Andrew Williams is somewhat annoyed about being dumped completely from the NZ First party list. As such, he’s following in his leader’s footsteps and is lawyering up, seeking a judicial review of the party’s decision.
My immediate response, on hearing the news, was to ask what possible remedy Mr Williams is hoping to achieve? After all, once the party list has been filed with the Electoral Commission, and nominations have closed, there’s no going back. According to s 128C(2) of the Electoral Act, once we reached noon on 26 August, nomination day, no party list can be withdrawn and no further list can be lodged. There’s simply no way for a Court to order that he be substituted onto the NZ First list, even if the party did him wrong.
However, the NZ Herald reports that he’s seeking “an urgent hearing following the election” as doesn’t “wish to derail NZ First’s campaign”. So he’s not seeking, in some Don Quixote-like quest, to receive his previous unwinnable place on the list. Instead, it’s about protecting his reputation:
“I regret that I have no other option other than to take my party to court to protect my reputation.”
Which means that Williams is simply seeking a declaration that the NZ First list ranking committee breached the party’s constitution when it removed him from the list. He says:
“The manner in which I have been mistreated by the party has forced me to seek court declarations that the revocation of my electorate and list candidacies, and my removal from the party list, breached the processes in the party’s constitution for fair treatment.
There are numerous protections in the New Zealand First Constitution to ensure fair treatment, which I have not been accorded. This includes not being given an opportunity to respond to the decision to remove me from the party list.”
Williams is presumably intending to rely on clause 53 of NZ First’s Constitution, which sets out the process by which a List candidate’s candidacy can be revoked. Essentially, if the party’s Board resolves that revocation is necessary, clause 53 provides that a meeting shall be called, with the candidate to be given four days notice. The candidate is to be given the right to be heard at the meeting, following which the List Ranking Committee can essentially do whatever they like, be that confirming their place on the list, dropping them down the list or removing them entirely.
Of course, actually following clause 53 would have been somewhat problematic for NZ First. Andrew Williams went public with his attack on deputy leader Tracey Martin and her mother, the party president, on 21 August. With nomination day being 26 August, that would have meant holding a List Ranking Committee meeting the day before nomination day, at the earliest.
That’s assuming that the Board had made a decision on 21 August to review Williams’ list candidacy; if they didn’t make the decision until, say, the next morning, and meeting would then have had to be called on nomination day itself, cutting things a little fine.
And if the Board didn’t make a decision to review Williams’ candidacy until, say, 23 August? Well, you get the picture…
Frankly though, it sounds a lot of money to burn through if the sole end result is going to be a declaration in Williams’ favour. But perhaps Colin Craig’s penchant for litigation is contagious.