Electoral threshold bill drawn

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 17:01 14/11/2013

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A bill that would lower the threshold for minor parties to enter Parliament and "put an end to tea party-style stitch-ups" has been drawn from the ballot.

Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway said the bill lowered the party-vote threshold from 5 per cent to 4 per cent and removed the coat-tail provision that allowed major parties to do deals with minor ones to help them into Parliament.

The Palmerston North MP's Electoral (Adjustment of Thresholds) Amendment Bill was pulled from Parliament's ballot today and seeks to implement the recommendations of the Electoral Commission review held after the MMP referendum.

"It removes the incentive for the kind of deal [Prime Minister] John Key is preparing to stitch up with [Conservative Party leader] Colin Craig in the new Upper Harbour seat in Auckland," he said.

"The current regime has been a disaster for democracy. It has delivered us Rodney Hide, John Banks, Peter Dunne and now Colin Craig.

"People are sick of these cosy political deals designed to circumvent our democratic system."

The bill's explanatory note points to the 2008 election, when then ACT leader Hide won the Epsom seat, and with 3.6 per cent of the party vote took four list MPs with him.

NZ First won 4.1 per cent of the party vote but did not win an electorate seat, so ended up having no MPs.

"That is why reducing the threshold from 5 per cent to 4 per cent, at the same time as removing the one-electoral-seat threshold, makes good sense," Lees-Galloway said.

The Government has refused to take the recommendations to the House, citing a lack of political consensus.

The bill is topical as Key has indicated he would do a deal with Craig to help him win an electorate seat to give National a support party in Parliament.

National has previously helped ACT leader Banks and UnitedFuture leader Dunne by not campaigning aggressively in their electorates or giving them implicit support, such as Key's infamous cup of tea with Banks before the last election.

Lees-Galloway acknowledged he would probably struggle to get support for the bill.

"There's no need for consensus here. Political parties just need to vote according to what they think is right," he said.

"I think they'll have a tough time explaining to the public why they think opposing this legislation is the right thing to do."

Dunne said he had not seen the bill but supported the Electoral Commission's recommendation of a lower threshold.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said the Greens supported lowering the threshold.

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"We've been very supportive of removing the coat-tailing clause and lowering the threshold to 4 per cent, which was, of course, what the independent umpire, the Electoral Commission, recommended but the National Party rejected for puerile ... electoral reasons basically," he said.

"The National Party wants electoral advantage out of the current rules."

As the bill was based on the recommendation of the commission, all parties should support it unless there was a good reason not to, he said.

"And, of course, the reason why the National Party don't want to support this legislation is called Colin Craig," he said.

NZ First leader Winston Peters, who has previously said he did not support lowering the threshold, said he would support the bill at its first reading.

- Stuff

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