UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne has introduced an Electoral Amendment Bill with three main provisions:
• Making on-line party memberships permissible for party registration purposes;
• Permitting previously registered Parliamentary parties that are deregistered to submit a new registration application within 90 days, without being treated as a new political party;
• Introducing a mandatory three yearly audit by the Electoral Commission of all registered parties’ memberships to ensure that they comply with the minimum 500 member requirement.
Mr Dunne says the way the Electoral Commission chose to deal with UnitedFuture’s situation has highlighted the need for legislative change.
“My amendments are essentially modern electoral common sense that any reasonable body could have been expected to follow.
“The Electoral Commission had the capacity to address UnitedFuture’s situation pragmatically within its existing internal rules, but a combination of pig-headed legal obduracy and plain executive stupidity meant it failed to do so.
“Therefore, the law has to be changed around them,” he says.
“The new provision for a triennial membership audit is also a sensible one – at the moment the Electoral Commission has no power to check a party’s membership numbers, and has to rely on a party’s word that it has a minimum of 500 current financial members.
“Had, for example, UnitedFuture falsely signed a declaration in April that we had 500 financial members the Commission would have been none the wiser, and the subsequent course of events where we were punished for our honesty would not have arisen, which is completely absurd,” he says.
Mr Dunne says he will be submitting the Bill to the next Member’s Ballot, and he will be talking with Justice Minister Judith Collins about including its provisions in the Government’s own Electoral Amendment Bill introduced this week, in the event his bill is not drawn from the Member’s Ballot.
The Bill was prompted by UnitedFuture’s deregistration after it reported it had fewer than the 500 members required.
That motivation doesn’t in anyway detract from the common sense of the suggested provisions.
On-line registration is normal practice for many now and should be recognised for registration purposes.
An existing party shouldn’t be treated as a new one when it applies for re-registration.
It is possible that UnitedFuture was a victim of its own honesty and that other parties might have fewer than 500 members but omitted to report that to the Electoral Commission.
Five hundred members is a very low hurdle and a three-yearly audit would ensure that parties do in deed meet the minimum requirement.