Nov 13, 2009

Kiwis voting system to go to referendum

Malcolm MacKerras has been trying to persuade New Zealand’s politicians to replace their Mixed Member Proportional electoral system with a better one.

We Australians so often tend to look across the Tasman and think we are looking at a country whose politics is less interesting than our own. However,  I have a different view. Because of my interest in electoral systems, I have found New Zealand to be very interesting and Australia less so.

Essentially we Australians have had no serious wrangles about our electoral systems. By contrast the New Zealanders had an almighty argument that appeared to be resolved in 1993 when 54% of voters chose the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system to replace their old British First Past the Post (FPP) system to elect their unicameral House of Representatives.

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4 thoughts on “Kiwis voting system to go to referendum

  1. Kirk Broadhurst

    Surely if there were three options, and I chose Single Transferable Vote, then I’d be able to allocate my second and third preference from the other options.

    Similarly, if I chose Mixed Member Majoritarian I’d be able to allocate ‘some’ of my vote to MMM and ‘some’ of it to another option…?

    And anyone who chooses FPP doesn’t get to allocate any second preference at all. Perfect!

  2. New Cassandra

    Stick to the best system in the world – ours! – Full preferential voting – this way the least unpopular candidate wins – which is the fairest all round result.

  3. Kirk Broadhurst

    Our system isn’t the worst, but it’s hardly the best. I’d much prefer a NZ (or German) style system where minority views can contribute to Government.

    I have 12 representatives for my state who are essentially useless stooges for their respective parties, and I have one local member who less than 40% of my community picked as first choice. Who is my local champion? A proportional system ensures that other voices are heard, and keeps us away from the dreaded 2-party system.

    Transferrable vote is hardly the ‘fairest all round’. The National Party regularly poll less than 5% support across the nation, yet have 9 seats in the House of Reps. The Greens, on the other hand, poll closer to 10% across the nation (and have consistently more support than the Nationals) – yet have the princely sum of zero seats. Family First poll around 2-3% yet also have zero seats. I know that the Senate is supposed to resolve this issue, but unfortunately we only have 6 states in the country.

    Proportional Representation is the only ‘fair’ way.

  4. mike f.

    First of all, New Zealand isn’t going to ditch MMP; New Zealanders will regard STV as a too-complicated way to produce the same results as a list-based system. They’ll reject MMM as an attempt to pull a swifty, and the Australian lower house system as completely out of the question.

    And here’s why. I want Green MPs. And thanks to my electoral system, I got them. Nine of them. Under the Australian system, what I get told instead is, “your vote didn’t count! What of the other party would you give your vote to?”. And then, suddenly, instead of getting the MPs that I wanted, I get my vote sucked into a system that results in my vote electing someone from the Labour party. But, and I think this is pretty important: if I wanted Labour MPs, I would have voted for the Labour Party.

    Essentially, the Australian system is designed to make people go through a list of things they don’t want, and choose one; so instead of getting what I want, which is a Labour Party that has to listen to and deal with a bloc to the left of it, I get what I really don’t want, especially considering that our parliament is unicameral: an outright Labour majority.

    And, as for MMM (which is being referred to as ‘supplementary member’ here), that’s a nothing system. It means that our number one gripe with first-past-the-post is still in play. It means that someone with 42% of the vote can form a majority government, because they did something arbitrary. In this case, that arbitrary thing is win a majority, no matter small, in enough geographic constituencies. The MP for New Plymouth has a majority of 108. And the MP for Waitakere has a majority of 300. In fact, several MPs have small majorities; a lot of them belong to the National Party, and are why they won 40 out of 70 electorates. Now, with 42% of list votes, National can get the 21/50 seats it needs to have 61/120 and a majority administration; this in the name of proportionality or fairness! Some of our most hated FPP governments formed administrations on larger shares of the vote.

    As for the lack of one-off preferential choice in the 2011 referendum, that’s the right thing to do. Changing your electoral system is a big undertaking, and maybe we should have some time to chew things over. That way, we can make sure that they thing we actually wants wins.

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