Monday, November 27, 2023

The stupidest of stupid reasons

One of the threats in the National - ACT - NZ First coalition agreements was to extend the term of Parliament to four years, reducing our opportunities to throw a bad government out. The justification? Apparently, the government thinks "elections are expensive".

This is the stupidest of stupid reasons for limiting our democracy, and it invites the natural question: if they're so expensive, why have them at all? Unfortunately, its not just shared by the business geniuses in national - ACT - NZ First, but also by the Ministry of Justice. Their advice to the independent electoral review panel on the issue included a list of advantages and disadvantages for various term lengths. "Election costs, both direct and indirect, are more frequently incurred" was listed as a disadvantage of a three-year term. "Longer period between election costs" was considered an advantage of a longer one. Because obviously, money is more important than democracy and accountability. The idea is expanded on in a specific topic paper, which notes that the "indirect costs" of elections may include "drops in business confidence". So, firstly, MoJ thinks business hating democracy is somehow important, and secondly, they think that NZ business confidence surveys somehow translate into real economic impacts (they do not. In fact, they're "uniquely useless in the world for predicting NZ GDP"). Which tells us rather a lot about the quality of analysis Ministry of Justice can produce these days, and should really make you worry about anything else they're giving advice on.

In reality, our elections are cheap: $180 million per election cycle. Moving to a four year term would save us all of $15 million a year, averaged over the long-term. On a government scale, that's pocket change. Anyone who treats this as a serious cost saving or a serious reason for doing something is trying to sell you something - in this case, less democracy, less accountability, and less control over our own government.