Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Making up their minds

The Maori Party will be supporting Barbara Stewart's Electoral (Reduction in Number of Members of Parliament) Amendment Bill to Select Committee. And its fairly obvious why. By cutting the total size of the House while leaving the number of electorate MPs unchanged, the bill would effectively increase the power of electorate seats by 20%. As a party which controls only electorate seats, and which hopes both to win more of them and to see more specifically Maori seats after this year's Maori option, the Maori Party would be complete fools (or unusually principled) not to vote for it - they'd be turning down a guaranteed overhang and a significant chance of influencing the formation of any future government.

(The same BTW would apply to any other party whose electorate backing was significantly higher than their list vote; the problem is with the relative balance between electorates and list seats, not the Maori seats specifically).

What I'm wondering is whether National has worked this out. I'd guess not, given their silence on the issue; if they thought that this bill would significantly increase Maori electoral power, they'd be screaming bloody murder about "Maori privilege" (regardless of the fact that its the same "privilege" everybody else has). They could conceivably be playing a longer game of deliberately trying to break the electoral system in order to justify changes later - but I seriously doubt they could silence their redneck element long enough to pull it off.


Do we yet *know( whether Labour is supporting it to select committee? With enough votes to pass I wonder whether they'll see the writing on the wall...

The size of Parliament is an issue that wasn't really publically debated during the formation of our MMP system, and I see it as a good thing that can be discussed sensibly (and in isolation) now. Why not have the public discussion?

Sending the bill to select committee is something National can sensibly do, perhaps the select committee will recommend the bill not proceed further, or that there be reductions in the number of electorate seats (I believe this formula is entrenched).

I also still hold that the greatest danger to the National Party (as the bill presently stands) is that they win the next election and find that Don Brash doesn't get to be PM becuase overhang means they're not entitled to a single list seat.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 3/15/2006 12:45:00 PM

"if they thought that this bill would significantly increase Maori electoral power, they'd be screaming bloody murder about "Maori privilege" (regardless of the fact that its the same "privilege" everybody else has)."

I'd also add that it might technically be the same privilege, in reality it is not: the relative youth of the Maaori population means that a vote in a Maaori electorate is worth more than a vote in a general electorate. If everyone on the Maaori roll cast both party vote and electorate vote for the Maaori Party (and no-one else did either) there would still be a real chance of a Maaori Party overhang (especially with only 100 MPs).

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 3/15/2006 12:53:00 PM

The electorate formula is indeed entrenched, at least for general seats; the Maori seats have no such protection. Which is why this bill is such a crock; they've gone for the quickest, dirtiest way of reducing the number of MPs, one which will incidentally wreck MMP. Even if you agree with a reduction, this way of doing it is a terrible mistake.

As for Maori votes "counting for more", I think you are simply being petty. Children count in our determination of electoral population, the assumption being that their interests are represented by their parents. And there is no reason why that should not apply to Maori.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/15/2006 04:48:00 PM

My argument on that point is really quite the reverse - whilst an individual Maaori vote in a Maaori electorate is worth, in some cases twice, that of a vote in a general electorate, Maaori votes as a whole are undercounted because of MMP (the 'overcounting' of .

Maaori are 15%+ of the population, yet if every Maaori voted for the Maaori Party (and no-one else did) the Maaori Party would get around 10% of the seats in Parliament. A properly proportioned FPP system would ensure that the undercounting of Maaori votes as a whole (brought on by the relative youth of the Maaori population) would be compensated for by an overcounting of individual Maaori votes (e.g. Maaori are 15% of the population so get 15% of the electorate seats).

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 3/15/2006 05:50:00 PM

Ah, I see where you're coming from. The electorates are already weighted in this fashion, but the party list isn't - and can't possibly be with a secret ballot unless you start giving children proxy votes which can be exercised by their parents. I'm not even sure that its even desirable - again, there's this fundamental assumption that while the interests of children are represented by their parents, they don't actually get a vote; what matters is the interests of adult voters.

Of course, you can always push for a reduction in the voting age to 16...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/15/2006 08:15:00 PM

But those damn maori party MPs have been sounding so sensible lately!! Its so hard to hate them.

1) that you have made the determinations and come down in favour of it so surely someone who opposes you could legitimately do the opposite.

2) Changing the No of MP's is hard - you need to get "the turkey to vote for an early christmas" as they say. which is going to be hard. getting them to change how they do it is likely to be a bit easier so why would you see it being not quite right as a deterrant?

3) since your arguments are based on national voters being racist or whatever all the better for national to spite those voters - they have nowhere else to go anyway.

Posted by Genius : 3/15/2006 08:28:00 PM

Genius: I was actually quite surprised to see Pita Sharples on TV3 tonight being so nakedly self-interested about it. But then, you can hardly blame him.

It's harder to change the number of electorate MPs (and thereby make this reduction without breaking MMP) because the clause which effectively sets that number (s 35 of the Electoral Act 1993) is entrenched. You need a 75% majority or a referendum to change it, and politically changing it without absolute unaniminity is unthinkable. And as the necessary change would be reducing the number of South island MPs to 12 or 13, I really can't imagine such a change being passed.

As for National, I think their current leadership can generally be relied upon to adopt an outright racist position when it comes to Maori (it is the consistent strand which unites many of their inconsistencies), and it is really quite surprising that they are not doing it here. It would be a bad reason for opposing the bill, of course, and misses the real issue (the increased power of electorates) - but that's politics for you. Given Sharples' comments and the Maori Party's clear support, I'm now expecting them to vote against it at the second reading. if they don't, I'll be in a sense rather pleasantly surprised...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/15/2006 08:44:00 PM

the no of MP's is effectively entrenched anyway - except we had the referendum already and unentrenched it...

Also I think you could win a referendum on it if required. "should we have 12 or 13 sth Is MP's - in order to fairly have 99MP's"
no problem to win. Let's try shall we?

And if you are arguing it wouldnt be past after a 99MP style referendum because no politician will vote themselves out of a job then its pretty circular, somthing like "you cant change it so you shouldn't change it". If you can make the 99MP vote happen you should be able to make the 12 sth Is MP vote happen or possibly somthing even better - maybe even somthing that doesnt "break" MMP - not that most NZders care that much about that.

> and it is really quite surprising that they are not doing it here.

then applaude that, such as it is. baby steps eh?

Personally I dont think racism is their main driving force. If they dont vote for it again I bet the reason is to keep their collegues in a job and avoid overhangs (in as far as that reduces their percentage as opposed to as in where non-pink people get into parliment on them).

Surely you would agree selfishness trumps racism generally speaking.

Posted by Genius : 3/15/2006 10:56:00 PM

Genius: the number of MPs is not entrenched. It is defined only in s191 ("Election of other members") of the Act, which is not listed in the entrenchment clause. And that's why it can be changed with such a simple bill.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/16/2006 01:01:00 AM

We did have a referendum on it.
And nothing would have happened without a referendum - in fact probably nothing will happen even with a referendum (because the parliment wil be reluctant to vote to eliminate part of itself).

that is what I mean by effectively entrenched (asopposed to officially entrenched).

Posted by Genius : 3/16/2006 07:54:00 AM