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Electoral Integrity Bill Unnecessary, Ineffective

MEDIA STATEMENT
For Immediate Release

Rt Hon Simon Upton

22nd December 1999

ELECTORAL INTEGRITY BILL UNNECESSARY AND INEFFECTIVE

The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill introduced into Parliament by the Government today bears all the hallmarks of a populist measure that makes no constitutional sense according to senior Opposition spokesperson, Simon Upton.

"The Bill requires an MP who resigns from a party to vacate his or her seat. But the Bill only applies if the MP resigns. If they are ejected from their party, they can stay on in Parliament. Or if they decide to found a new party but not formally resign from their old one, they are also safe.

"The result is that the measure would only apply to an MP who had the integrity to be up-front and formally resign.

"That is what Mr Anderton did during the term of the last Labour Government. He is now party to a measure that would deny others that course - unless they could provoke their old party to expel them or not be straightforward about their actions.

"In trying to avoid a draconian measure that placed the power of ejection in the hands of party bosses, the new Government has produced an unworkable and unenforceable measure."

Mr Upton said that there was no need for the measure: voters were well able to pass judgment on the actions and motives of MPs who decided to change parties. The two original Green MPs and Mr Anderton were living proof of that - just as the ex NZ First MPs and Alamein Kopu were politically moribund proof of the same point.

He also questioned the priority accorded this measure in contrast to the result of the referendum to reduce the number of MPs to 100.

"It has to be asked why Labour would promote this Bill when a much clearer mandate to reduce the number of MPs will be swept under the carpet as part of a select committee's review of MMP. This should be every bit as much a part of the review. To deal with it separately is a blatantly populist move."

Mr Upton said that the events of the last three years had more to do with the inevitable tensions of adjusting to MMP than anything else. People and parties had been elected who were quite unprepared for the environment in which they found themselves. The fracturing of NZ First and the Alliance had probably been inevitable, but there was no evidence to suggest that there would be a repetition of those events.

"The fact is that, on relatively rare occasions, parties will splinter and re-group. That is part of the life of a mature democracy. No persuasive reason has been advanced to frustrate that - particularly with a measure that can in any case be easily avoided."

ENDS


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