Thursday, May 03, 2018

Fitzsimons on the Electoral Integrity Bill

Over on The Spinoff, former Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says her piece on Winston Peter's waka-jumping bill, and calls it a bad solution to a non-existent problem:

The main argument advanced for the Bill, in fact its stated purpose, is to maintain proportionality of political party representation … as determined by electors. This elevates a bureaucratic structure – the party – above the principles it stands for.

Political parties exist to give form to a set of (hopefully) coherent ideas, policies and processes which together make up its platform. This is what voters vote for, along with confidence (or not) in the representatives themselves. Proportionality in the representation of ideas, policies and political philosophy is a worthy goal as voters’ wishes, in a democracy, should be supreme. However parties do not always ensure that. Major unsignalled changes in policy by parties have led to a number of the realignments of members in order to better represent their constituents and their consciences – notably the move to neo-liberalism in 1985; division over war in Afghanistan in 2002; the Foreshore and Seabed legislation in 2004. The Bill is founded on the idea that parties are always right, and dissidents always wrong. 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.

And she's entirely right. This is a stupid bill, which exists primarily to protect Winston Peters from embarrassment (and the government from falling) if his MP's defect again. It should be withdrawn or voted down. Unfortunately, by entering a tight support agreement and accepting Ministerial positions, the Greens have put themselves in a position where it will be very difficult for them to do the right thing. So they'll probably end up paying the price for Labour and Winston's control freakery.