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Monday 09 April 2012


Improving MMP: An lgbt perspective

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 4th March 2012

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Last year, MMP was reaffirmed as New Zealand's electoral system. Now, the Electoral Commission wants to hear submissions about how the system could be adjusted. What might benefit New Zealand's LGBT communities?

1.Retain the five percent threshold: At present, if a party does not win a constituency seat, it has to attain five percent of the total voter share to gain representation. This should be retained. The threshold prevents extremist microparties from gaining an electoral toehold and attacking the human rights and civil liberties of vulnerable minorities, including ours. To abolish it altogether or reduce it would open the door to the sort of shenanigans that prevail in Italy or Israel when they try to form governments, given the absence of such safeguards.

2. Raise/Abolish the one-seat subthreshold: There is considerable resentment at circumstances where microparties have polled under the five percent threshold yet are guaranteed additional list seats because they have won a single electorate. In the past, this has meant the Progressive Coalition and ACT secured additional list MPs despite virtual electoral obliteration otherwise. In Germany, a subthreshold party must win two constituency seats in the federal Bundestag if it is gain top-up party list MPs, although the Bundestag is three times the size of our own parliament, given its larger population. Either the one-seat subthreshold should be abolished altogether, or else increased to a minimum of two electorate seats, or should only activate if a party has polled at four percent total voter share or more.

3. Retain/Increase Maori Seats: Maori seats should only be abolished if and when Maori themselves consent to it. The proportion should be increased to reflect their demographic proportion.

4. Retain closed party lists: For strategic reasons, party lists should remain closed. Open party lists would destabilise party discipline and cohesion and introduce instabilities that would compromise the operation and efficiency of the elected legislative branch compared to the executive branch. Closed party lists prevent that undemocratic development.

5.Dual list/electorate candidacy: At present, party lists reflect party rankings as decided by the caucus and party leadership, with incentives to reflect social diversity. If a particularly important MP loses their seat, she or he can retain their parliamentary presence through high party list rankings. This has meant that in the case of our communities, Maryann Street and Charles Chauvel were returned to Parliament through the list, while Grant Robertson and Louisa Wall won election as constituency MPs.
As the Greens have no bolthole constituency seat, Kevin Hague and Jan Logie were elected through their party list. Again, this should be retained.

6. Reintroduce the Electoral Integrity Act: During the first term of the Clark administration (1999-2002), the government responded to public disdain for disloyal party list MPs who defected from their party of origin through passing the Electoral Integrity Act, which led to expulsion of party list MPswho did so during that term. Amusingly, the ACT Party voted against the measure, but then had to use it themselves when Donna Awatere-Huata defrauded the Pipi Foundation of funds and they needed to eject her from Parliament. Given Peter Dunne's anger at the defection of Gordon Copeland from United Future after the latter Christian Right MP took exception to Dunne's liberal conscience when it came to banning parental corporal punishment of children. As a result, the Kiwi Party was born, despite the fact that it was never elected to Parliament in its own right over the five percent threshold or as a result of winning a bolthole electoral seat. Fortunately, Copeland failed to win Rongotai from Annette King in 2008 and was thus out of Parliament. Microparties should not be able to hold major parties and their primary coalition partners to ransom if they throw temper tantrums over legislative agendas.

What should we bear in mind when making decisions about what recommendations should be within our submissions? At the 2011 New Zealand General Election, the fundamentalist Conservative Party would have won parliamentary seats had it managed to win Rodney from National, despite the fact that it only polled about three percent. Had that happened, it would be able to obstruct progressive legislative reforms and hold governing coalitions to ransom if it didn't agree to its extremist citizens referenda proposals, which are a waste of public expenditure which needs to be earmarked for welfare, health and education provision. We need to place as many barriers as possible between the Conservative Party's militant fundamentalist agenda and any possible attainment of parliamentary seats that might mean that it can implement them.

Recommended:
New Zealand Electoral Commission: http://www.elections.org.nz
Not Recommended:
Conservative Party: http://www.conservativeparty. org.nz

Craig Young - 4th March 2012

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