Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has failed to tell the truth to either the public or Parliament’s Speaker over whether his MPs have signed a $300,000 obligation contract, National’s spokesperson for Electoral Law Nick Smith says.
“Mr Peters repeatedly told the public a month ago that all NZ First MPs had signed a $300,000 resignation obligation contract as required by their party’s rules.
“He has now told Parliament’s Speaker that no NZ First MP has signed a resignation obligation contract so as to avoid a Privileges Committee hearing into a breach of Parliament’s rules over disclosure of financials interests.
“This dodgy and dishonest conduct by the Deputy PM strikes at the heart of public trust in Government and Parliament. It is reminiscent of the Owen Glenn affair in 2008 when Mr Peters was caught out for blatantly lying over whether he had received a $100,000 donation that led to a finding of contempt by the Privileges Committee, his resignation as Foreign Minister and his party being banished from Parliament by voters.
“It is difficult to ascertain the truth over these contracts. NZ First MPs put themselves in the position of either breaching their own party rules or Parliament’s rules. I suspect the MPs have cynically decided to deny the existence of the contracts because breaking Parliament’s rules would result in a damaging Privileges Committee hearing and deferral of the Waka Hopping Bill whereas nothing will happen from them breaking their own Party’s rules.
“This issue exposes how dodgy the NZ First Party is. Mr Peters has effectively told the Speaker that all its MPs are in breach of Article 57 of the NZ First Party’s constitution. The conduct paints a dangerous picture of Mr Peters and his MPs believing they are above the rule of law. This is deeply concerning for a party that is at the centre of New Zealand’s current Government.
“I am disappointed that the Speaker has not referred this serious matter to the Privileges Committee. It is clear there is a matter of privilege and the key issue is whether or not the contracts were signed on which there is now contradictory evidence. Speaker Mallard’s decision contradicts Speaker’s ruling 206/2 that the role of the Speaker is determining whether there is a matter of privilege and determining the validity of evidence is a matter for the Privileges Committee. Mr Peters denied receiving the $100,000 Owen Glenn donation but that still led Speaker Wilson in August 2008 referring the matter to the Privileges Committee.
“This saga over these outrageous contracts and the draconian NZ First Party rules just adds controversy to the debate over the ironically named Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill. The convention is that electoral law changes are only made with broad parliamentary support. Here we have significant electoral law changes enabling a party leader to sack a democratically elected MP being passed with a bare majority, the Greens saying the Bill is undemocratic and draconian and NZ First MPs compromised by their party rules creating a personal financial interest in its passage.”
1. Privileges complaint to Speaker Mallard 16 August 2018
2. Speaker’s response 12 September 2018
3. Rt Hon. Winston Peters public statements on NZ First contracts
4. Article 57h NZ First Party constitution
The Government must restart the appointment process for a third time for the Chief Technology Officer after the debacle of secret emails and meetings involving candidate Derek Handley, Nationals State Services Spokesman Nick Smith says.
“The process of appointing the CTO is so tainted that the Government needs to start again. You cannot have one candidate having secret meetings and emails with the Minister without creating inherent unfairness in the process.
“Confirmation today that the Prime Minister also had private communications and meetings with Mr Handley further adds to the suspicions of a politically biased appointment process.
“Today’s refusal by State Services Minister Chris Hipkins to answer any question in Parliament on the secret emails from Clare Curran and on whether Mr Handley was offered the job completely contradicts the Coalition Government’s commitment to be the most open and transparent Government ever.
“The Government is hiding its dodgy dealings over this appointment where it has let political favouritism override securing the best person for the job.
It is concerning that the key industry bodies of both IT Professionals NZ and NZ Tech have lost confidence in the process. They have described any appointment now from this shoddy process as a ‘dead duck’ reinforcing the need for it to be redone.
“The CTO is the flagship of the Government’s IT policy and is budgeted to cost the taxpayer over $500,000 per year. It is a sign of the shambles of this Government that a third try at the appointment process is required to deliver this simple policy.”
NZ First MP Darroch Ball’s claim that it can introduce a binding referendum on removing the Māori seats from a Bill that entrenches them is false and dishonest, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“Standing Orders 292 (1) and 302 (2) are very clear that any amendment must be consistent with the principles and objects of the Bill. It has been confirmed by the Clerk’s Office that an amendment to require a binding referendum to remove the Māori electorate seats is out of scope and cannot be considered.
“They also ignore the fact that the sponsor of the Bill, Rino Tirikatene, has said he would withdraw the bill as he has the right to do it if it became a vehicle for dispensing with the Māori electorate seats.
“A simple reading of the Standing Orders or call to the Clerk’s Office would have confirmed that NZ First’s amendment is impossible. This is just a ruse for the hypocrisy of NZ First campaigning to scrap the Māori seats but then voting for a bill to entrench them.
“The behaviour of Labour and NZ First over this Bill on entrenchment of the Māori seats has everything to do with political posturing and nothing to do with improving our electoral law.
“Labour and Mr Tirikatene knows the Bill cannot pass but is wanting to use it as a pretence for advancing the case of Māori. NZ First and Mr Ball is playing to an anti-Māori constituency pretending the Bill will enable them to scrap the separate Māori seats. The only thing that is being achieved is exposing how deeply divided the government is on such a fundamental issue as Māori representation in Parliament."
Click here for advice from Office of the Clerk
NZ First has set new standards in hypocrisy in campaigning to abolish the Māori seats but now voting for a Bill that entrenches them, National’s Electoral law spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“NZ First MP’s are total hypocrites. You cannot go to the electorate promising to abolish the Māori Seats and then vote for a Bill that entrenches them.
“The NZ First policy to abolish the Māori seats was announced as a bottom line of the party by Winston Peters who described them as ‘separatism’, that they ‘had had their day’ and ‘had to go’.
“Mr Peters stated in April ‘That entrenching the Māori seats was not part and parcel of any coalition agreement’ and Shane Jones ruled out voting for it saying ‘I don’t know anyone in our caucus who is going to vote for the entrenchment.’
“NZ First has attempted to hide it’s nakedness on this issue with a fig leaf claiming it will introduce an amendment to the Bill providing a referendum on abolition. This is out of scope under Parliament’s rules and prohibited.
“The only conclusion New Zealanders can draw on this disgraceful back flip from NZ First is that you cannot trust a word that Mr Peters or his party says and something that is becoming increasingly true of the entire Government. They will say whatever it takes to get votes and do whatever it takes to stay in power.”
The Government’s decision to remove performance pay for public sector CEOs will lead to higher CEO salaries, remove incentives for good performance and reduce accountability, National’s State Services Spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“The Cabinet paper outlining the details of the decision to remove performance based pay for CEOs in the public sector reveals that CEOs will not have their salaries cut. Instead, the overall pay packets will increase to offset the cut in performance pay.
“Instead of missing out on the performance element of their pay, Public Sector CEOs will simply have the performance based component of their remuneration rolled into their guaranteed salary. This does nothing more than remove the incentive to perform well.
“The Coalition Government has been completely duplicitous by spinning this announcement like it was reining in state sector pay. But in reality they are simply paying these CEOs the same, and in some cases more, while reducing any incentive for them to perform well.
“The Government will now pay bad CEOs the same as good CEOs. This makes no sense and will lead to a worse performing Public Sector.
“It was also disingenuous of the Minister to hide the fact that all Chief Executives would be given an extra week’s holiday. The taxpayer is effectively being asked to pay more for less.
“The unions believe everyone should be paid the same, regardless of their performance. That attitude is now being embedded in the state sector and it shows the dangerous direction the Government is headed in when it comes to its industrial relations reforms.
“This is another example of the Government reducing accountability. They have already axed the Better Public Services targets, and removed specific performance targets for DHBs and Police which were leading to better results for New Zealanders.
“The Public Sector needs more accountability and better incentives, not less.”
Revelations that Government MPs are required to sign a legally enforceable contract meaning they must pay $300,000 if they do not follow their Leader’s instruction is an affront to our parliamentary democracy, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“The 2016 amendment to NZ First’s constitution states its MPs must pay damages of $300,000 if they personally disagree with Winston Peters, turning them into indentured workers with an extraordinary price tag hanging over their heads.
“It means every time an NZ First MP votes or comments on an issue, they have 300,000 reasons why they should just parrot Winston Peters and not to speak out even if doing so would be in the public’s best interests.
“This is abhorrent. These types of contracts are illegal in other workplaces and would be unconstitutional in most democratic countries, so why are they at the core of our current Government? They turn elected representatives into puppets of a party leader who is now attempting to impose the same restrictions on free speech on Parliament’s other MPs, in spite of universal opposition to the Waka Jumping Bill.
“It is a sad commentary on the NZ First Party and Mr Peters that such draconian contracts are required to maintain caucus discipline – and now to keep the Government together.
“It also contradicts Mr Peters’ previous hollow position that MPs ‘have to be free to follow their conscience. They were elected to represent their constituents, not to swear an oath of blind allegiance to a political party’.
“The contracts were revealed after I was contacted by a concerned NZ First source who advised that all NZ First MPs had signed them except Mr Peters.
“NZ First must publicly release the full details of these contracts, outlined in article 57 (h) of its constitution, so the public can see the restrictions imposed on its elected MPs. This is even more important with NZ First playing such a pivotal role in the current Government.
“Disclosure is also required to be consistent with the Government’s pledge to be the most open and transparent ever, a claim looking increasingly ridiculous when even the Minister responsible for Mr Peters’ Waka Jumping Bill, Andrew Little, had no idea about the clause.
“That’s despite his legislation increasing the legal weight given to party rules and his acknowledgement that MPs should be able to do their job with being subjected to such restrictions.
“New Zealand needs MPs who are not bound by orders or instructions but whose responsibility is to act as representatives of the people.
“The existence of these contracts opens the question as to whether New Zealand needs additional protection to prevent its parliamentary democracy from being manipulated by these sorts of oppressive contracts.”
The Government’s decision to defer the consideration of the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill this week gives the Green Party another opportunity to rediscover its principles and reject this draconian Bill, National’s Electoral Law Reform spokesperson Dr Nick Smith says.
“National’s strong opposition to this Bill has forced the Government to back down on passing it this week. This opens a window of opportunity for the Green Party at their conference in Palmerston North this weekend to do what’s right, stay true to its values and vote this anti-democratic Bill down.
“Winston Peters’ Waka Jumping Bill was set down for a third reading last week, but the Bill did not make it to that stage. It was then set down for passage this week, but it has been moved from the first Government Order of the Day to the tenth on the Order Paper. This means the Bill will not now be considered until Parliament resumes in September.
“The Green Party is risking its survival in voting for a Bill that it describes as ‘a threat to democracy’ and ‘anti-democratic’. By voting for a Bill that breaches the Bill of Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights it is making an absolute mockery of its professed ‘advocacy for human rights’.
“The Green Party cannot justify voting for this Bill because of its Confidence and Supply agreement. Co-leader James Shaw has said that the benefit of the arrangement is that the party doesn’t have to vote for bills it opposes. So why are they voting for this?
“The Greens need to reassert their values as a party that stands up for free speech, respect for dissenting views and democracy.
“National is prepared to work with the Greens on any amendment that will reduce the harm to New Zealand’s democracy from this draconian Bill. We have drafted many amendments that limit its application, increase the judicial checks, raise the bar for MP dismissal and introduce sunset clauses.
“The Green Party conference this weekend needs to send a message to their MPs to stay principled. They need to find their voice on this Bill and just say no.”
The use of extended sitting hours to ram through controversial electoral law is an abuse of parliamentary processes and will continue the downward spiral of free speech in New Zealand National’s electoral law spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“This morning the Government, without agreement of the Business Committee and without debate in Parliament, will attempt to shove through their draconian, free speech limiting waka-jumping bill.
“The use of extended sitting hours, normally reserved for Treaty and other technical bills that have full support of the Parliament, makes a mockery of their claim to be the most ‘open and transparent’ Government in history.
“The sham of the Parliamentary process is not just that it is being passed under extended hours, but that the Government is blocking debate to serious amendments.
“Many submitters and New Zealanders see a clear distinction between constituency MPs who are directly elected and do not want party leaders having the power to dismiss them from Parliament. The Government refused to allow this to be debated.
“The breadth and depth of opposition to this constitutionally significant bill is a worry to all New Zealanders who value free speech, tolerance of dissent and democracy.
“The Attorney General himself has described the law as having a ‘chilling effect’ on the free speech of MPs, and the attempt to push the law through using pseudo-urgency is shocking.
“Critics also include 21 electoral law experts from four of our universities, editorials from journalists in all of New Zealand’s main cities, the Legislative Advisory Committee, the youth wings of the Labour, Green, National and Act parties, past and present Green Party MPs, former Speakers and even the Clerk of the House.
“This continues a worrying recent pattern of attack on free speech in New Zealand.
“The National Party will fight this law every step of the way. I’m calling on just four Green MPs to show the courage of their convictions, reject this ‘dead rat’, and put an end to the law their very own leader calls ‘a threat to democracy’.”
The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill will pass its second reading today with the support of the Green Party even after it has become clear that their support is not required under the confidence and supply agreement with Labour, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“The Green Party position over this Bill sets a new low in parliamentary integrity. Co-Leader Marama Davidson says this Bill is undemocratic, a threat to democracy and that it goes against the Green Parties principles and its policy. And yet they are voting for it.
“The Greens justified their support of the Bill by saying that it is part of the supply and confidence agreement with Labour and that they had to.
“This is patently untrue, with leaked advice from the cabinet office outlining that it, in fact, was not part of the agreement and that the Greens are at liberty to oppose the legislation.
“Late last year Green Party Co-Leader James Shaw stated the advantage of the supply and confidence agreement was that ‘Green MPs won’t vote for anything they don’t agree with.’ Ten months down the track that this is exactly what is happening here.
“This betrayal of core values could not be more serious. Founding Green Co-Leader Rod Donald said of the same bill in 2001 that it was ‘the most draconian, obnoxious, anti-democratic, insulting piece of legislation every inflicted on this parliament’, yet is now to become law with the Green Party votes.
“I call on Green members throughout the country to encourage their MPs to at least vote for our amendments that add a sunset clause and greater judicial checks which would lighten the dark stain this Bill will leave on the Green Party’s integrity.
“It is also not too late for the Greens to do the right thing and pull their support for the Bill, retain their integrity to their principles and voters and choose not to ‘swallow the dead rat’.”
The Government’s actions today, blocking the public release of the Justice Select Committee draft report on the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill, shows the extent it will go to hide critical advice on the Bill, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Dr Nick Smith says.
“This Government is going to unprecedented lengths to hide critical advice and the poor process on this Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill because it exposes just how bad this undemocratic Bill is for New Zealand’s democracy.”
Labour members of the Justice Select Committee blocked a report on the Bill being published last Thursday and the Government today in Parliament denied leave for the draft report prepared by the Clerk’s Office to be tabled, earning a rebuke from the Speaker.
“These actions come on top of the Government reversing years of practice, by refusing to release officials’ advice on the Bill’s compliance with the Bill of Rights,” Dr Smith says.
“We also had the very unusual situation of the select committee unanimously inviting these officials to appear before the committee who then refused to attend.
“The devious ways this Government has blocked the publication of reports and advice on this Bill makes a complete mockery of its commitment to be the most open and transparent Government ever.
“It is bad enough that this Government is undoing a 330-year-old principle that voters alone get to fire MPs, by giving this power to party leaders, but it is even worse that it is doing so through a dodgy process and against the views of the majority of Parliament.”