example, actually, of the flaws of our present adversarial system.
There's been a lot of talk about the Greens from speeches of both the Opposition and governing parties tonight. I think that it's really important that we are deeply clear—
Tim van de Molen: Everyone's interested in which values you'll have tonight.
CHLÖE SWARBRICK: —and that the Opposition doesn't heckle me right now, because the Greens will honour our 20-year position on voting on this legislation tonight in much the same way that we honoured the coalition agreements and voting for the legislation that originally put it into place.
I really need to address some of the points that were made, particularly by Hon Dr Nick Smith when he spoke about the sanctity of our electoral law. But simultaneously back when the National Party were in Government, they passed by bare majority legislation which disenfranchised prisoners in this country against advice from their own Attorney-General; that is unconstitutional. I think it's really important that members in here are reflecting on the politics alongside the so-called principle.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Principle—principle.
CHLÖE SWARBRICK: The other thing, Dr Nick Smith, please, if I can ask you one thing, do not ever again invoke our former co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons when seeking to make a political point.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: She was a friend. You have cross-party friendships.
CHLÖE SWARBRICK: Because, Dr Nick Smith, the honourable Jeanette Fitzsimons, the late Jeanette Fitzsimons, if anything, was absolutely disgraced by your former environmental track record. It's disrespectful and, quite frankly, disingenuous.
So, maybe politics would be a whole lot better if politicians stop talking about themselves as we are tonight. If politicians want a code of conduct, as we're talking about, and how we treat each other, particularly within our parties, then perhaps we could best start by all signing up to the recommendations of the Francis review. The Greens commend this bill to the House.
KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour): First of all, I want to acknowledge that this bill, both now and in the first iteration when it was introduced into this House—on all sides of the House, there was a palliative energy that has run through, and that's again very evident tonight, so I just want to acknowledge that. I also just was reflecting this afternoon: you know, we spent in this House, on this particular piece of legislation, first the integrity Act and now the integrity repeal—it's going to be in excess of about 28, 29 hours of this House's time. I want to acknowledge the calibre of the contributions that have been made, because this is critical to our electoral law. It strikes at the heart of our constitution—can't run against those particular aspects that the Hon Dr Smith has made.
But I'm hesitant that we start to rewrite history when we reflect on some of the things that have happened in this House. One of the questions that came up from the member just prior—there was a question he asked about whether the actions were right when one of the former members of this House, the Hon Dame Tariana Turia: were her actions right when she (a) crossed the floor and (b) made her decision to leave the Labour caucus as it was then, and so forth? Well, I won't make any comment about the first, but to the latter, what I want to acknowledge is what she did in the aftermath of her decision. She decided to go back to the people. She decided to go back and seek a mandate from her constituents. She decided to go back on a new platform, and she put her principles, her values, to the people, and it was for the people to determine as to whether or not they would support her.
I contrast those actions with many—don't actually want to name them all in this House, but how many members have we seen—we've seen it in this Parliament, the 52nd Parliament. How many members have we seen that sit up on those back, back, back benches, they collect a wage for however long it is that they sit in this House, they purport to advocate and be champions of—
Nicola Willis: They do. Don't be so disrespectful. They work very hard for their constituents.
KIRITAPU ALLAN: —whether it's Botany, whether it's whoever. The member will work—oh, actually, no, I disagree with that. I think they work very hard for their own gain, more often than not, because the reality is, for most of us, look, as much as I think, you know, I got here on my own merit. I certainly did not. There is a party that I belong to, it's its principles and its values, and it's on the back of my party that I stand in this House. Now, if I have some fundamental change of heart in my principles, my values, or, indeed, perhaps the party pivots on me—who knows? I was reflecting earlier with some colleagues just prior—I think, actually, it was the Hon Ruth Dyson. She was a big part of the fourth Labour Government—
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Could we just focus down on the bill.
KIRITAPU ALLAN: Well, it all goes to the heart of it, Madam Speaker.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Well, then make that point—make that point.
KIRITAPU ALLAN: This is the context, and this is what the Hon Nick Smith asked us to look at. It was—
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Actually, we have a bill in front of the House we're debating—
KIRITAPU ALLAN: We do, and we've got—Madam Speaker—
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Don't argue with me. Would you please come to the bill.
KIRITAPU ALLAN: Madam Speaker, I will talk to this bill—
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Good.
KIRITAPU ALLAN: Time and time again, because what this is, it's about whether or not a person who comes into this House under the banner of a political party can at any point of the duration of that term jump off that political party's waka. Why is it important to reflect on the history of our parliamentarians and the political actions of our predecessors in this House? It is critical that we look back and understand our history so that we can debate this particular legislation in an informed manner.
Now, there's been a lot of chat tonight that this is about, perhaps, actions and there's a lot of hurt feelings in this House that go back a lot longer—almost older than I am, I think, particularly between some of the members that have been scrapping it out. Now, look, I don't want to relitigate that history, but what I do know is that as a member of Parliament in this House, we have had 28 hours of debate on this piece of legislation. We have decided as a House—and we are relitigating this again—that a person who enters into this place under the banner, under the principles, under the values of a political party should in fact stay there, and to that end, as we've already discussed, we support this bill.
TIM VAN DE MOLEN (National—Waikato): Thank you, Madam Speaker. It's been really interesting to follow the debate on this bill tonight. There've been some incredibly defensive comments from the Green members, and the New Zealand First members have come out firing, come out attacking other sides of the House for trying to repeal an incredibly damaging piece of legislation. And we just heard there about "Oh, well, potentially there were some personal things." No, not the case—this bill is a terrible piece of legislation. It should never have come before this House. It should never have been passed. And repealing this waka-jumping bill is an incredibly important part of what needs to happen for our democratic process.
Now, this particular bill, obviously repealing the waka-jumping bill, is about demonstrating the importance, the independence of members within this House. And I think it was incredibly rich for the Greens to get up and try and take the moral high ground and say that, no, we shouldn't be bringing other members into it. We shouldn't be talking about disrupting proportionality. Actually, we are here as members of Parliament to do what we have been elected for by our constituents and for the Green Party to get up and say now that maybe they're going to change their values because they changed them last time—we're not quite sure; they're chopping and changing this election year, so I guess perhaps we'll see—it is an absolute disgrace.
I think for them to have taken that position when they have so strongly opposed this legislation in the past to fall in behind the Government, entirely at the whim of Mr Peters is an absolute disgrace. And I think on that basis it is terribly poor of the Green Party to now decide—election year here; only a couple of months out—actually, they're going to change their stripes. And I don't think it's good enough to have one set of morals and values early in a parliamentary term and then close to the election to change those stripes. And it's great that we've heard that actually they're looking to support this bill—as they well should, as every party in this House should. And actually, they should never have supported its predecessor that this is repealing. And so I think it is a bit rich for the Greens to say now that they are taking the moral high ground when in reality this bill should never have had to come through in the first place.
So we will continue to fight for the democratic values that we believe are important. We are all here as members to represent our areas, to represent those constituents around the country that elected us to this Parliament. We need to do that freely. We cannot be under the guise or under the power or control of party leaders who can choose to expel us as members of Parliament if we have varying views. I'm the member of Waikato. I love that electorate. I'm proud to represent it. If there was something happening in the Waikato that was hugely important to that region that I chose to support on their behalf and it was different to the views of my party, then that is a position that I would take to support my electorate. That's what they have asked me to come here to do on their behalf.
Now, I don't think that would genuinely happen because National understands the needs of Waikato and they put out great policies that align with our constituents. But the reality is that flexibility for members of Parliament is absolutely critical. So this bill is hugely important to unwind a terrible piece of legislation that should never have been passed through this House. And having both New Zealand First and the Greens jump up and give extremely defensive stances just clearly shows that they know they were in the wrong and we must pass this law now. So I commend it to the House.
GINNY ANDERSEN (Labour): Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. Nineteen thousand was the number of New Zealanders who turned up to the election booth on election day last election who wanted to vote but were not able to because they weren't enrolled. Those members opposite, who we have listened to tonight espousing the values of democracy, voted against a bill that would allow 19,000 New Zealanders to vote on election day this year. So I do not have a strong stomach for your views on strengthening democracy or your deep-founded—
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Don't bring me into it, thank you. Thank you.
GINNY ANDERSEN: —values of New Zealand's views. I believe that this is a bill that has been already thoroughly debated in this House, for the fact that it did not succeed in this House for a number of hours being debated previously, for the very reasons that have been traversed time and time again.
So as already pointed out, I have a very short ability to contemplate arguments based on the values of democracy in New Zealand's political system when those opposite voted against a bill that would enable the franchise to be furthered to more New Zealanders coming up. So enabling New Zealanders to be able to participate in our democracy is exactly where we should be focusing on, and for that reason it's important that we seek a mandate from the people. Whether you be a list MP or—
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Don't bring the Speaker into it, please.
GINNY ANDERSEN: Whether I be a list MP or whether a member of this Parliament be an electorate MP, it is important that they are held accountable to those people who voted them into this House in the first place. It is of vital importance that the public have confidence in our democracy, and they should know that when a vote is placed on a party, that is the principles and the ideology and the values that their vote is going towards, and that is exactly what the primary legislation that this bill attempts to unpick did achieve. That means that if someone has got into Parliament on the basis of free education, of housing that's warm, dry, and affordable, of the fact that people get paid a living wage, on those basic principles—if that is the ticket and the understanding and the principles that you entered Parliament on, then that member of Parliament should be held to account to those same principles on which they were voted in upon. Now, that, I believe, is not a travesty of democracy; that is in fact really sticking to the point in which the underpinning principles of which MMP delivers upon.
So I think the fact that this bill has already been debated for a large amount of hours within this House and members opposite have had yet another crack at trying to revisit this shows that this is exactly the point, that we have got a clear outcome that is important: that New Zealanders get what they vote for. If an individual member of Parliament is able to enter into this House and then embark on a different journey and jump the waka and go upon a different path of different principles, then that in fact is not democratic. That in fact is not giving the average New Zealand voter the reassurance and the ability to know that when they party voted for that particular party and the proportionate representation of this Parliament that delivered upon those ideas that they voted upon did not come true, I believe that that is not true democracy.
So I come back to the principle of my speech: that if those members opposite continue to espouse those true values of democracy, then I would like to have seen them vote for a bill in the past of this Parliament that enabled working New Zealanders, everyday New Zealanders, to turn up to the election booths on election day and enrol and vote. In fact, they did not do that. They voted against it, and that is a shame.
Rt Hon DAVID CARTER (National): In responding to the contributions made, I want to comment on two particular speeches: the one from Chlöe Swarbrick for the Green Party and the one from the Hon Tracey Martin. In commenting on Chlöe Swarbrick's contribution, I want to acknowledge that she was genuinely upset by the Hon Dr Nick Smith mentioning the late Jeanette Fitzsimons. Can I assure her that Nick Smith did not mention that name in any way to upset Chlöe Swarbrick; he did it for the same reason I would have mentioned it. I knew Rod Donald as well as any member currently in this Parliament, perhaps apart from Ruth Dyson, because we fought in the electorates of Port Hills, Banks Peninsula, etc., on a number of occasions. I also knew Jeanette Fitzsimons well. Those two were some of the most principled members of Parliament that we have seen in my time. So, in Nick Smith's mentioning Jeanette Fitzsimons, can I assure the Green Party it was done because Jeanette Fitzsimons herself phoned Nick Smith as soon as this bill was drawn to make sure that her point of view was well known to Nick Smith.
Can I also acknowledge and thank the Green Party for supporting this legislation tonight. As I read the first reading, the second reading, and the third reading speeches, what was very clear to me was that the Greens were in a difficult position when the Winston Peters bill went through. They had signed a confidence and supply agreement with the Government and, at that early stage of the formation of the Labour - Greens - New Zealand First Government, the Green Party was in an unenviable position. It had no choice. But I do acknowledge that, finally, principles have survived. I say, with memories of both Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimons, they will be pleased that tonight this legislation will at least pass its first reading and proceed further.
The other speech I want to comment on very briefly is the vitriolic contribution from the Hon Tracey Martin. She suggested that I had this legislation drawn from the ballot, or I put it into the ballot, because of a vendetta I have with the Rt Hon Winston Peters. I have no vendetta with that man. He may well have a vendetta against me, and I think it's worth just rehearsing the history of why he may do so. But I have no animosity, no vendetta against the Rt Hon Winston Peters. I'm doing this tonight because I believe in democracy.
In 2005, when I was doing my job, I was making comments as a chair of a select committee. Winston Peters didn't like what I said, and he sued me for defamation. He sued TVNZ and he served Radio New Zealand in the same action. TVNZ and Radio New Zealand did nothing about it. I was aggrieved, and I went to court to have my name struck out of that defamation. I won at the High Court. He appealed it to the Court of Appeal. I won again. He re-pleaded it to the High Court, and I won on the third occasion. He ended up owing me over $100,000 in legal fees, and it was Mr Peters who had the vendetta, not me.
In closing, I just want to acknowledge something I alluded to in my earlier speech about my passion for democracy, about my loyalty to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and they wrote a quite substantial report on the influence of political parties and the impact of political party control on the exercise of parliamentary mandate. I just want to briefly read a couple of comments from their final observations and conclusion: "The parliamentary free mandate remains a cornerstone of democracy. An MP represents the nation as a whole and should act in accordance with his/her sense of what is right or wrong … Ties between MPs and the constituencies are of a political and not legal nature … Voters may hold MPs accountable only in the context of elections."
That's what democracy is about. It is not about a particular party leader taking control of its members and using them as puppets.
A party vote was called for on the question, That the Electoral (Integrity Repeal) Amendment Bill be now read a first time.
New Zealand National 54; Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 8; ACT New Zealand 1; Ross.
New Zealand Labour 46; New Zealand First 9.
Bill read a first time.
Bill referred to the Justice Committee.