The Government must reconsider amendments to the Electoral Act enabling party leaders to dismiss MPs from Parliament following today’s damning submission from leading political and legal academics, National’s Electoral Law Spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“This chorus of condemnation from such a large group of political and legal academics shows what a dog this Bill is. It is unprecedented for so many experts to come out so united against a Government electoral law change.
“These 19 academics, from five universities including seven professors, conclude that this Bill breaches the Bill of Rights.
“Their evidence is unequivocal that these electoral law changes are flawed, will harm our democracy and will give party leaders too much power. It rightly argues that voters, and voters alone, must reserve the right to hire and fire MPs through the ballot box.
“The Government would be wise to withdraw this Bill in the wake of such damning criticism. It is trying to fix a problem from 20 years ago when MMP was introduced and 25 MPs switched parties, but which has been resolved by voters ejecting the opportunists and re-electing those who did so on justifiable grounds.
“The Bill makes the flawed assumption that all MPs who fall out with their party are unprincipled and lack integrity. It undermines core Kiwi values of freedom of expression and tolerance of dissent.
“Governments must exercise restraint in electoral law changes and the convention has developed that significant changes require a supermajority. This Bill sets an awful and dangerous precedent where a party with only seven per cent support has used its leverage in government formation to force permanent changes to electoral law that undermine democracy.
“This is a crude power grab by Winston Peters to give him absolute power over his MPs in this fragile government, but which dangerously converts New Zealand into what the Inter Parliamentary Union calls a party dictatorship.
“Fundamentally this Bill is an attack on basic democratic values and centuries-old freedom of speech in our Parliament. National will oppose the Bill at every step and with every tool available.”