Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: Referendum Fact Check #1

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  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Sorry, I forgot to turn on comments. I've fixed it now.

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

  • Mike Graham,

    I would like someone to ask Jordan Williams (the ONLY spokesman for Vote for Change according to their website) what he thought of the situation in the UK after the last election- i.e. the 3rd placed party almost in a position that NZ First were in in 1995, and even though it was a FPP election in the UK.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    I would like someone to ask Jordan Williams (the ONLY spokesman for Vote for Change according to their website) what he thought of the situation in the UK after the last election

    Morning Report pretty much did.

    He pointed out that it was a rare occurrence. Which it is.

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

  • Hilary Stace,

    One thing that annoys me is that opponents of MMP also seem to want to get rid of a system whereby those not voted in on the electorate vote 'come back in again by the back door' meaning they come to parliament on the list. In Ohariu, for example, Peter Dunne won the FPP part of the election but three other candidates also became MPs on their party lists: Charles Chauvel, Gareth Hughes and Katrina Shanks (and which actually gives constituents a nice range of people to turn to for help if they need it). Under SM with its much smaller list, surely this could still happen if the candidates were also high on the much more limited party list. So they are deluded if they think voting out MMP for SM will change that. Am I right there?

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3226 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Repeatedly referring to electoral MPs ‘sneaking back into parliament on the list’ when they’d been legally elected in fair, very public elections was a cheap concerted attempt to smear MMP.
    I’d like to know who is doing the PR for the supposedly grassroots “Vote for Change”, what their PR budget is and who is funding it.
    The campaign manager is Simon Lusk, of Hollow Men ‘fame’.
    These are the

    Founding Members
    Here is a selection of the Kiwis that are already members of Vote for Change Society Incorporated.
    Peter Shirtcliffe
    Bob Harvey
    Michael Bassett
    Annabel Young
    Roger Kerr
    Ralph Norris
    Sir Christpher Harris
    Christopher Parkin
    Anna Hamilton-Manns
    Rod Fabish
    Emma Daken
    Nikos Skeptaris
    Jeremy Smith
    Alex Fogerty
    Christian Lambert
    Steve Zhao

    So the usual suspects, and ‘funded by its supporters’ which means it’ll be well cashed up. Expect a slick campaign, and lots of carefully planned smearing of MMP.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2110 posts Report Reply

  • Mike Graham, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    thanks Graeme. I only heard the brief interview, not the debate, so I'm guessing it was in that part.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    One thing that annoys me is that opponents of MMP also seem to want to get rid of a system whereby those not voted in on the electorate vote ‘come back in again by the back door’ meaning they come to parliament on the list. In Ohariu, for example, ... Under SM with its much smaller list, surely this could still happen if the candidates were also high on the much more limited party list. So they are deluded if they think voting out MMP for SM will change that. Am I right there?

    Yes. Many of the concerns people have with lists under MMP are also present under SM.

    You could change MMP so some of them weren't there. You could invent a system of SM where some of them weren't present. But we probably wouldn't.

    Changes to MMP on things like this could occur as part of the Electoral Commission review of MMP. Given you concerns with such changes you would be able to argue against them.

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

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    Repeatedly referring to electoral MPs ‘sneaking back into parliament on the list’ when they’d been legally elected in fair, very public elections was a cheap concerted attempt to smear MMP.

    And saying that FPP and SM are undemocratic is an attempt to smear those systems.

    They are non-proportional systems. That is not the same thing.

    I’d like to know who is doing the PR for the supposedly grassroots “Vote for Change”, what their PR budget is and who is funding it.

    I don't particularly care. Their arguments are either good or bad. Their statements are either factual or not.

    In the three months before the referendum there is a spending limit of $300,000.

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

  • Sacha, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    the supposedly grassroots “Vote for Change”

    Two posts looking at their constitution registered with the Societies Office:

    Mike Smith at Te Standard.

    But re the Committee Rules 6.1 and 6.2 say:

    The Society shall be managed by a Committee comprising not less than two or more than five members of the Society.

    The initial Committee shall be made up of Peter Shirtcliffe and Jordan Williams.

    The FAQ section of the website indicates that Peter Shirtcliffe will not take part in the day-to-day activities of the Society but will be a member of the Committee only. The Committee has very wide powers, including the appointment of its members, of officers and the ability to decide on different classes of members of the Society (Rule 8.1).

    Rob Salmond at Pundit.

    Vote for Change has a Committee that is in charge of absolutely everything between Annual Meetings (more on those shortly). The people on the committee are: (1) Peter Shirtcliffe; (2) Jordan Williams; and (3) nobody else. This committee needs a majority to do anything, which means that Peter Shirtcliffe has personal veto over everything Vote for Change does, including over which electoral system the group will campaign for.

    ...

    Vote for Change is misrepresenting itself. Its initial press release says it is a membership-driven, grassroots campaign. But its’ own rules say different. Not a good start.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • izogi,

    Also repeated references to the tail wagging the dog under MMP. The only reason this can supposedly happen is because we still have two large parties that remain addicted to a polarised FPP system and refuse to work together in what would seem to be a natural MMP way, probably because they realise it would likely be the death or demotion of at least one of them if they ever did. If our larger parties would allow themselves to divide into more representative sections, as has already happened in part with the Labour party, there would be less dog for a tail to wag and it certainly couldn't have so much perceived influence so easily.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1141 posts Report Reply

  • gavin long,

    1. I believe you missed a mistake. Jordan Williams suggests that Sandra Grey is "turning it into a political debate" when she says that National hasn't decided to entrench the Maori seats even though they have a confidence and supply agreement with Maori party.

    Her point wasn't about politics it was about trying to defend MMP against Williams' arguments. Jordan Williams seemed to raise the Maori seats as an example of tail wagging the dog - of National (the far larger party) having to change their policy to fit with the smaller party's wishes. In fact, it is actually an example that reinforces the point that big parties do not have to fundamentally change their policy when going in a coalition with a significantly smaller party. Sandra was right to point this out and it was a misrepresentation of her argument to say that she was somehow getting off topic.

    2. Jordan Williams talks about how SM is good cause it solves the problem where a small party with 5-10% of the vote are given a disproportionate amount of power in deciding who gets to govern. But is this a problem with MMP in the first place?

    First, there has only been one instance (1996) where one party has held the balance of power. In all the other elections it has been clear that it would be one of Labour or National that was forming a government.

    Second, this also happens in close elections under FPP. Look at the most recent Australian and UK elections. If National had received one less seat in the 1993 NZ election there would have been a hung parliament with NZ First probably deciding who would lead out of National and Labour/Alliance. If the 1996 election had been run under FPP or SM (and the same proportion of electorate seats were won by each party) then NZ First would have still held the balance of power.

    Third, even if MMP leads to significantly more election outcomes where one party is effectively deciding who will lead I don't know if its that bad a way of doing things. If two parties get roughly the same percentage support then you need some way of dividing them. Getting Labour/Nats to make a deal with a party that was supported by 5% of the population doesn't sound that much worse than giving the election on an arbitrary basis to the big party that happened to have a better geographical spread of support (which happens in elections under FPP/SM).

    3. I agree that FPP and SM should not be labelled undemocratic. However, MMP clearly is far far closer to giving an individual an equal say in an election than non-proportional systems. The people who count in FPP and, to an extent, SM are a small group of swing voters in a small group of swing electorates.

    Since Jun 2011 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Darlington,

    My favourite, that I've seen twice now, is that MMP has given us Hone Harawira - an electorate MP...

    Since Nov 2006 • 56 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    and which actually gives constituents a nice range of people to turn to for help if they need it

    A fair point, as far as it goes. But I don’t think that’s entirely fair to most MPs, who actually take their constituency duties pretty seriously and view them in an aboslutely non-partisan manner. As I’ve said here before, I didn’t have much time for Steve Maharey. But when I was acting as support for a friend with some serious (and really sensitive) issues, I couldn’t fault Maharey and his electorate agent. They were beyond awesome.

    Of course, there are also lazy oxygen thieves who are about as much use as tits on a bull, but the electoral system isn’t going to do a damn thing about that. :)

    I’d like to know who is doing the PR for the supposedly grassroots “Vote for Change”, what their PR budget is and who is funding it.
    The campaign manager is Simon Lusk, of Hollow Men ‘fame’.

    Well, that works both ways Rob. But while YMMV, I’d rather stay focused on the issue – one that’s fundamental to our democracy – rather than a popularity contest. Much as I hate to admit it, people I wouldn’t let on my lawn without arming the mine field sometimes have a fair point. The converse is that people I like don’t have a monopoly on insight or wisdom.

    Repeatedly referring to electoral MPs ‘sneaking back into parliament on the list’ when they’d been legally elected in fair, very public elections was a cheap concerted attempt to smear MMP.

    Also happens to be factually true, if you removed a loaded and emotive poo phrase like "sneaking back". Ironically enough, both National and Labour have had incumbents throwing public tantrums because of their list placings so I guess you're damned if you do, damned if you don't.

    Of course, if you really think Party X. is (ab)using their list as an insurance scheme for useless incumbents the solution isn't to change the electoral system. In the short term, don't support them with your party vote. In the mid- and long-term, get off your fraking arse and get involved in the party's candidate selection and list ranking process.

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

  • Rich of Observationz,

    if you really think Party X. is (ab)using their list as an insurance scheme for useless incumbents the solution isn't to change the electoral system. In the short term, don't support them with your party vote. In the mid- and long-term, get off your fraking arse and get involved in the party's candidate selection and list ranking process.

    Too true.

    But the whole thing about MMP allowing 'defeated MPs to sneak back on the list' is a canard. If you're an MP for a marginal seat (like AKL or WLG central) and the overall election goes against your party, then even if you've been parliament's most diligent and intelligent member, you might still lose. If you're the Labour MP for Mangere or the National one for Ilam, then you have absolutely no chance of losing, even if you're a corrupt right wing criminal (as per the prior incumbent of one of those seats).

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

  • Phil Lyth,

    Parliament has already declared that if we adopt Supplementary Member as our voting system, it will have 90 electorate MPs and 30 list MPs

    I haven't been following this closely over the last few months, but it seems Parliament has made two contradictary statements in Schedule 2 of the Electoral Referendum Act.

    First as above, and also saying that for all alternative voting systems:

    The principles for determining the number of members of Parliament who represent Māori electorates will not change.
    The principle of a fixed number of general electorate seats for the South Island will not change.

    With these two principles, and population changes, the composition of Parliament has changed from 60 general and 5 Maori electorates in 1999 to 63 and 7 today.

    The two principles are incompatible with a static 90+30 SM system. Unless perhaps National is thinking of allowing widely varying quotas for South Island and North Island seats.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2009 • 458 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Lyth,

    Put it another way: if Parliament back in 1993 had put a constraint of a fixed number of electorates on MMP (say 65, in the same way it has said 90 for SM) while keeping the principles for South Island and Maori seats, then over time there would be considerably larger North Island seats.

    There would be today 16 South Island seats, average population 57,500, seven Maori seats, and only 42 North Island seats, with an average population 64,000.

    North Island seats would be 12% larger, making a mockery of equal voting power.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2009 • 458 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Phil Lyth,

    I haven’t been following this closely over the last few months, but it seems Parliament has made two contradictary statements in Schedule 2 of the Electoral Referendum Act.

    They have.

    And I pointed it out in my written submission on the bill. And in my oral submission.

    [And in comment threads on various blogs.]

    It’s also a problem that arises with every other system, except MMP.

    Parliament has declared that they will all have 120 MPs, and that in each of them, there will be a fixed number in the South Island.

    It’s not technically contradictory, in that there are ways to do it, but it is impossible under FPP, PV and STV (and under SM with exactly 90 electorates) unless Parliament abandons the principle that electorates should be approximately equal in size.

    It’s basically analogous to Arrow’s impossibility theorem – you may have any two of the following:

    a fixed number of electorates; or
    a fixed number of electorates in the South Island; or
    fair electorates of approximately equal size

    but you may not have all three.

    The Ministry of Justice advice to the Select Committee on this point was basically ‘that’s a matter for the next Parliament’. I was a little disappointed by that, and briefly considered launching a campaign against change on the basis that Parliament was using this process to rort the electoral system and surreptitiously and dishonestly increase the electoral influence of South Island voters. But in the end, what they are really doing is lying to us because it's easier.

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

  • Phil Lyth, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    I pointed it out in my written submission on the bill. And in my oral submission.

    Must remember to get up before I go to bed, if I ever want to be ahead of Edgler.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2009 • 458 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    I don't particularly care. Their arguments are either good or bad. Their statements are either factual or not.

    I do. It's always good to know the motivations behind people who mount major campaigns of any kind. Why do they care so much?

    Of course the arguments they make are vital too, but some of the time I want to know whether they're really arguing that because they believe it, or because they have another motive. And any system that gets big backing from private money seems highly likely to be aligned with the interests of that private money. Which is fine, they're allowed their position and say, but I have personally seldom found my interests to be aligned the same way.

    "It goes to the credibility and impartiality of the witness, your honor".

    Please note, I'd be just as interested in the motives of any concerted effort to promote MMP. It's no surprise that the Green Party has every argument in the book to keep it, because PR is a system that gives their type of party its best chances. Similarly, anyone want to place bets that we'll hear significant support from the Maori Party for whichever system seems likely to allocate the most guaranteed Maori seats?

    But yes, evidence and argument about the pros and cons of the systems are going to sway me the most, I'd like to think.*

    *Edit: I'd like to think my faith in MMP has withstood the shock of National routing the Left, which I most naturally tend to. I feel that National became a much better party because of MMP.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Michie,

    Of course, if you really think Party X. is (ab)using their list as an insurance scheme for useless incumbents the solution isn't to change the electoral system. In the short term, don't support them with your party vote. In the mid- and long-term, get off your fraking arse and get involved in the party's candidate selection and list ranking process.

    Would that they did. Creating an electoral system for those that don't seems to be the core problem.

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to BenWilson,

    anyone want to place bets that we’ll hear significant support from the Maori Party for whichever system seems likely to allocate the most guaranteed Maori seats?

    I would bet that we won't. The Maori Party appears to support MMP and has for a while, despite MMP resulting in the fewest Maori seats of any of the systems on offer.

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

  • Mike Graham, in reply to gavin long,

    ...Sandra was right to point this out and it was a misrepresentation of her argument to say that she was somehow getting off topic.

    Gavin - agreed. To me it seemed that Jordan realised that his example was totally flawed so quickly tried to shut-down the discussion on the point he had raised.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Labour leads on the party vote in most (all?) the Maori Party held seats. Possibly the voters only vote for the MaoriNats because they can hedge their bets and party vote Labour? If they had only an electorate vote, it might go back to the Labour candidate.

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

  • BenWilson, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    I would bet that we won't.

    I'll take your easy money, Fast Edgy. It may well be that they simply haven't thought it through yet. It would border on remiss of them not to take the option that maximizes Maori representation. If they didn't, my respect would rise considerably (although I'm not discounting that they're one step ahead of me here, I see them, particularly Sharples, as extremely canny politicians).

    A bottle of chosen alcohol to the winner of the bet that within the next two months, the Maori party come out publicly in support of one of the alternatives to MMP (I win either way, btw, because I personally favor MMP and hope they do support it)? Bombay Sapphire is my pick.

    Edit: You'd need to nominate your choice before I clap hands for the bargain. I'm not forking out for a $20,000 bottle of wine :-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to izogi,

    If our larger parties would allow themselves to divide into more representative sections, as has already happened in part with the Labour party, there would be less dog for a tail to wag and it certainly couldn't have so much perceived influence so easily.

    Would also help if journalists stoped reporting as if we were still under First Past the Post - especially misleading interpretation of poll results.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

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