The waka jumping law was one of the dead rats that New Zealand First forced Labour and the Green Party to swallow in the previous government.
It’s a rat for which Labour has now developed a taste:
Labour will vote against a proposed repeal of the Waka Jumping law, killing off any chances of removing the controversial law.
The Waka Jumping or ‘party hopping’ law allows parliamentary parties to remove their own MPs from Parliament in some circumstances, meaning party leaders and caucuses have the power not just to expel MPs from their own party, but from Parliament itself.
It was passed with much controversy last term after NZ First won agreement for it in the party’s coalition agreement with Labour. The Green Party, who have long opposed such laws, swallowed the “dead rat” and voted for the law – as the party believed it was bound to honour Labour’s obligation to NZ First. . .
The Green Party’s disquiet with the law remained, and in the final months before last year’s election it backed a National Party members’ bill by Nick Smith which sought to repeal the law.
At that point before the election National and the Greens had enough votes together to pass bills, so the bill passed the first of the three readings it would need to become law.
But at the election Labour won an outright majority, meaning no bill can pass if Labour votes against them.
Labour had voted against repeal at the first reading, but openly mulled a change in position following the election.
However a report from the Justice Select Committee which considered the bill makes clear that Labour’s opposition to repeal remains – with the Labour-majority committee voting to recommend the bill not be passed.
Labour MP and Justice Select Committee chair Ginny Andersen said the committee members heard no compelling new case to repeal the law.
She said the “proportionality” of Parliament – basically the fact that the number of MPs in Parliament roughly corresponds to the number of party votes they received – was important.
“The proportionality of Parliament is important, that’s why we have MMP, maintaining that is important.”
“The Labour members on the committee all agreed that this is an important principle – the idea of proportionality. It helps maintain public confidence.” . .
If proportionality was really the issue then Labour would be addressing the way a by-election can upset it if it’s won by a candidate from a different party than the one that held the seat before the election.
That’s what happened in Northland when National’s Mike Sabin resigned and Winston Peters won the by-election.
To maintain proportionality, National ought to have got another list MP. Instead another NZ First list MP came into parliament completely upsetting proportionality by leaving National with one MP fewer and the opposition with one more.
Labour didn’t make a murmur then and raising proportionality to oppose repeal of the waka jumping legislation is a feeble excuse not a valid reason.
It does however, beg a question – what makes Labour so unsure about the loyalty of its caucus that it isn’t prepared to bury the dead rat this term when it swallowed it so reluctantly last term?