Dangers for the vulnerable

June 25, 2019

Serious question: how do people who believe in minimising the power of the state reconcile that view with support for giving the state the power over the life and death of vulnerable people?

The Bill that seeks to legalise euthanasia would restrict its availability to people with terminal illnesses with less than six months to live.

Doctors can predict how long someone might survive, but they can be wrong.

A year ago a friend was told he had five months to live.

He has just bought a neighbouring farm and is about to launch a newly built boat.

He still has cancer but he is on a drug which has not only kept him alive but is allowing him to live a good life.

Eighteen months ago a friend emailed to say she was on the way to look after her grandchildren because their other grandmother was in the very last stages of life with hours or at best days to live. At the 11th hour she was given a new drug and she now has no signs of the cancer that was killing her.

These are true stories, Jacqui Dean who sat on Parliament’s Health Select Committee, which launched an inquiry in response to a petition calling for a law change to permit medically assisted dying in the event of terminal illness. heard more:

. . . I am opposed to euthanasia, with my resolve only strengthened after sitting on that committee and hearing the heartfelt testimony of hundreds of people who bravely faced death and the families who lost loved ones.

I heard some wonderful stories of love and tenderness, sad stories of heartbreak and loss, stories of great courage and inner strength, and through it all I had the utmost admiration for those who came before us to share their deepest fears and their greatest joys.

The Samoan grandmother who talked of the death of her father – a beautiful and moving family experience which she told us was gentle and loving and filled with prayer.

The woman whose husband was diagnosed with a brain tumour at 28, but who outlived three fatal prognoses and didn’t actually pass away for fourteen years.

This woman pointed out that no-one can predict the final outcome of a terminal illness, and she and her daughter were grateful that they never gave up and that the family got to share those extra years together.

And the blind man who had fought against adversity all of his life and wanted to encourage people to live in hope and not give in to despair.

There were stories of courage and strength, which reflected the best of the human spirit.

Stories from those who made it their life’s work to support the dying through palliative care, and submissions from groups motivated by strong beliefs around death and dying.

We also heard from those approaching the end of their lives.

This included a man, in his 40s who was dying of prostate cancer, who spoke with anger about his life being robbed. And others who said they feared death and wanted to take the pain away as quickly as possible when their time came.

There’s no doubt decisions made at the end of life are emotionally charged, highly personal and reflect circumstances and timing that vary from individual to individual.

The care that people get at this time can make a fundamental difference to people’s experiences.

For that reason, I support the power of good that hospice and palliative care services provide.

Dedicated and diligent guidance from these providers can assist terminally ill people to die peacefully and with dignity.

They believe that if people can come to a place where they can accept their end of life, it can have a huge impact on them and a lasting positive effect on their families.

I was deeply affected by the impassioned testimony the committee also heard from groups representing the disabled, elderly and the mentally ill.

Many of these people genuinely fear for the future if they become a physical or a financial burden on their families. They also questioned whether there could be circumstances where they may be manipulated or pressured into ending their lives.

This worries me deeply. If we legislate for the right to die, the negative impact on vulnerable groups will be huge.

In my heart I simply cannot accept that a law can be developed which will completely protect the vulnerable.

One of the most moving moments of the select committee process came when we heard from a Wellington man who said in the past he had been suicidal.

He recognised the grave consequences if euthanasia was made legal in this country. The option of taking one’s life would become much more normalised and he believed vulnerable people might make a decision that could never be reversed.

Our suicide rates are already too high – we don’t need death by choice as another signal that ending one’s life is OK.  . . 

The Select Committee that dealt with the Bill said it was unworkable. the doctors in the Care Alliance agree with them.:

. . . The Care Alliance, a charity which opposes physician-assisted euthanasia, has taken out a full-page ad in the New Zealand Herald.

The signatories endorse the views of the World Medical Association and New Zealand Medical Association, that euthanasia is unethical, even if made legal.

The letter says it supports effective pain relief and palliative care, and the right for patients to decline treatment if they wish.

But it says crossing the line to assist a person to die would weaken the doctor-patient relationship.

Dr Sinead Donnelly, who organised the letter, said the bill is unworkable.

“The message is that as doctors we don’t want to be part of it. You’re going to, in our view, destroy the profession of medicine by drawing us in to ending the life of our patients and two, the risk to the vulnerable is much too great.”

The letter has been signed by 1061 doctors, of the 17,000 registered doctors in New Zealand. . . 

The NZMA opposes the Bill:

It’s current chair, Kate Baddock said that had not changed and would not. 

“It would be impossible to craft a law that would completely protect people from sublte coercion and it’s also impossible to craft a law that means that people are totally competent,” she said.

“Therefore there should be no law, there should be no euthanasia.”

She is backed up by the Secretary General of the World Medical Association, doctor Otmar Kloiber.

“We have a huge and overwhelming majority that says no, this is not for us, and doctors should not be involved in killing patients,” he said.

“That is a very clear and very broad view which we have.”

Australian ethicist doctor Margaret Somerville spent 40 years in Canada and has nine doctorates, and said it was not over the top to use the word “killing”.

“This is a momentous decision, to say that you will allow intentional killing,” she said.

“You’ve got to be clear about what we really are authorising. This voluntary assisted dying – we all want assistance in dying. And then you give it to the medical profession, the healers in our society, it’s a radical change in our most fundamental values.” . . 

Lawyers have concerns too:

. . .Public lawyer Grant Illingworth QC said it was a very serious issue and mistakes about death and dying could not be undone.

“That’s why we abolished the death penalty in this country,” he said.

“The kind of legislation currently before parliament must contain safeguards that are so clear and so comprehensive, that any possibility of dying by mistake is excluded beyond a reasonable doubt.

“The statute proposed by David Seymour fails to meet that standard by a very wide margin in my opinion.” . . 

Life is terminal, but who can say when it will terminate?

It’s impossible to be precise about how long even very ill people might live and there are very real dangers in giving the state the power over life and death of vulnerable people.


If not sacking AG must investigate

March 11, 2019

Shane Jones is in another spot of bother:

After declaring a conflict of interest in a proposed Northland cultural centre, Shane Jones sat through a meeting when ministerial colleagues decided on its multi-million dollar funding application, even giving reassurance about its governance.

Manea, Footprints of Kupe was among the first group of projects to be awarded cash from the Provincial Growth Fund, a $1 billion a year fund secured in coalition negotiations between Labour and NZ First, which is coming under increasing criticism. . . 

He has repeatedly said he stepped back from having involvement in the project and denied advocating for it.

But documents quietly posted on the website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) showed that Jones attended what appears to be the single ministerial meeting to determine the application.

“Minister [of Finance Grant] Robertson raised his concerns about the broader management and commercial operations of the project,” MBIE official Mark Patterson wrote.

“Minister Jones provided reassurance that as the project has Far North Holding Ltd, the commercial arm of the Far North District Council, involved in its governance structures, he was comfortable their presence would alleviate any concerns on the issue.”

Patterson added that MBIE would manage other concerns through milestone payments.

“Minister Robertson was comfortable to sign the briefing knowing this mitigation was in place.”

Less than a month after Davis announced the funding, Jones was asked by Act leader David Seymour whether he had held any discussions with his ministerial colleagues about Manea.

“I asked my colleagues to make the decision on that project in order to manage a conflict of interest”.

Later he said he “noted” the involvement of Far North Holdings to colleagues.

On Friday, Jones insisted he purely offered “statements of fact” in the meeting and he believed he had managed his conflict of interest, but acknowledged others would consider it appropriate to exit meetings altogether.

“You can physically exit or you can declare a conflict and let colleagues deal with the issue,” Jones said.

“I don’t believe my presence in any meeting with three other powerful ministers has any deterrent effect.” . . 

He might believe that but it doesn’t stop the perception that he used his influence when he declared a conflict of interest and ought to have not even been in the room.

[Act leader David] Seymour said the documents suggested Jones “was decisive” in seeing the funding go ahead to an organisation he had a prior association with.

“He actually provided reassurance to his colleagues, which is at stark odds with  his repeated assurances in Parliamentary questions that he’d recused himself from any role,” Seymour said, claiming Jones had breached the Cabinet manual.

“I don’t see how you can continue to be a minister when something as simple as a conflict of interest, you can’t manage.”

On Sunday morning, Seymour, called for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to sack Jones.

“Shane Jones not only involved himself in an application in relation to which he had a conflict of interest, he also concealed this key meeting in answer to a written parliamentary question,” Seymour said.

Clare Curran was eventually sacked for a similar transgression.

National’s regional development spokesman Paul Goldsmith said it defeated the purpose of declaring a conflict of interest and delegating responsibility, “if a minister then engages fully in favour of a project which Shane Jones appears to have done”.

“We need a full explanation from Shane Jones of his involvement in this project from start to finish.” . . 

 Seymour and the Taxpayers’ Union have both called for the Auditor General to investigate:

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Ministers have it drilled into them that when it comes to decisions that involve a personal interest, they shouldn’t be in the room, let alone provide advice and ‘reassurances’. Shane Jones’ behaviour will give taxpayers zero confidence that the Growth Fund is being spent impartially or for economic good.”

“Businesses across the country will look at this example, along with other Growth Fund handouts, and figure that the key to profitability is cosy relationships with the political class. That is the path to cronyism and corruption.”

“The Prime Minister mustn’t let her Government’s reliance on NZ First lead to an open season on taxpayer funds. She should call in the Auditor General to investigate Shane Jones’ actions, and be prepared to strip him of his Regional Economic Development portfolio if necessary.” . . 

The Provincial Growth Fund is a $3 billion fund which has been criticised several times for doling out money without the usual cost-benefit appraisal and rigour which should precede largesse with taxpayers’ money.

The Prime Minister dilly-dallied before sacking Clare Curran.

Given the sensitivities with New Zealand First, it is unlikely she will act on the calls to sack the minister over this matter so it is up to the Auditor General to investigate.


We lose if WTO not taken seriously

November 28, 2018

Could the Provincial Growth Fund threaten New Zealand’s free trade credentials?

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones today confirmed that some Provincial Growth Fund expenditure may qualify as agricultural subsidies, meaning it would need to be reported to the World Trade Organisation, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Jones said he had sought advice from MFAT about the legitimacy of his spending. This would be the first time New Zealand has reported such subsidies to the WTO in 25 years.

“It would be incredibly embarrassing if the Government had to report this expenditure, especially given David Parker travelled to Europe in January seeking to limit the agricultural subsidies of other countries, and Jacinda Ardern’s recent trumpeting of free trade.

“Subsidies for agricultural products are tightly restricted under WTO rules and for good reason. They stand in the way of free and mutually-beneficial trade; they create inefficient domestic industries by coddling producers; and, they represent wasteful spending and require higher taxes to support them.

“The Fourth Labour Government scrapped all of New Zealand’s agricultural subsidies in the 1980s, resulting in more productive, profitable and innovative producers.

“In his typical, blustering fashion Jones said he had no intention of complying with the international trade body’s rules.

“NZ First has always harboured a deep desire to return us to the Fortress New Zealand of the 1970s.

“If Shane Jones is determined to continue making such payments, he’ll be sullying New Zealand’s international reputation as a free and open trading nation.

This exchange in question time yesterday doesn’t give any confidence that Jones is taking WTO requirements seriously:

David Seymour: Has the Minister had advice in any form that some of his provincial growth fund expenditure may have to be reported to the World Trade Organization as it qualifies as agricultural subsidies—the first time New Zealand would have reported such subsidies in 25 years?

Hon SHANE JONES: Yes. Naturally, advice has been sought from the foreign affairs department. However, given that the adjudication and the appeals of so-said international trade body are in a state of disarray, I’m not bothered by that at all.

Part of the pain of the ag-sag of the 80s was due to the axing of subsidies but I don’t know of any farmers who would want to go back to the bad old days when they were at the mercy of politicians and bureaucrats, focused on producing more rather than what markets wanted.

Free trade has made New Zealand stronger and protection from the WTO has helped when other countries have tried to use non-tariff barriers and other anti-trade measures against us.

As a small nation heavily dependent on trade, we need the WTO and the minister’s cavalier attitude to it and our reputation for free trade is yet another reason to question the PGF.

 


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.


Thugs’ veto working

August 7, 2018

When the Free speech coalition withdrew its urgent application for a  judicial review of Auckland Mayor Phil Goff’s claim to ban Molyneux/Southern from Council-owned venues,  coalition spokesman Dr David Cumin said it would turn its focus to the thugs’ veto:

“The second issue remains – will officials who want to gag unwelcome political speech now manufacture “safety concerns” to evade the NZ Bill of Rights Act, and the Human Rights Act?”

“All fair-minded New Zealanders will be upset by the apparent effectiveness of the Thugs’ Veto in this case. It may have been against a Council whose Mayor was happy to be threatened, but it has implications throughout New Zealand.”

The need for such action has been confirmed by news that the thugs’ veto is already working at Massey University:

“Massey University Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas should resign after cowardly barring Don Brash from speaking at the University”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“After veiled threats from a left-wing thug in a letter to the Vice-Chancellor, she capitulated this morning and prevented Dr Brash from speaking on ‘security’ grounds.

“A student wrote to the Vice-Chancellor: “I look forward to hearing what your thoughts are on this matter and steps you will take to ensure the safety of those attending. Remember in light of their type of “Free Speech” does not come Free of Consequences.’”

Brash, a former Reserve Bank Governor and Opposition Leader, was due to speak to the Politics Society tomorrow.

“I have long feared that American-style anti-intellectual, violent intolerance would come here.

“It has appeared at Massey this week and the university has completely failed to the test.

“Education Minister Chris Hipkins should follow the British and defund universities that do not protect freedom of speech in their campuses.

“Universities exist to promote robust debate, educate, and search for the truth.

“They do not exist to coddle students and protect them from views they might disagree with. . . 

Dr Cumin adds:

In blocking former Leader of the Opposition and Reserve Bank Governor Don Brash from speaking on campus tomorrow, Massey University disgraces an important tradition of free speech on university campuses and a fundamental tenet of a liberal democracy.

Massey University’s Vice-Chancellor appears to have capitulated to the veiled threats of protesters, cancelling the event for ‘security’ reasons.

Free Speech Coalition spokesman Dr David Cumin says, “Publicly-funded universities in New Zealand and across the western world have a proud tradition of upholding freedom of speech. If we allow the ‘heckler’s veto’ to shut down contentious speech at a university, a place that should be a bastion of free expression, what hope can we have for free speech anywhere else?”

“Hecklers and thugs have been emboldened by Auckland Council’s recent capitulation on similar grounds. That’s why the Free Speech Coalition is pressing ahead with court action to prevent a dangerous precedent where a minority can shut down any speech by threatening violent protest.”

“The Police need to put their hands up and restate their commitment to protecting freedom of speech from would-be violent protesters.”

“Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas must reverse her decision *and ensure that she works with authorities to provide a safe environment for the expression of ideas on her campus. The fundamental role of universities is to foster dissenting views, debate, throw light on and challenge the establishment, but certainly not shut down speech. This is a disgraceful act from a university leader.”

Would the vice-chancellor give in to threats from a hard-right group should the speaker be , for example, advocating Maori sovereignty or special treatment for refugees? Would she let right to life activists silence proponents of abortion or euthanasia?

If she didn’t she’d be guilty of political bias, if she did she’d be allowing the thugs’ veto again.

That’s the danger that follows what she wrote about constraining free speech and her decision to ban Dr Brash.

She is setting herself up as an arbiter of what is a permissible view and what’s not; which opinions can be aired and which can’t and she’s setting a very dangerous precedent which let hecklers and thugs silence people with whose views they disagree.


Less for more or more for less*

July 3, 2018

Governments have choices when giving assistance.

They can make it universal – giving to more people, but each getting less; or they can target it – giving it to fewer people but each getting more.

With two payments starting this week, the government opted for the less for more approach.

There was $65 a week for a year for all parents of new babies and $450 to help all beneficiaries with winter heating – or whatever else they choose to spend it on – whether or not they needed it.

The baby payment can’t be claimed with Paid Parental Leave so single-earner double-parent households will get it and those earning less than $79,000 will get the payment for up to three years.

But some families still won’t have enough with it and others will have more than enough without it.

Most beneficiaries who get the winter heating payment will need it, but among those receiving it are pensioners, including those still in paid work, in receipt of more than one pension and/ or with more than enough other income.

Act Mp David Seymour says:

Around 9 per cent of superannuitants earn over $60,000 a year – more than the median income and three times the level of the pension.

“Their slice of winter energy payments will cost taxpayers about $73 million. . .

Eloquently as the gentlemen at Point of Order argue for a mate who will use the payment to power up his electric Mercedes, most of us would find more pressing needs for that $73 million.

There are costs to targeting but it would have been very simple with the heating payment.

Had it been opt in most of the better-off pensioners wouldn’t have bothered to claim it. Since it’s opt-out few will bother to turn it down.

Both these payments are part of the nanny state Damien Grant says insulates us from the consequences of failure:

. . . Children protected from the rigours of life fail as adults. We all understand this and parents grimace as our children stumble through the same mistakes we made. Yet we have unlearned this obvious truth when it comes to the wider community.

What happens to an individual when the consequences for failure are removed? What happens to families whose parents are not expected to provide for their own off-spring? What happens to a community over multiple generations of dependency?

We have been taught that we are not responsible for providing for our own education, paying for our healthcare or even scrabbling for food. The existence of poverty is never the fault of the individual but of the wider society who, as a consequence, must bear responsibility for the poor life decisions of all its citizens.

We can see the result, as most OECD nations have been conducting an inter-generational experiment on shielding their citizens from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Controversial-yet-influential American political scientist Charles Murray’s 1984 book Losing Ground outlines a theory that welfare can increase poverty because it rewards self-defeating decisions, such as avoiding employment. His writing contributed to then-US President Bill Clinton’s limited wind back of federal welfare in 1996.

In New Zealand, every citizen is a beneficiary. We are all eligible for free healthcare, pensions, TVNZ and a welfare system that is so invasive that my local district health board keeps sending me requests for a stool sample. (Seriously, cut it out!)

We are insulated from the full consequences of failure and hampered by a progressive tax and social regime that places a drag on success. The results are rising numbers of single-parent families, record levels of incarceration and persistent pockets of poverty and low academic achievement.

The response to this ongoing failure is ever-increasing intervention.

Today makes the start of the Orwellian Working For Families programme, where middle-class parents receive even more government cash paid for by scrapping the last government’s tax cuts. 

We have become infantilised by this paternalistic managing of much of our economic life and are unwilling to embrace the freedom and responsibility of adulthood. 

It is very difficult to design a welfare system that helps those in genuine need without trapping them; to give people enough without incentivising them to stay dependent; to give hand- outs that provide hands-up without holding people back.

But targeting extra payments would be a good start.

* I know that should be fewer not less, but whenever has correct grammar got in the way of a headline?

 


National in drag difficult sell

May 30, 2018

Two polls this week show the National Party still ahead of Labour with about 45% support.

That is encouraging for National and worrying for Labour.

But the latter has two support parties, although New Zealand First is registering below the 5% and the Green Party is hovering close enough  to the threshold to make it possible it might not make it back into parliament and we’d return to a two-party system in spite of MMP.

Possible isn’t probable and in spite of being the most popular party, National lacks any allies with sufficient support to enable it to form a government with more than 50% of the vote.

Act could gain another MP or two, but it hasn’t managed to do that in recent elections and would have to do so without taking votes from National to make a positive difference.

The Maori Party might win back a seat or two, but that too is more possible than probable.

Finding another party which could either win a seat or cross the 5% threshold would not be easy.

Some are suggesting a National MP leaves the party to form another one. But National in drag would be a very difficult sell for party members and other voters, and would only help if it got votes from the left and not the centre-right.

Tariana Turia managed to win a seat when she left Labour and formed the Maori Party; Winston Peters did it with NZ First; Peter Dunne held his seat under several manifestations of what eventually became United Future and former Labour MP Richard Prebble won a seat for Act but they are the exceptions. Any other MPs that I can recall who left a party and formed another failed to hold their seats.

The other option is standing back and making an accommodation to let a new party, which would take votes from Labour, NZ First and/or the Greens, take a National-held seat.

But that would be very difficult to do and would be entering very dubious territory.

National voters gave electorate votes to Dunne but he was a sitting MP when he formed his own party. Act voters opted for Rodney Hide of their own volition and not because National made an accommodation. They supported him and subsequently David Seymour but didn’t have to vote against a sitting National electorate MP to do so.

Trying to persuade National voters to swap support from an MP they voted in for someone from a new party would be a very different matter.

National is a victim of its own success and any attempt to help another party is likely to backfire and sabotage its own support.

It’s also a victim of the failure of MMP to give us a party in the middle that stands for something and could go centre-right but what can it do about without endangering its own support?


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