Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: MMP Review: Trusting Voters

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  • Graeme Edgeler,

    I was about to comment that I realised this was a change from the position I took in my submission, but actually, it doesn't differ as much as I thought:

    67. Again, it can be argued that this power is already in the hands of party members. If party members wish to exercise greater control over list ranking, internal amendments can be proposed to party constitutions and list ranking procedures; if enough party members agree, the question can be forced and if necessary, internal party elections can be fought over the issue: increased power over list ranking is party members’ to take. However, this is one instance where I am not sure that the political marketplace is sufficient. The benefits in terms of increased party accountability, and a decreased reliance on the patronage of party leadership, that should flow from moving list ranking powers away from party structures to broader party membership accrue to all, including those who vote for other parties. It was partly for this reason that the Royal Commission recommended the rule that became s 71 of the Electoral Act in the first place: we all have an interest in all the political parties contesting our elections operating in a democratic manner, and additional party democracy is something that we may legitimately require.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    If we want to help the market, we could require parties to disclose the exact method used to order their list, so that voters can decide for themselves whether it is democratic enough for them.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1716 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis,

    If we want to help the market, we could require parties to disclose the exact method used to order their list, so that voters can decide for themselves whether it is democratic enough for them.

    The constitutions of all registered political parties (including their candidate selection rules) are available here, in accordance with s.71B of the Electoral Act: http://www.elections.org.nz/rules/parties/registration/registered-political-parties.html

    If you mean more than this - i.e., "why exactly did NZ First place Brendan Horan sixth on its list?" - then I guess you'll need to join NZ First and take part in the process for yourself!

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Love, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    The constitutions of all registered political parties (including their candidate selection rules) are available here, in accordance with s.71B of the Electoral Act

    That is true, but it is a relatively obscure place and the actual list selection information is buried in among all the other party rules.

    I think it would be better if it there was a more transparent and accessible reporting of the procedures used by the parties. Perhaps, when the lists are published at election-time, a declaration of how the list was generated should be included with the list.

    On the other hand, Graeme, is right. If parties just do this, and voters really care, then those parties that don't will be punished at election time. So the onus is really on those parties who think that they will be advantaged by more transparency. The difficulty (and point of failure of this sort of market) will be if no party thinks they will be advantaged by such moves. Which is when you need your market to be regulated...

    Since Jun 2009 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Idiot Savant,

    we could require parties to disclose the exact method used to order their list, so that voters can decide for themselves whether it is democratic enough for them.

    We could. And as Andrew points out, we do.

    But I'm not sure the market needs that help. "Party Z is so secretive they won't even tell you how their list is selected, why would you vote for them?" seems a reasonable line of attack. And given this is politics, someone could easily go all Harry Reid on them: "I've been told by a highly placed source that List Candidate W only got a high list placing because of Q."

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • Clarke,

    Voters who care that a party is protecting "useless" electorate MPs with high list places will be less likely to vote for them.

    The technical term for this is "Labour".

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    But I'm not sure the market needs that help. "Party Z is so secretive they won't even tell you how their list is selected, why would you vote for them?" seems a reasonable line of attack.

    Quite. And here's another proposal: New Zealand First could have held US-style primaries to select and rank their list. It still would have made inflicting Andrew Williams on our legislature a spectacularly bad idea (in my not at all humble opinion), but even if the vox populi is vox humbug, we held a free, fair and credible general election. I don't have to much like the outcome, but I've got to suck it up and live with it. Because that's the difference between a parliamentary democracy and a private club where I get to blackball anyone I don't like.

    And whatever you think of Peter Dunne & John Banks (little and seething contempt, respectively in my case), I'm enough of a conservative to think tinkering with the electoral system to metaphysically spite fuck two MPs I don't like is not a good thing. YMMV, of course.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB,

    On TV1's Q+A this past weekend, Matthew Hooten points out that the law already requires a "democratic" list selection process, then proceeds to sum-up the National Party list selection process..

    In the National Party, there is a very highly democratic process that they begin with their regional conferences and then their national conferences and then the list gets ordered through this highly democratic process. And then in the final meeting of the list-ranking committee, the leader says what he wants.

    He had a smirk on his face...

    full transcript here

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 893 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to FletcherB,

    On TV1's Q+A this past weekend, Matthew Hooten points out that the law already requires a "democratic" list selection process, then proceeds to sum-up the National Party list selection process..

    Indeed. David Farrar has made similar observations in the past.

    The solution for National Party members concerned about this is to require the party to amend its rules. They have the power!

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    But I'm not sure the market needs that help.

    You seem to be assuming some perfect 'market' of electoral knowledge exists, much like an economist's fantasyland. I believe the checks and balances that ethical media and other players provided simply aren't there to the same degree any more. Market failure suggests other solutions are needed. If some degree of regulated and properly publicised disclosure to level the playing field is part of that, then bring it on.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to FletcherB,

    He had a smirk on his face…

    And so he should – it’s eminently smirk-worthy watching a a PR flack/lobbyist with a, shall we say, patchy track record of disclosing conflicts of interest when giving talking head playing the blushing virgin.

    And if you want to talk about a threat to democracy, isn't it adorable how unelected and publicly unaccountable lobbyists (like Hooten and Helen Kelly) seem so intimately informed about the inner workings of the list selection process in political parties? And folks wonder why spinners get no respect...

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    The solution for National Party members concerned about this is to require the party to amend its rules. They have the power!

    but the rest of us don't.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    giving talking head

    very good

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    The technical term for this is "Labour"

    I think that for Labour, the contest that matters is on their right, between them, National and NZF. All of those parties are as undemocratic as each other, so they cancel each other out.

    The other contest on their left, between Labour and Green, they are happy to lose (and whinge about having their votes "stolen"). They'll assume that the Green votes will enable them to form a government when the pendulum finally swings in their favour, and the loyal Labour MPs will get the limos and the nice offices. So it doesn't really matter what intelligent, thinking voters want.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Sacha,

    but the rest of us don’t.

    Sure - and any views I have on the Labour Party's constitutional reforms are unsolicited and generally ignored. I'd say it's a draw. :) And in all seriousness, do you think the United States' exhaustive (and exhausting) primary processes lead to either better quality candidates or quality decision making on the part of voters?

    In the end, another thing we have in New Zealand is a secret ballot and no requirement to justify to anyone how, why or even if you voted. If you voted for New Zealand First because Winston's hair do makes you all tingly in your privates, you're a dribbling idiot (IMO) but that's YOUR call.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    I'd say it's a draw

    Only if you're thinking in FPP terms. There are more parties than two.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    do you think the United States' exhaustive (and exhausting) primary processes lead to either better quality candidates or quality decision making on the part of voters?

    No. We can do better with less fuss than that. Just a little more information conveyed meaningfully and continuously by an independent agency like say the Electoral Commission. And perhaps civics in schools and other lifelong education channels.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB,

    but the rest of us don’t.

    Whether the process is democratic or authoritarian, it seems fair to limit control over list selection, or in fact any other party rules, to members of the party…

    Otherwise, left or right leaning voters could be “helping” the other parties choose their most incompetent and unelectable personnel onto the lists…

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 893 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Rob Salmond makes some observations about the left-right calculus for Labour. Worth a read.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to FletcherB,

    This doesn't seem to be a problem in the US. You'd think that Romney might have been put there by Democrats registering as Republicans (which is done by ticking a box, no financial payment or agreement to rules needed) but that hasn't ever really happened.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Something interesting on the electoral angle is what happens if Labour keeps losing party support to the Greens, but hangs on to a tail of electorates. We could wind up with an overhang (or non-overhang) for Labour.

    What would be great would be if National got 55%, Labour 15% and a bunch of electorates and Green 30%, leading to a Green-led government. I'd just love the impotent rage of the righties if that happened.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Sacha,

    Only if you’re thinking in FPP terms. There are more parties than two.

    Perfectly well aware of that. I was trying not to over-qualify my point into a run on sentence that would give Proust the yips. :)

    As far as I'm aware Labour is the only party currently in Parliament going through a major constitutional overhaul -- including its candidate selection and list-formation processes. Still damn sure that my input into that would be disregarded on the quite reasonable grounds that I'm not actually a member. Fair enough, too.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    What would be great would be if National got 55%, Labour 15% and a bunch of electorates and Green 30%, leading to a Green-led government. I'd just love the impotent rage of the righties if that happened.

    The reactions of a large number of Labourites would also be worth keeping an eye on!

    </dreamsarefree>

    Te Ika A Maui - Whakatane… • Since Oct 2008 • 577 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    What would be great would be if National got 55%, Labour 15% and a bunch of electorates and Green 30%, leading to a Green-led government. I'd just love the impotent rage of the righties if that happened.

    I think you and I have a different definition of "great".

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1716 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    What would be great would be if National got 55%, Labour 15% and a bunch of electorates and Green 30%, leading to a Green-led government. I'd just love the impotent rage of the righties if that happened.

    I assume you guess those numbers wrong because an election resulting in National having 55% of the seats would only have The Greens in government if National wanted them.

    If it was National 45%, Greens 31% and Labour 20% then we'd have the funny situation of Labour having to decide whether they wanted to be the minority party in government. Which would be funny, because the hard right wing Labourites would have common cause with the whining green remnants in Labour and that is a very rare thing. My bet is that the attraction of power and the shitty deal National would no doubt offer would bring Labour on side quite quickly. The interesting question is whether any Labour MPs would resign rather than go down that route.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

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