The last two weeks have been a tough time for United Future. Last week I wrote about the deregistration of the Party because it could not show that it had the necessary 500 members to be registered as a political party with the Electoral Commission. That was just the start of a turbulent period for United Future which has shown no sign of letting up and has raised questions about its long term future in Parliament.
The funding row in Parliament over whether or not United Future is still able to claim Parliamentary funding whilst a deregistered Party, should not come as a surprise to anyone. Since the Party was deregistered last week over not having enough paid members, there have been significant questions over whether or not it still qualifies for Parliamentary support. The Opposition parties certainly do not think so.
A few days ago the Speaker of the House, the Hon. David Carter was forced to make a ruling on United Future’s eligibility for assistance by Parliamentary services for running the Parliamentary wing of the Party. the calls by Opposition Members of Parliament for Peter Dunne, the sole United Future Member of Parliament and a Minister of the Crown to have his Parliamentary funding severed have steadily grown into a crescendo.
Today he made his ruling. United Future could hang onto its Parliamentary funding. He refused to release the legal advice on which his ruling was based. The result was that Parliament degenerated into one of those occasional days where decorum appeared to have been thrown out the window. Members refused to apologise for accusations and chose to take leave of the House. A whole party walked out of the House in protest. Whilst Mr Dunne thought it was all child games that the public would see through, in the absence of the legal advice being released what if the Opposition Parties were correct? What if it was in contravention of Parliament to continue allowing United Future Parliamentary funding and support?
But that is not the only problem plaguing United Future. The leader of New Zealand First, the Right Honourable Winston Peters has also raised the question of whether or not Mr Dunne leaked a report regarding New Zealand citizens who had allegedly been spied on by the Government Communications Security Bureau. Under Section 78 of the Crimes Act it is a criminal offence to release classified security information.
These are tough times to be Mr Peter Dunne, Member of Parliament for Ohariu-Belmont and Minister of the Crown. Prime Minister John Key and his ministerial colleagues might have confidence in him and so might the Speaker of the House, but what if he is actually in the wrong?