Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Status quo supports status quo

The Justice Committee has reported back on its Inquiry into the 2017 General Election and 2016 Local Elections, with a host of recommendations about how to improve our electoral systems. Some of their recommendations are already incorporate din the Electoral Amendment Bill currently before Parliament, but there's also a recommendation to give the Electoral Commission investigative powers, to have local body elections run by the Electoral Commission and standardise the voting system, and align local and national-level election donation and advertising regimes. On election funding, the major parties abuse the select committee report to sling shit at one another over their dodgy behaviour, while making only mild recommendations to investigate closing loopholes, rather than actually doing anything about them. But there is a helpful suggestion to introduce a generalised anti-avoidance clause in the donations regime, to replace all the specific (but functionally identical) offences.

On the negative side, there's the usual big party stitchups, so National and Labour agree that they should be allowed to see who has voted by being given access to master rolls during elections, and they agree that local body candidates who aren't from a "registered party" should be forbidden from claiming an affiliation they don't like (we can call this the Andy Asquith Amendment). Oh, and they want the spies to talk to political parties about candidates they think are a risk of foreign interference, which effectively involves them in the political process and invites them to leak and campaign by stealth against people they don't like (as they do in the UK). And meanwhile, on the voting age or further democratising MMP, its a "meh". Both parties like the status quo just how it is, and don't want to make it easier for people to have their views represented in Parliament, or allow other voices representation.

Overall, this review was a lost opportunity to improve our democracy, as usual. If we want real change, we need to change our entire political class.