Editorial: Loophole for rogue MPs must close

By Scott Inglis


Does Brendan Horan deserve to stay in Parliament?

This remains a fair and important question nearly six months after New Zealand First expelled him and he became an independent list MP amid allegations of money missing from his dead mother's estate.

The controversy surrounding the money and his party's ruthless punishment of casting him into the political wilderness swirled through the media in December. But Mr Horan showed dogged determination by clinging to his parliamentary job and riding the storm.

For a number of months, he has appeared in the media at times but the argument surrounding whether he should be still walking the corridors of power has simmered.

Until now.

Prime Minister John Key has pushed the issue back into the spotlight by saying he supports moves to empower the removal of list MPs such as Mr Horan and disgraced National man Aaron Gilmore.

The Prime Minister believes there is potentially the need for a law change but says it is a complex area and not a priority.

He has heavyweight support. Labour leader David Shearer says allowing rogue MPs to stay in Parliament brings it into disrepute.

Mr Shearer's words are strong and send a clear message he feels the likes of Mr Horan should not be in their jobs because it damages Parliament's reputation.

Thursday's Bay of Plenty Times put some heat on Mr Horan over his six-figure role.

Unsurprisingly, he defends himself staunchly and the way he is carrying out his job.

Mr Horan believes he deserves to be in Parliament because he works "an easy 72 hours" a week for the people. He says he spends three out of four weeks in Parliament and the remaining week working in Tauranga and other locations.

"Work never stops. People just have no idea how much an MP works," he told us.

I find this patronising. Plenty of people work hard and earn nowhere near as much as Mr Horan.

We tried to verify his parliamentary attendance record but this information is not public. Such secrecy is astonishing given taxpayers are bankrolling their salaries. People have a right to know.

Mr Horan believes it would be a threat to democracy if list MPs were forced out of Parliament because their parties had dumped them. It would mean list MPs would be reluctant to disagree with their leader.

I have editorialised before that there must be a way of protecting reasonable freedom of speech for list MPs, while ensuring we do not end up with a situation such as this one. Surely this is not hard. I still hold this view despite Mr Horan's explanations this week.

It needs to be remembered he did not get expelled for having a different opinion to Mr Peters.

This issue might not be the biggest crisis facing the country but ensuring our MPs are in Parliament for the right reasons needs to be addressed.

I'll take Mr Horan's word for it that he's working hard. So he should be. But that doesn't mean he deserves to be there.

Mr Horan has no mandate to be in Parliament. This loophole needs to be closed.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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