Home » Andre Terzaghi
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Submitted on 30/05/2012 - 6:10pm relating to the issues Basis for eligibility for list seats (thresholds), By-election candidates, Dual Candidacy, Order of candidates on the list, Overhang, Proportion of electorate seats to list seats, Other issues
Should the 5% threshold be kept or changed? Why? If you recommend change, what should it be and why?:
I believe the threshold should be lowered to the lowest level consistent with good governance, and I see no evidence that a threshold higher than 1/120 of the total party vote is needed to maintain good governance. I am deeply uncomfortable with the idea of disenfranchising a group of voters simply because they feel so strongly about a particular subject that they will vote for a "fringe" party. To the contrary, I believe many of these "fringe" or "extremist" voters have important views that deserve a hearing and consideration in Parliament, and we would be better off giving them full consideration rather than effectively suppressing them and shutting them out. Examples include the "war on drugs" which is widely acknowledged to be a failure, where the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party (if it were to ever gain a seat) could bring a differing view and a fresh approach to the problem. Or the ACT party has at times had a valuable voice in trying to define limits to what government should or should not do. Advocates of a high threshold frequently raise fears of "extremists" getting in to Parliament and destabilising government. Since the introduction of MMP, we have had a number of MPs that could be considered extremists. However, I see no evidence that these "extremists" have been destabilising, or damaged the functioning of Parliament. Furthermore, many of these "extremists" have been electorate MPs, rendering the threshold irrelevant. Finally, the only instances I can think of where a minor party could be considered destabilising has been New Zealand First, both in coalition with National and with Labour. In both those governments, New Zealand First polled comfortably over any reasonable threshold. Should the threshold be lowered below 2.5%, I would also strongly recommend a change from the St-Lague the the d'Hondt method of allocating seats, which I will expand on the other issues part of this submission.
Should the one electorate seat threshold be kept or changed? Why? If you recommend change, what should it be and why?:
The one electorate seat threshold should be abolished. As a general principle, any feature of a democratic system that makes one voter's vote more important than others is undemocratic and should be avoided. The electorate seat threshold has this severly undemocratic effect, whereby the electors in one electorate can cause election to Parliament of up to six MPs, ie the votes in that electorate are up to six times more effective than the majority of votes. Meanwhile, the supporters of an equally popular party that doesn't meet either threshold can get completely disenfranchised. The electorate seat threshold has been abused by both major parties to try to manipulate the return of a minor support party that looked unlikely to exceed the 5% threshold, producing undemocratic results I find abhorrent. For example, in 2008 Act was returned to Parliament with 5 MPs while NZ First recorded a larger party vote and was excluded from Parliament. I can see no justification whatsoever for this situation. Furthermore, these electoral manipulations fuel the disrepute of politicians, and create disrespect to Parliament as an institution, even among those voters who benefit from the manipulations.
Should list MPs continue to be able to stand as candidates in by-elections? If so, why?:
Yes, list MPs should continue to be able to stand in by-elections. Many list MPs have contested an electorate, and even though they were not the winning candidate, they have continued to maintain strong links to the electorate and have acted as "shadow electorate MPs". I see this as a positive feature to be encouraged, and I fear that banning list MPs from contesting an electorate might suppress this.
Should dual candidacy be kept? If so, why?:
Dual candidacy should be kept. Much of the best presentation and examination of competing ideas comes about when two or more capable MPs contest a marginal seat. Having the fallback of a list position probably makes an MP much more willing to be a part of such a vigorous contest. If dual candidacy is banned, I fear most of the best MPs will simply find their way to a safe electorate seat, dulling and dumbing down the political debate.
In an election, should voters be able to alter the order of candidates from the list order decided by political parties?:
No, I believe political parties should solely decide the order in their lists. Many high-ranked list MPs are there because they are known to have qualities valuable to government, while those qualities may not be apparent and attractive to voters who would try to move them down the list. Examples that spring to mind are Tim Groser, and in hindsight, Michael Cullen. I believe as a general voter, my opportunity to pass judgement on a party list comes at the ballot box when it comes time to cast my party vote. If I feel strongly enough about a party list, I can join that party and influence the list through party membership.
What should happen when a party wins more electorate seats than it would be entitled to under its share of the party vote?:
I find the current system of increasing the numbers of MPs to accomodate an overhang to be a bizarre and proportionality distorting means of dealing with this issue. I would prefer a system where a party that gets an overhang is allocated the electorate seat(s) it won, then the those seats and party votes are ecluded from the allocation of the remaining seats. For the 2011 election, the Maori Party won 3 electorate seats and 31,982 party votes (less than 2/120ths of the party vote). Under my proposal, the 3 Maori Party electorate MPs would take their seats, but the 31,982 votes would be discarded. Then the remaining 117 seats (not 120) would be allocated by the chosen process. As mentioned earlier, I will argue for a change to the d'Hondt process in the Other Issues part of this submission.
Is this a problem, and what should be done to fix it?:
Yes, I think this is a problem. I think the ratio of list MPs to electorate MPs should be fixed at the current 50:70, or at least kept above 40:80. To maintain relativity between electorate sizes, the number of South Island electorates should be allowed to decrease when necessary. If this Commission were allowed to consider changes changes to the size of Parliament, I would advocate allowing the number of MPs to increase in proportion to the square root of New Zealand's population, and keep the ratio of list MPs to electorate MPs fixed.
Please use the space below for any other issues you want to raise:
Saint-Lague versus alternative methods of allocating seats: Should the threshold for allocation of list seats be lowered below 2.5% or the electorate seat threshold be retained, I believe the Saint Lague method of allocating seats should be changed to a method that is more proportional for low polling parties, such as the d'Hondt process. Using very rounded approximate numbers to simplify the argument, there were 2,400,000 party votes cast in 2011. From one point of view, that means one MP represents approximately 20,000 voters. Neglecting the effects of various kinds of wasted votes, thresholds and overhangs, the Saint-Lague method will allocate the first seat at approximately 10,000 votes (or 1/2 an MPs worth of votes or 10,000 voters per MP), the second seat at approximately 30,000 votes (or 1 1/2 an MPs worth of votes or 15,000 voters per MP), the third seat at 50,000 votes (or 16,700 voters per MP) and so on. In effect, a low polling party could get a disproportionately high number of seats relative its party vote, alternatively its MPs represent fewer voters per MP than a higher polling party. An alternative scheme is the d'Hondt process, which (again neglecting wasted votes, thresholds and overhangs) allocates the first seat at 20,000 votes (1 MPs worth), the second at 40,000 votes etc. While in practical terms the d'Hondt process will generally result in a less popular party having a higher voters:MP ratio than more popular parties, it seems less objectionable to me to slightly dilute the effect of a few voters, compared to making a few voters much more important than most others as may happen under the St-Lague process. Effects of recommended changes: If the thresholds were eliminated completely, the treatment of overhangs changed as advocated earlier, and the seat allocation process changed to the d'Hondt process, based on the 2011 results the seats would be changed by: Conservatives would have three seats instead of none, National would have 57 instead of 59, Labour would have 33 instead of 34, Green would have 13 instead of 14, and there would be 120 MPs instead of 121. Note that if the thresholds were abolished, but the St-Lague process retained, the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party would gain one seat with just 11,7338 votes, just 0.52% of the party vote. Senior Cabinet Ministers and list seats (may be outside the scope of the review): It seems to me that being an electorate MP is a fairly intense full time role. Being a senior Cabinet Minister is an extremely intense more-than-fulltime role. There appears to be very little overlap between the duties of an electorate MP and the duties of a senior Cabinet Minister, and I do not see how one person could do justice to both roles at the same time. I would like to see a new requirement that selected senior Cabinet positions must be filled by list MPs. These would include Prime Minister, Finance Minister, and possibly Education, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Science and Technology, Social Development. Ministers and thresholds (may be outside the scope of the review): Given that many of the government actions that have brought Parliament into disrepute in my eyes have been due to Ministers from minor parties with very low support, I would like to see a new requirement that all ministers must be from parties with at least 4% support. Examples include Jim Anderton's deal with Bill Lloyd/Sovereign Yachts over Hobsonville land, Peter Dunne with various ineffectual but expensive Commissions, Rodney Hide completely ignoring the Commission on the Auckland SuperCity and imposing his own structure on the new organisation.