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30/7/2018 — Economics, Politics and Government
Winston proving himself to voters
By Dene Mackenzie

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters has been on a roll since taking over duties from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who has been on maternity leave.

He has told Australia to change its flag, dismissed the Government's smokefree by 2050 goal and has the House laughing with him, not at him, as he demolishes National Party leader Simon Bridges - the man who replaced Peters as Tauranga MP.

The normally feisty Peters has been relatively restrained during weekly press conferences, radio interviews and on morning television programmes. It is something of a surprise for many who have only known a combative Peters in the past, skewering the media and his opposition MPs on a daily basis.

And Peters has pulled off a real coup by forcing the Green Party MPs to agree to his “waka jumping” Bill which allows for a party leader to throw MPs out of Parliament if he or she disagrees with their actions.

Peters has, in the past, been betrayed by MPs elected to Parliament only because they were part of New Zealand First. Some of them have broken away to become members of other parties or stand as independents.

The Green Party's decision to vote for the electoral law changes to allow this to happen has been widely criticised by former Green MPs and by the current party membership.

National has had a field day.

“The Greens are selling their soul for power by voting for Winston Peters' Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill which contradicts the Greens' core values,” National MP Nick Smith said.

Dr Smith is correct. Founding Green Party member and former co-leader Rod Donald described in 2001 a near identical bill as the “most draconian, obnoxious, anti-democratic, insulting piece of legislation ever inflicted on this parliament.”

Last week, the Greens decided that does not matter.

The free mandate of MPs is internationally recognised as fundamental to a parliamentary democracy. There are only a few countries with the draconian power for party leaders to dismiss MPs, including Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.

The Bill is seen by National as a cynical power grab by Peters to prop up this fragile Government. National, Act and the Greens oppose the legislation but the Greens will vote for it, saying their MPs are caught up in their confidence and supply agreement with Labour.

That is incorrect. Unless Peters has given the Greens something major in return, such as a ban on mining or oil exploration, the MPs will have sold their soul for nothing.

*Dene Mackenzie is a New Zealand political commentator.

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Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters. Source: Business Insider.