Commenting on speculation that the government is about to appoint former Cook Islands Party candidate Toka Hagai as a seventh cabinet minister, Francis says this will make the current political system even more costly and unfair.
“Today more than ever, political and electoral reform should be the priority of the incumbent government. Many of our leaders need to ask themselves the question ‘what does the word democracy mean’?
“The definition in the dictionary ‘Democracy is a means for the people to choose their leaders to hold their leaders accountale for policies and conduct in office’; another definition is ‘government by the people in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them or by their elected under a free electoral system’.
“Political leaders should be held to account when they manipulate the system and challenge the wishes of the people to enable them to stay in power.”
Francis adds that to appoint Hagai when he was found guilty of electoral treating goes against the principles of good governance and the country’s judicial system.
She stresses that the seventh ministerial seat should not be a political appointment as the CIP government is said to be instigating.
“The GPC pushed for an amendment to the Constitution to make this a democratically elected national seat. It enables people to have a choice for an elected member of parliament if they do not like the policies or the calibre of the people standing in their electorate.”
Francis believes Hagai’s appointment would be a political one and as such, he should not be paid a full time salary, especially when Parliament sits for less than 10 days a year. “It is hugely unfair on the taxpayers of this country to be lumbered with this extra cost that would undoubtedly exceed $100,000 per annum when it is absolutely a political whim, a strategy to try and stay in power.”
The political reformist also addressed the issue of party hopping saying when candidates stand for one political party, get voted in and then cross the floor to support another political party which causes a by-election it costs the taxpayer and the country money – “they don’t care because they don’t have to pay.”
“Political parties continue to lobby candidates who stood for another political party to cross the floor. I and a number of other people believe that there should be a stand down period. If a candidate crosses the floor, they should not be able to stand in the same constituency until the next elections. This should make them think very carefully about whether they stand for a political party or as an independent.”
The GPC also recommends that all candidates should be required to have health clearance before standing for Parliament – “because again if a candidate is not in good health it could result in a by election – it is not an unreasonable requirement.”
She pointed out that applicants for a regional positions and intergovernment organisations are required to have health clearance before being accepted for consideration. “Our political candidates should be no different.”
She says a current MP Albert Nicholas, spends a large amount of time in New Zealand because he claimed last year to be plagued with serious health problems.
Francis added since it has also been made public that Nicholas appeared in the Auckland High Court on a charge understood to involve the non-return of a rental car.
“Since the elections how many hours has this person worked in his electorate, how many days has he sat in parliament. Should this person continued to be paid a salary,” asks Francis.
She echoes the popular belief that the Constitution needs to be amended to state the actual number of days parliament is required to sit each year (currently it is only one).
“Is it fair that Members of Parliament get paid a fulltime salary when they are required to sit for only one day. They should only be paid for the number of days they sit. How many days do they work in their constituencies? How many members, and how many days do members of parliament sit on select committees?”
Francis says the lack of transparency from the current government is outrageous. She noted that a public servant was suspended on leave with pay pending an investigation and the report findings of that investigation were not pubished in full.
“This should be a requirement especially when public monies are involved. PERCA has the responsibility and mandate to investigate this and this should be a matter of priority.”