Winston Peters belittles Greens' approach to MMP threshold

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has taken a shot at Green MP Golriz Ghahraman over her proposed Bill to lower the threshold for parties to enter Parliament. 

While the Green Party and New Zealand First are part of the same Government coalition, the latter's leader doesn't seem to agree with the Bill proposed by the Greens on Sunday. 

Ms Ghahraman, the Greens' justice spokesperson, has proposed a Bill that would lower the threshold for parties to enter Parliament from 5 percent to 4 percent, which would make it easier for minor parties to get in. 

Lowering the threshold was recommended by an Electoral Commission review of the MMP system conducted in 2012. Justice Minister Andrew Little said the coalition Government parties have taken this into consideration. 

In addition to this, the Greens' Electoral Strengthening Democracy Bill proposes that prisoners be given the right to vote, and that Māori voters get to change which roll they are on at any time. 

When asked about the Bill on Tuesday afternoon in Parliament, Mr Peters told media he's "happy to put the Electoral Commission's review - that was junked and binned by Judith Collins - back in front of the public". 

But he seemed adamant any changes to the threshold would be put to a vote, despite Mr Little saying earlier on Tuesday that changes could be made through passing legislation in Parliament. 

"That's maybe the Labour Party's mission," Mr Peters said when that was brought to his attention. "But on this matter there have been no conversations at all with respect to where we all stand, though I expect people to understand our position."

And on the topic of letting Māori voters change which roll they are on at any time, Mr Peters took a swipe at Ms Ghahraman, a first-time MP, saying: "You've got to have some experience and think these things through."

"The ability to change seats from Māori to general whenever you feel like it, that could turn into the biggest gerrymander you've ever seen in New Zealand politics," Mr Peters said. 

Ms Ghahraman said on Sunday that Māori should be able to choose which roll they are on at any time. 

"Currently Māori can only change roll during the Māori Electoral Option, which is a short window of time once every five years. This restriction is unnecessary and removing it will help Māori participation in our democracy," she said. 

National leader Simon Bridges came out strong against the Greens' Bill on Tuesday, suggesting the party wanted to lower the threshold due to low polling. The latest Newshub-Reid Research Poll showed it on 5.1 percent, down 0.6 percent, leaving them close to the threshold. 

New Zealand First was polling much lower than the Greens, however, at 2.9 percent - up slightly but not enough to get into Parliament. But Mr Peters doesn't seem too concerned.   

"We're the only new party that's ever defended the 5 percent threshold," he said. "Why? Because we think if you can't get 5 percent you shouldn't be in Parliament." 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday that the threshold for parties to enter Parliament would not drop before the 2020 election. 


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