Home » Ben Brooks
Skip to content top
Submitted on 23/04/2012 - 2:00pm relating to the issues Basis for eligibility for list seats (thresholds), By-election candidates, Dual Candidacy, Order of candidates on the list
Should the 5% threshold be kept or changed? Why? If you recommend change, what should it be and why?:
The 5% threshhold limits the ability of some voters to cast an effective vote for the party of their choice. This, of itself, does not require change to the threshhold, but it does mean that the default position should be the abolition of the threshhold. The threshhold has a number of purported benefits, including enabling effective government, and preventing extreme parties or 'joke' parties from gaining representation. At the time of the introduction of MMP these risks may have been more prominent, however, having now had the experience of MMP I do not believe any of these risks justify the threshhold. New Zealand does not have a history of the types of political extremism found in other countries, which might justify the threshhold, nor is there any prospect of such extremism in the forseeable future. While 'joke' parties have featured in New Zealand (for instance the Bill and Ben party), a number of points are worth remembering. Firstly, it is not clear that, in the absence of the threshhold this party would have run for Parliament (in other words the fact that the party could be confidant of not incurring the obligations assoicated with a seat may have meant they ran where they otherwise would not). Secondly, those who voted for the party may not have done so if there was the realistic prospect of the party gaining seats. Finally, supporters of the threshhold must justify why supporters of 'joke' parties should have their will thwarted. To the degree that people do not take the political system or their vote seriously, this is an issue that should be addressed not by taking away the ability of these people to cast an effective vote, but through education, debate, and the political marketplace forcing parties to develop a manifesto that appeals to this group. The last issue, effective government, is the most serious. However, having given this issue much thought I do not believe it justifies retention of a thresshold. The experience we have had of MMP suggests that major parties can effectively unite a diverse range of parties to form a government that can pass a wide range of legislation. I do not believe that allowing a larger number of people to cast effective votes will undermine this. I also believe that, to the degree that effective government is undermined, this is an issue that can be effectively addressed through the political marketplace. The public have shown that they will react decisively against parties that undermine effective government, and I believe they will continue to do so. Therefore, I recommend that the committee abolish the 5% threshhold. If the committee recommends the retention of the threshhold it should be set at the lowest level that meets the commitees concerns.
Should the one electorate seat threshold be kept or changed? Why? If you recommend change, what should it be and why?:
Eliminating the 5% threshhold would eliminate this issue. However, if the committee chooses to retain a threshhold I believe that parties should only receive further seats if they pass this threshhold. The reasons for this are the power the status quo gives to some electorates (for instance, the Epsom electorate has effectively had the power to elect more MPs than any other electorate in the country), the gaming of the system that the one seat threshhold has driven (and the corresponding diminishment of respect for the political system), and the NZ First/Act effect at the 2008 election
Should there be a different combination of thresholds? What should they be and why?:
I believe my above answers have addressed this issue.
Should list MPs continue to be able to stand as candidates in by-elections? If so, why?:
While I believe that there are good reasons for concern in this area, further investigation suggests that any changes would produce even worse outcomes and that, to a large degree, any concerns can be addressed through the political marketplace. For instance, barring list MPs from standing in by-elections may deny voters the abilty to vote for the best person to represent them. If, on the other hand, voters are genuinely concerned about a list MP becoming a local MP they will vote for alternative candidates. If this occurs regularly (or is otherwise forseeable), parties will change their nominating behaviour in an appropriate manner. Therefore, I support retention of the status quo.
Should dual candidacy be kept? If so, why?:
Again, changes in this area are likely to have significantly worse outcome than the status quo. For instance, by largely eliminating the ability of high quality candidates to stand in seats that are safely held by an another party. Again, to the degree that there are any real problems in this area voters are able to address them through the political marketplace. Therefore, I recommend that the status quo be retained.
In an election, should voters be able to alter the order of candidates from the list order decided by political parties?:
Allowing voters to alter the order of candidates from the list has a superficial attractiveness. However, having considered proposals for how this may be achieved I do not believe there is a method for doing so that would not have significant negative outcomes. Although I believe it is beyond the committees scope to make recommendations for change in this area, the committee may wish to note that one manner of allowing more input into lists without the negative effects of doing so at the ballot box is for parties to reform their methods of candidate selection and ordering. Therefore, I recommend that the status quo is retained.
What should happen when a party wins more electorate seats than it would be entitled to under its share of the party vote?:
I have no comments on this issue.
Is this a problem, and what should be done to fix it?:
While I have no strong views on this issue, I note that while electorate seats form an important link between communities and parliament, list seats have the same effect with regard to other communities. Significant changes to the proportion of either may have the effect of eliminating the link between some communities and the parliament. This could be avoided by increasing the size of parliament. While this move will be reflexively opposed by some, increasing the size of the NZ parliament would not make it overlargely, proportionately, compared to other countries.
Please use the space below for any other issues you want to raise:
I do not wish to speak to this submission.