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Anderton Defends Electoral Integrity Bill

Jim Anderton won't have a bar of suggestions that he's changed his tune on an MP's right to vote against their party in Parliament.

He says MPs are elected to honour their pre-election policies, and the Government is putting the Electoral Integrity Bill into law to make sure that is what they do.

"Anyone who is against this Bill wants to be able to say one thing before an election and do another thing after it," Jim Anderton said.

Critics of the Bill say MPs such as Jim Anderton who left their parties on a point of principle would be unfairly excluded from parliament for taking their stand. But Jim Anderton rejects the criticism, saying he would have kept his seat in parliament under the proposed Electoral Integrity Bill.

In 1988 Jim Anderton refused to vote for the fourth Labour Government's asset sales programme, which breached Labour's manifesto commitment not to sell publicly-owned assets.

"Labour could not have kicked me out for refusing to vote for asset sales. I went to the New Zealand Council of the Labour Party at the time, and won my case.

"The only way an MP can be excluded from a party under the proposed Bill is if they resign by writing to the Speaker, or if the Party goes through a process that culminates in the Leader writing to the Speaker. Before the Leader can give the Speaker that advice, the MP would have the opportunity to respond to the case against him or her. It is implicit that parties would have to act within their own rules, which in turn would have to comply with Standing Orders and general law.

"The idea that a leader could just turn up to caucus one day and fire an MP from Parliament by caucus vote is wrong, and it is misinformation for critics to suggest it would work that way. Of course the issue would be different if an MP just turned up and said 'I don't care what policy I got elected on – I am going to vote however I want'. But that is exactly the behaviour New Zealanders are sick of.

"In my case, I was excluded from the Parliamentary caucus for refusing to vote in breach of the manifesto. That would not have been sufficient grounds to remove me from Parliament under the proposed Bill," Jim Anderton said.

Ends

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