Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill

Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill

Government Bill

6—1

Explanatory note

General policy statement

This Bill amends the Electoral Act 1993 in order to enhance public confidence in the integrity of the electoral system by upholding the proportionality of political party representation in Parliament as determined by electors. The Bill provides for a member to vacate their seat in Parliament if they choose to give notice to the Speaker of their ceasing parliamentary membership of the party for which they were elected. The Bill also provides for a vacancy to occur if the member’s party leader gives notice that the leader reasonably believes that the member’s actions have distorted, and are likely to continue to distort, the proportionality of political party representation in Parliament, as determined at the last general election. It is not compulsory for the party leader to give the notice that leads to a vacancy under this Bill. The giving of notice to the Speaker is at the leader’s discretion, which means the leader can take into account the circumstances and their party’s own rules.

Departmental disclosure statement

The Ministry of Justice is required to prepare a disclosure statement to assist with the scrutiny of this Bill. The disclosure statement provides access to information about the policy development of the Bill and identifies any significant or unusual legislative features of the Bill.

Clause by clause analysis

Clause 1 is the Title clause.

Clause 2 is the commencement clause, and provides that the Bill comes into force on the day after the date on which it receives the Royal assent.

Clause 3 states that the Bill amends the Electoral Act 1993 (the principal Act).

Clause 4 amends section 55, which sets out when the seat of a member of Parliament becomes vacant. The amendment provides that the seat of a member of Parliament will also become vacant when the member ceases, under new section 55A, to be a parliamentary member of a political party for which he or she was elected.

Clause 5 of the Bill inserts new sections 55AAB to 55E.

New section 55AAB sets out the purposes of new sections 55A to 55E.

New section 55A applies to all members of Parliament other than members who were elected as independent members. The seat of a member of Parliament to whom this section applies becomes vacant if the member ceases to be a parliamentary member of the political party for which the member was elected. A member ceases to be a parliamentary member of the political party for which the member was elected only if—

  • the member delivers to the Speaker a written notice that complies with new section 55B (which is a notice indicating that the member has resigned from parliamentary membership of the political party to which he or she was elected or wishes to be recognised for parliamentary purposes as either an independent member of Parliament or a member of another political party); or

  • the parliamentary leader of the political party for which the member of Parliament was elected delivers to the Speaker a written notice that complies with new section 55C.

New section 55B sets out the formal requirements for a notice issued by a member of Parliament to the Speaker.

New section 55C sets out the formal requirements for a notice issued by the parliamentary leader of a political party to the Speaker.

New section 55D sets out the procedure that must be followed before a notice can be issued by the leader of a political party to the Speaker. In order to be effective, a notice from the parliamentary leader of a political party must be accompanied by a statement in writing, signed by that leader, indicating that the parliamentary leader reasonably believes that the member of Parliament concerned has acted in a way that has distorted, and is likely to continue to distort, the proportionality of political party representation in Parliament as determined at the last general election.

The statement must also indicate that the parliamentary leader has delivered to the member of Parliament concerned written notice—

  • informing the member that the parliamentary leader considers that the relevant provisions apply to the member, and the reasons for that opinion; and

  • advising the member that he or she has 21 working days from the date of receiving the notice to respond to the matters raised in the notice by notice in writing addressed to the parliamentary leader.

Additionally, the statement must indicate that, after consideration of the conduct of the member and his or her response (if any) by the parliamentary members of the political party for which the member was elected, the parliamentary leader of that party confirms that at least two-thirds of the parliamentary members of that party agree that notice should be given by the parliamentary leader under new section 55A(3)(b).

Finally, the statement must confirm that all other requirements imposed by the rules of the political party for which the member was elected that relate to the giving of a notice under new section 55A(3)(b) have been complied with, or that the party’s rules impose no such further requirements.

New section 55E sets out definitions of the terms parliamentary leader and political party for which the member of Parliament was elected.

New sections 55AAB to 55E reinstate in the principal Act the operative provisions of the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Act 2001, which expired at the close of 17 September 2005. Those provisions were considered by the Supreme Court in Prebble & Ors v Huata [2005] 1 NZLR 289. In that case, the Supreme Court decided that the leader of the ACT party could deliver a notice to the Speaker under section 55A(3)(b) to create a vacancy in the seat of Donna Awatere Huata, who was no longer a member of the ACT party, but whose status for parliamentary purposes was as an independent member. The Supreme Court ruled that the leader of the ACT party had reasonable grounds for belief that the proportionality of political party representation was distorted when a member of Parliament continued to serve in Parliament after ceasing to be a member of the political party for which she was elected (the ACT party).

Clause 6 amends section 133 so that if, after a petition has been presented against the return of a member representing an electoral district, his or her seat becomes vacant under either section 55 or new section 55A, the vacancy is not filled until after the petition has been dealt with.