Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fletch MMP Referendum

votes Just thinking about this MMP last night and wanted to find out a bit more about this second referendum that was supposed to be held about it. I had heard about it but wasn't sure of the detail. I found this article online by Dr Muriel Newman from the Centre For Political Research in New Zealand which goes into some of the history of MMP. As we all know, one of the big problems around MMP is that the little parties hold too much sway when the bigger parties need their support. As a consequence, we're getting all sorts of weird and wonderful bills (Bradford's Anti-Smacking bill) being passed.

So, what's the story with the second referendum? According to Dr Newman -

When the 1993 Electoral Act to introduce MMP was drafted, a clause was inserted to allow a Select Committee to review the system after two MMP elections and to determine whether there should be a another referendum on electoral reform. Many New Zealanders understood this to mean that another referendum would be held, so that if they voted for MMP and it didn’t work out, they could get rid of it.

How we wish! And was a select committee set up to review the system? Apparently, yes.

The Select Committee set up in 2000 to review MMP - as was required by the Act – couldn’t reach a decision on whether another referendum was needed. As a result, the Government concluded: “Changing any major constitutional arrangements would require a higher level of consensus from the public than currently appears to exist. In the absence of that high degree of consensus, the Government is of the view that it would not be appropriate to recommend any significant amendments at this time”.

How convenient. It seems to me that the Government knew they were on to a good thing and didn't want to change it; that's my opinion anyway.

Section 264 of the 1993 Electoral Act stated that if there was to be a further referendum on changes to the electoral system that, “the nature of the proposals to be put to voters” be outlined.

So, what's an alternative? Dr Newman points to an idea outlined by Don Brash in a speech written last year -

“My personal preference would be to adopt the Supplementary Member system with a total Parliament of 100 members. There could be 75 electorate MPs, thus enabling a small reduction in the size of current electorates. And 25 list MPs. As now, voters would have two votes – one for their electorate candidate and one for their preferred party. But whereas at present the party vote determines the overall composition of Parliament, under the SM system the party vote would determine only the composition of the list seats. A system of this kind would enable minority voices to be heard without giving small parties disproportionate influence, would enable a reduction in the total size of Parliament, would provide a route for people to enter Parliament without spending a lifetime working through the party hierarchy, and would provide a way of ensuring reasonable diversity in the overall composition of Parliament. To the extent that a higher proportion of the total Members of Parliament would be elected in electorates, SM would also increase the power of voters and reduce that of party bosses”.

What do you think? Would the SM system be better than what we have now? Or would people like to see a return to FPP? I think that democracy is definitely suffering under the system we have now, anyway.

It might be time to organize a petition to have another referendum on our voting system.

5 comment(s):

ZenTiger said...

I recall being unhappy with First Past the Post - it gives too much power to a couple of main parties.

Equally, MMP has its flaws.

We do need another look at the system, as was promised. The above idea is interesting - off the top of my head, it sounds better.

The idea seems to "forget" the Maori seats? (I didn't read the links.)

Presumably they get tacked on to the 100, but would therefore represent a higher proportion than the current 121 seats, which may be significant?

Andy said...

It sounds a bit like our plan to organise a referendum calling for binding referendums on conscience issues. I'd like to see change, but don't see how we can achieve it.

Greg said...

the green box in the picture should have a little red star.

ZenTiger said...


The red box a hammer and sickle.

The blue box a red question mark.

The yellow box is a jack in the box (with a Roger Douglas pop-out jack).

We are missing boxes for the Maori Party, Winston and others. I'm going to stop now, before I really get into trouble.

Swimming said...

What Newman doesnt say is that the select committee - whiich I think was chaired by Peter Dunne - looking into MMP initially decided that nothing would change unless there was a unanimous agreement among select committee members with regards to the way forward.

And, of course, there was no unanimous agreement - and therefore no Govt promise of a referendium. Dunne wasnt particuloarly happy and so even now he has been campaigning for a referendum

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