2/4 for Act’s plan

August 13, 2018

Act wants fewer MPs a smaller executive and no Maori seats:

ACT is drawing a line in the sand on the size of government with a new bill aimed at rolling back the state.

Party Leader David Seymour today revealed his Smaller Government Bill which will reduce the size of Parliament to 100 MPs, limit the size of the Executive to 20 Ministers, and remove the Maori seats.

“The growth in government over the past two decades has not delivered better outcomes for New Zealand. We need smaller, smarter government”, says Mr Seymour.

“New Zealand has too many politicians for its size. Our Government costs more and delivers less than it did 20 years ago.

“The Smaller Government Bill will cut the size of Parliament 100 MPs, bringing us into line with other developed countries.

The number of electorates is determined after each census.

The General electoral population is the ordinarily resident population shown in the last census less the Māori electoral population.

All electorates must have about the same population size.   The number of South Island General electorates is fixed at 16 by the Electoral Act 1993.  To calculate the number of electorates the Government Statistician:­

  • divides the South Island General electoral population by 16 (this result provides the average electoral population for South Island electorates and is referred to as the South Island quota)
  • divides the Māori electoral population by the South Island quota to work out the number of Māori electorates, and
  • divides the North Island General electoral population by the South Island quota to work out the number of General electorates for the North Island.  . .

If the number of MPs was reduced the size of electorates would have to increase and rural electorates are already far too big.

Clutha Southland covers an area of 37,378 square kilometres, West Coast Tasman is a little smaller and Waitaki covers an area of around 34,000 kilometres.  It doesn’t matter how hard, smart and effectively  MPs representing these electorates work, it is impossible for them to give the same level of service to constituents spread over these huge area as the MP for Epsom, the smallest electorate, which covers an area just under 20 square kilometres.

“It will also restrict the number of high-paid Ministers to 20. Our Executive is far too big – currently standing at 31 people.

“Almost half of the Government MPs hold a position in the Executive. We have too many pointless ministerial portfolios. They are not improving the lives of New Zealanders and this bill will do away with them.

Quality rather than quantity should be the rule for the executive.

Fewer, more able ministers would serve the country better, and at a lower cost, than the over-populated and under-talented one we have now.

“The bill will also remove the Maori seats. New Zealand is a modern, diverse democracy. There is simply no longer a place for one group of people to be treated differently under the law.

“We now have 27 Maori MPs, 20 of whom were elected through the general roll. Even without the seven Maori seats, Maori would still be proportionately represented in Parliament.

The problem of size in rural general electorates is even worse in Maori seats.

Te Tai Tonga, the largest, covers an area of 153,671 square kilometres and is nearly four times as big as Clutha Southland. It covers the whole of the South Island, Stewart Island, the Chatham Islands, and extends into the lower North Island as far as the Hutt Valley.

It isn’t humanly possible to service an area that big effectively which means constituents are getting inferior representation.

In 2008 then-Maori Party leader Tariana Turia said:*

I think what our people are starting to realise though is that when they voted Maori people into Labour they never got a Maori voice, they got a Labour voice and that was the difference, and they’ve only begun to realise it since the Maori Party came into parliament, because it is the first time that they have heard significant Maori issues raised on a daily basis.

The seats by themselves didn’t give Maori a voice. They have also often given them inferior representation, sometimes because of the MPs and always because of their size.

The Royal Commission on MMP said there would be no need for Maori seats under this system, but that was ignored.

Its prediction that MMP would bring more Maori into parliament anyway has been proved right.

Getting rid of Maori seats is National Party policy. It was set aside in negotiations with the Maori Party after the 2008, 2011 and 2014 elections. It is New Zealand First policy and is now Act policy. That could mean a majority of parliament supports this part of Seymour’s Bill should it be drawn from the ballot.

Maori choose whether they are on the general or Maori roll every six years.

If the greater number of people switching from the Maori roll to the general one in the first month continues it will result in one fewer Maori electorate.  If that trend continued the seats would eventually disappear by attrition any way.

“Our plan would also require all parliamentary candidates to stand in an electorate, and all elected list MPs would be required to open an office in the electorate in which they stood.

“List MPs serve an important function in our democracy, but they should be required to serve New Zealanders and solve real problems, not just collect a salary and spend their time in a Wellington office. . . 

The requirement to serve New Zealanders and solve real problems should apply to all MPs but I wouldn’t go as far as requiring all of them to stand in an electorate.

Some MPs might be more effective if they serviced a nationwide constituency, for example an ethnic community, than a single electorate.

I give Act’s plan a rating of 2/4.

Seymour’s plan to reduce the size of the executive and get rid of Maori seats has merit.

But reducing the number of MPs is simply populism that would make already over-sized electorates even bigger and requiring all MPs to stand in electorates is a blunt instrument that wouldn’t necessarily improve performance.

* Dame Turiana’s quote was made on Agenda. The only record I can find is on a blog post I wrote here  where the link to the quote no longer works.


Freedom to offend and outrage

April 4, 2017

Auckland University of Technology’s History Professor Paul Moon has written an open letter rejecting “forceful silencing of dissenting or unpopular views” on university campuses.

“Freedom of speech underpins our way of life in New Zealand as a liberal democracy. It enables religious observance, individual development, societal change, science, reason and progress in all spheres of life. In particular, the free exchange of ideas is a cornerstone of academe,” the letter said.

“Governments and particular groups will from time to time seek to restrict freedom of speech in the name of safety or special interest. However, debate or deliberation must not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most people to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed.

“Universities play a fundamental role in the thought leadership of a society. They, of all places, should be institutions where robust debate and the free exchange of ideas take place, not the forceful silencing of dissenting or unpopular views.

“Individuals, not any institution or group, should make their own judgments about ideas and should express these judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas they oppose, without discrimination or intimidation.

“We must ensure that our higher learning establishments are places where intellectual rigour prevails over emotional blackmail and where academic freedom, built on free expression, is maintained and protected. We must fight for each other’s right to express opinions, even if we do not agree with them.”

Not even when we disagree, but especially.

Freedom of speech doesn’t mean the freedom to say only the innocuous and uncontroversial.

The letter was in response to Human Rights Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy’s call for a review of “hate speech” law. Police are suggesting it be looked at as a specific crime

Mr Moon, told the New Zealand Herald free speech at universities should be defended.

“The trouble is we often don’t know the difference between free speech and hate speech,” Mr Moon said.

“Usually, if people are offended by what is said it’s seen as hate speech. That’s dangerous.

“It is dangerous to silence someone just because we don’t like what they say.”

Mr Moon said such views are a threat to the right to free speech.

“It puts the definition of free speech at the whim of people pursuing that line,” he said. . . 

Freedom of speech, Mr Moon said, was the foundation of a modern, diverse and democratic society.

It protected religious freedom and individual expression, he said.

Mr Moon said kneejerk calls from police and the Human Rights communision to introduce hate-speech laws will have the unitended consequence of suppressing free speech.

“It will create a culture of fear,” he said.

“What we need is open debate, which will change racist and intolerant views, not censorship.”

Mr Moon said freedom of speech was intimately connected with freedom of thought. . . 

The letter was signed by: Assoc Professor Len Bell, Dr Don Brash, Dr David Cumin, Sir Toby Curtis, Dr Brian Edwards, Graeme Edwards, Dr Gavin Ellis, Sir Michael Friedlander, Alan Gibbs, Dame Jenny Gibbs, Bryan Gould, Wally Hirsh, Professor Manying Ip, Sir Bob Jones, Professor Pare Keiha, Assoc Professor Luamanuvao Winnie Laban, Dame Lesley Max, Gordon McLauchlan, Professor Paul Moon, Sir Douglas Myers, Assoc Professor Camille Nakhid, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Professor Edwina Pio, David Rankin, Philip Temple, Dame Tariana Turia and Professor Albert Wendt.

More than 100 years ago, Winston Churchill said: So we must beware of a tyranny of opinion which tries to make only one side of a question the one which may be heard. Everyone is in favour of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.

Freedom of speech is not just the freedom to say what people want to hear. It is the freedom to say what they don’t want to hear, to offend and to outrage.

The answer to offensive and outrageous speech is not to silence the speakers but to let them speak and counter the offence and outrageousness with reason or ridicule.

 

 

 


Greens aiming for Mana voters

January 27, 2015

Green co-leader didn’t deliver the speech she’d prepared to deliver at the Ratana celebrations but she got the publicity she was seeking from it anyway:

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei launched a stinging attack on John Key in his absence at Ratana today, saying his view of New Zealand’s history was “warped, outrageous and deeply offensive”.

She also said Mr Key was a prime example of the “ignorant, uneducated Pakeha” economist Gareth Morgan had talked about the day before. . .

Ratana elders usually frown upon using the occasion for a political speech, but Ms Turei was unrepentant.

“This is a political event. We need to come here and front up to Maori about our Maori policy, our Treaty policy and explain ourselves. And that’s what I’m doing.”

She said Mr Key had to be taken to task for a “disgraceful way to describe New Zealand’s history”.  . .

The Prime Minister wasn’t there but his deputy was:

Mr English said the Greens were “nasty” on occasion and it didn’t serve them well.

“John Key has developed a very positive relationship with Maori even though there isn’t very strong political support among Maori for National. He has focused on a lot of areas they want him to focus on. So I don’t think the audience will be too impressed by it.” . . .

Nor would those member of the Green Party who take their values, which  include engaging respectfully without personal attacks, seriously.

However, neither the people at Ratana nor Green members were her intended audience.

She was dog whistling to Mana voters.

The chances of Mana returning to parliament now the party doesn’t have an MP are very slight. Turei’s outburst looks like  an attempt to gain its supporters’ attention.

If that’s the strategy it’s a risky one.

Anything aimed at voters from the radical Maori left of the spectrum are likely to scare away more moderate voters towards the centre and make the idea of a Labour-Green government less attractive to both Labour and many of its supporters.

Meanwhile, the Deputy PM showed better manners and a more positive outlook:

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English spoke for National, beginning by acknowledging the iwi leaders at the event and the work of the prophet. The Finance Minister got some laughs when he added that he was also interested in another type of ‘prophet’ – “profit. The one we can tax.”

Mr English also spoke about the privilege he had to be involved in Treaty settlements. He acknowledged Dame Tariana Turia, who was sitting on the paepae, saying he would miss being nagged by her. He said he would also take care of ‘your baby, Whanau Ora.”

He also referred to the relationship with the Maori Party and Maori voters’ preference for Labour.

“They’re not waiting for the government you want – they’re working with the Government you’ve got.”

He said there had been gains under that.

“We’re a long way forward.”

He also nodded at Ratana’s allegiance to Labour. “There’s been discussion about how Ratana votes, we’ll get to that in three years’ time, because there’s young Maori there who need us next week.”

While the Green Party is seeking headlines in opposition National is working with the Maori Party, and other coalition partners, to make a positive difference for all New Zealanders.

 


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