Thursday, November 18, 2004

A landmark day for New Zealand justice

The Supreme Court has delivered its first decision, and ruled against Donna Awatere-Huata. Scoop has the full judgement.

The decision rests on statutory interpretation. The Electoral Integrity Act specifies that a vacancy occurs when an MP remains in parliament after ceasing to be a member of their original party. Voting behaviour or who is responsible for the departure is irrelevant. Thus, Donna Awatere-Huata's seat is vacant. It's a very narrow and literal decision which opens the door for parties to stifle any dissent from their members with the threat of expulsion, exactly as critics of the Electoral Integrity Act feared. Our one consolation is that the Act will expire at the next election. Given this judgement, we must ensure that it is never renewed.