Under cover of the Budget, the Justice and Electoral Select Committee have reported back [PDF] on the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill. And their recommendation is quite clear: that the bill be dumped. The majority of the committee were convinced by the arguments of those who submitted against the bill (nine out of fifteen submissions; three of the rest being opposed to its application to electorate MPs) that it was unnecessary and would lead to the tyranny of parties over their MPs. They further added
There is simply no evidence to support a view that the passage of the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Act 2001 improved public confidence in the institution of Parliament. Effective remedies for untrustworthy conduct by Members of Parliament are already in the hands of voters quite apart from such legislation. In the MMP era, the voters have shown very little patience with MPs and political parties which have failed to keep faith with their electors. By far the most effective remedy for such behaviour lies with the voters.
I'm glad to see our elected representatives have such confidence in us. But snarky comments aside, I agree entirely with this conclusion. Party splits are a natural part of the political process, and I would rather leave it to voters than interested party leaders to decide who left who and who has really betrayed the ideals and the people they were elected to represent.
Unfortunately, this may not mean the bill dies. The report represents the views of the National and Green members of the committee, while the Labour members entered their own minority report. As they were bound to - after all, their confidence and supply agreement with NZ First [PDF] commits them to "support the re-introduction of the Electoral Integrity Act". This will likely require them to vote for it at the second reading as well, despite any qualms they may have, and with NZ First also supporting it (its their peculiar obsession, after all), and with the Greens, Maori Party, National and (ironically) ACT firmly against, it seems that it will come down to the three votes of United Future. And that is by no means guaranteed. Peter Dunne voted against the original Electoral Integrity Act in 2001, on the grounds that electorate MPs should not be shackled in this manner. He repeated those concerns in his first reading speech (scroll down) on the present bill, but voted it to committee anyway for further consideration. Now the committee has turned it down, hopefully he will vote against it again, and see this undemocratic legislation rejected permanently.