New Zealand's electoral system is again coming under
examination, this time for all the reasons a lobby group
promoting a return to the ''first past the post'' voting
system said were an abomination.
Earlier this year, Epsom MP and Act New Zealand leader John
Banks found himself embroiled in controversy about alleged
donations he received from Mega- upload tycoon Kim Dotcom.
But Prime Minister John Key, himself involved in the ''cup of
tea'' saga with Mr Banks, stood by the beleaguered MP.
It is commonly believed he did so mainly because National
needs Mr Banks' support to pass some of the more
And it must be remembered that Mr Banks is an MP only because
National campaigned for the party vote in the Epsom
electorate, instead of its candidate campaigning to win the
seat in his own right (an action that itself angered MMP
This week, fresh controversy has erupted with the expulsion
of New Zealand First MP Brendan Horan from his party's
caucus, a decision which was immediately followed by the
announcement that he intended to return to Parliament and to
face his accusers.
Mr Horan was expelled from the New Zealand First caucus on
Tuesday after party leader Winston Peters said he had seen
information which left him with no confidence in Mr Horan's
ability to continue as a member of Parliament.
The information was linked to allegations by Mr Horan's
half-brother, Mana Ormsby, that Mr Horan misappropriated
money from his mother before her death in August last year.
In this case, Mr Horan was accused, judged and convicted by
Mr Peters in the House, where Mr Peters has privilege
preventing any lawsuits coming his way.
He has not repeated any of the allegations outside the
Forensic accountants have been investigating Olwen Horan's
estate since the allegations were first raised.
Mr Horan had until this week been on gardening leave, having
been told by Mr Peters to go home and sort out his troubles.
As of Tuesday, police had received no complaint about the
Nevertheless Mr Peters, himself no stranger to controversy,
decided he had seen enough evidence to convict Mr Horan.
And that is where the story starts getting complicated.
Mr Horan said he did not know what information Mr Peters had
seen, and had not had a single allegation put to him to
He felt he had not been fairly treated - and on evidence seen
so far in public, Mr Horan has a case.
Mr Horan returned to Parliament to attend the Maori select
committee meeting yesterday.
He attended briefly because he needed to meet parliamentary
staff to find a new office.
It appears Mr Horan is digging in for the long term.
Questions remain around his membership of New Zealand First
and whether he has been expelled from the party, along with
In the past, National and Labour MPs have been expelled from
caucus but have remained in Parliament and as members of
their respective parties.
One of the more serious issues to consider, apart from the
sentence arbitrarily handed out by Mr Peters, is whether any
parliamentary leader has the right to sack an MP from
There have been suggestions that the exit of Mr Horan
completely from Parliament is behind the latest furore.
If that were to be the case, it would be a dangerous
precedent to set.
Opponents of MMP say the controversy surrounding Mr Horan is
why the system should have been voted out last year.
Mr Horan only got into Parliament because of the popularity
of Mr Peters, of that there is no doubt.
And the expiry of waka-jumping legislation means Mr Horan
could remain in Parliament - and even support National, if
the mood took him.
In the meantime, he can sit in the House and collect his
salary and associated allowances.
The prospect of a judicial review looms if the forensic
examination of the accounts of Mr.
Horan fail to find any wrongdoing.
What is certain is that New Zealand First has never been far
from controversy - and that looks set to continue for the
rest of the parliamentary term.