National Party 'prepared to work with the Greens' to repeal 'waka-jumping' legislation

Green Party co-leader James Shaw and National leader Todd Muller.
Green Party co-leader James Shaw and National leader Todd Muller. Photo credit: Getty

The National Party is "prepared to work with the Greens" to repeal New Zealand First's 'waka-jumping' legislation that enables political party leaders to dismiss MPs. 

The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill, also known as the 'waka jumping' Bill, was passed into law in September 2018. Introducing and passing the legislation is part of Labour and New Zealand First's coalition agreement. 

It passed with begrudging support from the Green Party despite speaking out against similar legislation in the early 2000s. But there is now a chance to repeal it and National is calling on the Greens for support. 

National MP David Carter introduced a Members' Bill in October 2018 that would reverse the 'waka jumping' legislation. On Thursday, it was pulled from the ballot, meaning it will be read in Parliament. 

Carter, who plans to retire after the September election, said he never agreed with the 'waka jumping' legislation when it passed.

"No credible democracy should ever give the power to party leaders to dismiss elected Members of Parliament because they don't agree with the leader. It is an affront to democracy," he said. 

"The public expects elected members to advocate strongly without fear of being punished by their leaders for expressing different views."

He said the Greens "went against their principles and betrayed their core values" by voting for the legislation. 

Carter said National and the Greens could work together to repeal the legislation. 

"National is prepared to work with the Greens on ensuring my Member's Bill passes. Hopefully the Greens will reassert their values as a party that stands up for free speech, respect for dissenting views and democracy."

Green Party co-leader James Shaw suggested his party might vote for Carter's Bill.

"Our caucus hasn't had a chance to review the legislation yet or make a decision, but obviously we've had a 20-year position against the party-hopping Bill and I would imagine that we would vote accordingly."

During the legislation's second reading in August 2018, Green MP Golriz Ghahraman highlighted the difficult situation the Greens were in. 

"The difficult decision on this bill is not typical of the kinds of decisions that we've had to make in joining this Government. What does make this decision uniquely difficult is the strong competing principles," Ghahraman said. 

"The competing principle is that the Green Party is now committed to this new, multi-party Government, built on the merging of three parties' priorities in the first truly multi-party MMP Government."

The 'waka jumping' legislation also stops MPs from being able to switch political parties. 

A similar law was passed in 2001 but it expired in 2005. That meant prior to September 2018, there was no requirement for MPs to leave Parliament if they defected. 

Defecting elected MPs now have to hold a by-election to hang on to their seat. List MPs don't have that option - they have to leave their seat and the next person on the party list would take their place.