Honest people keep rules

20/02/2020

Serious Fraud Office investigations into political donations has prompted the inevitable calls for taxpayer funding of political parties.

The arguments the Taxpayers’ Union made against that six years ago still stand:

. . . “Politicians having to justify their work to supporters, members, and donors is healthy. Public funding would give a huge advantage to the established political parties. It professionalises politics and stamps on the grass roots.”

“The vast majority of donations made to political parties are small. That is a good thing. It means politicians and party bosses are accountable to many.”

Besides, whoever the funder is, there will have to be rules and where there’s rules there will be honest ones who keep them and dishonest ones who will break them.

The furor over alleged funding impropriety has also led to calls for full disclosure of every donation.

That is unnecessary.

People who donate to all sorts of causes, political or not, choose to do so anonymously for a variety of reasons including not wanting to show off their generosity.

A charitable trust of which I am a trustee has received a $20,000 donation this week and a $10,000 donation a couple of weeks ago. The donors in both cases prefer to keep their philanthropy quiet.

Charitable donations are different from political ones, but the right to privacy for donors of smaller amounts still stands.

If politicians can be bought for the amounts under the threshold for disclosure, it’s the politicians who are wrong not the threshold.

That said, the SFO investigations provide grounds for a look at current rules governing behavior of political parties including the powers and capacity the Electoral Commission has to initiate investigations and deal with complaints.

Election after election there are complaints that one party or another has breached the rules and election after election nothing is resolved until well after polling day.

If the commission had much stronger teeth and the capacity to investigate and, should it be necessary, act expediently

It might not stop the dishonest bending or breaking the rules but it would increase the chance of them being caught, should it be likely to influence an election, caught in time to ensure voters are informed before they vote.


Fast justice needed

19/02/2020

The Serious Fraud Office is investigating New Zealand First Foundation:

The SFO had been considering whether to launch an investigation after police handed in a complaint from the Electoral Commission last November.

That followed reports by RNZ about the way the foundation had been handling donations, and questions about disclosure and donors’ identities.

It referred the matter to the police, who promptly sent it to the Serious Fraud Office last week.

The commission said it had formed the view the secretive foundation had received donations that should have been treated as donations to New Zealand First.

“The Commission does not have the investigative powers to form a view about whether this failure to transmit and the non-disclosure means offences have been committed,” the commission said.

The commission passed its findings to police last Monday, and police immediately referred that on to the SFO. . .

Justice can’t be rushed but this is a situation which requires fast action.

This has been under consideration since November. That’s around three months which, even allowing for the Christmas shut down, is a long time.

In less than seven months, people will be casting early votes.

That there is an investigation could have a significant impact on the election and voters need to know the outcome so they can make a fully informed decision before they vote.


Politics of appeasement

17/02/2020

When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else … you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Wondering what Labour and the Green Party think about New Zealand First and its leader?  Are they staying true to their values and promises, or have they adopted the standards and values of New Zealand First and its leader Winston Peters?

Keep wondering because, as Henry Cooke writes,  their silence is deafening:

. . .  there’s a difference between leeway for jokes and leeway for seriously unbecoming behaviour. And the prime minister has slipped this week from the usual kind of space people give Winston to be Winston into plain supplicancy.

Jacinda Ardern is yet to say anything at all about the fact the Electoral Commission made absolutely clear on Monday that the way NZ First was treating donations to its foundations was wrong. . .

Instead of properly taking this on, Ardern has hidden, as politicians often do, behind the perceived inappropriateness of commenting while some process is still active.

Sometimes this waiting game is both useful and sensible – politicians shouldn’t talk too much about murder trials before they finish.

But in this case it makes no sense. . . .

. . .there are ways of commenting on things without alleging criminal conduct. It is the lifeblood of adversarial politics.

Following the Electoral Commission’s finding, Ardern would have been totally within her rights to say, at the very least, that she thought these donations should have been declared to the commission. She could have said she was disappointed that a coalition partner appeared not to have been as fulsome as it could have been with informing the authorities – all without alleging any kind of crime. . .

Later last week it wasn’t just the donations saga on which she wasn’t commenting.

This silence got even louder on Thursday when it became clear that NZ First had some kind of involvement in two covertly taken photographs of journalists reporting on the Foundation story, which found their way onto a right-wing blog. Peters told Magic Talk on Tuesday that “we took the photographs just to prove that’s the behaviour going on”, but later backtracked to say a supporter just happened to see the journalists and thought he or she should snap a photo.

Because of this shifting story, there is a muddle over exactly how involved NZ First and Peters are, a muddle that would best be sorted out by Ardern demanding a fuller explanation from Peters. Any level of involvement in this kind of tactic – clearly designed to intimidate journalists – is worth condemning, and you can bet that, if Ardern was in Opposition, she would manage it.

Instead she’s not commenting, saying it is a “matter for NZ First”, while her office notes that she speaks about ministerial decisions and comments, not about things said as party leader. 

The thing is, the Cabinet Manual does have a section about ministers upholding and being seen to uphold “the highest ethical standards” at all times, not just when doing ministerial business. Ardern has all the ammo she needs to give Peters a dressing-down over this, but instead she defers. Things don’t have to be illegal to be wrong.

And it’s not just Labour which is staying silent.

Worse, this rot of silence has also infected the Green Party, which, as a confidence and supply partner, has plenty of legitimate room to criticise such tactics. You don’t need to tear the Government up or demand that Peters is fired – you can just say what the journalists’ union said on Friday, that Peters needs to explain himself and apologise.

Instead the Greens just talk about how the law needs to be changed – which most people agree with, but isn’t the point. The topic at hand isn’t underhanded but lawful behaviour, it’s stuff that is potentially illegal – hence the police referral. The party should grow back its spine. . .

John Armstrong has a similar view:

Rarely has the current prime minister looked quite so feeble as was evident during yet another turbulent week for her pockmarked, patchwork Administration.

It was another week which witnessed Winston Peters at his frustrating, selfish, perfidious and domineering worst.

In a perfect world, it would have been a week which ended with him having been relieved of the title of Deputy Prime Minister, if only temporarily.

So damning was the verdict of the Electoral Commission on the propriety of the activities of the highly-secretive New Zealand First Foundation that any other minister finding themselves on the receiving end of such a judgement would have been stood down forthwith.

That verdict on its own is a damning indictment. Once it it became public that the commission’s findings had been passed to the Serious Fraud Office, Peters’ relinquishing of his status of Deputy Prime Minister ought to have been a mere formality, if only a temporary measure while the SFO determined whether everything was above board or whether prosecutions should follow its investigation.

Peters, however, has clearly concluded that he is somehow exempt from the rules covering the disclosure of the source of political donations.

The arrogance is breathtaking — especially from someone who has previously suffered the ignominy of being censured by his parliamentary colleagues. . . 

Given that track record, Peters is beyond being shamed.

He might be beyond being shamed, has that rubbed off on the other parties in government?

Just witness the outrageousness of the New Zealand First Foundation, the leaked records of which have revealed its purpose had been to accept donations in the tens of thousands of dollars from some of the country’s wealthiest individuals without having to disclose their names.

Ardern’s problem is that Peters is Deputy Prime Minister. She cannot wash her hands of him no matter how embarrassing his statements and actions might be for her or the wider Labour Party they might be. Neither can she sit blithely to one side and pretend that Peters’ very obvious agenda to undermine the Electoral Commission is not happening.

Ardern needs to read the Riot Act to Peters — and not just to remind him of his constitutional obligations.

Failure to do so makes her look weak. In dragging her down, he is dragging Labour down too.

She’s letting the party be dragged down lest Peters brings the whole government down, even though Simon Bridges’ announcement National own’t work with NZ First should it be in a position to do so after the next election leaves it, like the Greens, the choice of going with Labour or sitting or sitting on the cross benches.

He hasn’t got a lot of options. It would seem to be an opportune time to remind him of that. He is hardly in a position to pull down the Government.

That makes Ardern’s failure to talk tough appear even more pathetic. . . 

And not for the first time. remember Clare Cullen and Iain Lees-Galloway?

The bizarre chain of events which unfolded on Thursday only reinforced the case for Peters losing the title of Deputy Prime Minister.

The revelation that he was party to the covert photographing and filming of journalists whose investigations of the New Zealand First Foundation have uncovered much to embarrass him and his party is a clear breach of the provisions in the Cabinet Manual covering the conduct expected of ministers of the crown.

To quote that handbook: “At all times, ministers are expected to act lawfully and to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards. This includes exercising a professional approach and good judgement in their interactions with the public and officials, and in all their communications, personal and professional”. . .

Andrea Vance has more to say about snooping on  journalists:

No doubt Peters’ supporters are enjoying the irony of publishing paparazzi-style photographs of the reporters digging dirt on their party

For reasons that are unfathomable to me, New Zealand tends to minimise Peters more outrageous behaviour. But he is no lovable rogue – and this is straight-up intimidation.

Protecting the identity of journalists’ sources is an essential part of media freedom.

The threat of surveillance is chilling. It can have an intimidating and traumatising effect. . .

We might be a troublesome and unlovable bunch, but good journalism and a free press is an essential part of a functioning democracy.  

This attack on Shand and Espiner’s privacy is an attack on the public’s right to know about who is secretly funding their Government partner. 

Both Labour and the Greens must acknowledge that and condemn it, if we are to believe their exhortations New Zealand politics should be transparent and fair.

Both Labour and the Greens are forced into silence or at best mealy-mouthed muttering over New Zealand Firsts and Peters because they daren’t face up to him lest he pulls the pin that blows up the government.

Ever since the coalition was formed they’ve pandered to him, exercising politics of appeasement, having to make material concessions, several of which have been contrary to their principles and values.

They’ve swallowed so many dead rats they must suffer from permanent indigestion.

One of MMP’s big weaknesses is that it allows the tail to wag the dog. Peters and his party aren’t just wagging the other two parties they have forced them to roll over and accept not just policies that are contrary to their principles and they’re now, by refusing to condemn it,  accepting behaviour that is too.

Many commentators have questioned the values and standards of NZ First and its leader. Labour and Greens are day by day being more tainted by association and exposing their own values and standards to questions too.


NZ First referred to police

10/02/2020

The Electoral Commission has referred New Zealand First to the police:

The Electoral Commission has made enquiries into issues raised regarding the New Zealand First Party and the New Zealand First Foundation and their compliance with the requirements for donations and loans.

Based on the information available, we have formed the view that the New Zealand First Foundation has received donations which should have been treated as party donations for the New Zealand First Party. In the Commission’s view, the donations were not properly transmitted to the Party and not disclosed as required by the Electoral Act 1993.

The Commission does not have the investigative powers to form a view about whether this failure to transmit and the non-disclosure means offences have been committed. These matters have therefore been referred to the New Zealand Police, which have the necessary powers to investigate the knowledge and intent of those involved in fundraising, donating, and reporting donations.

As these matters are now with the Police, the Electoral Commission will not be commenting further.

No doubt everyone in NZ First will refuse to comment further because the matter is with the police.

The rules on donations to political parties and candidates start here.

There’s further explanation here.

The responsibility for disclosure lies primarily with the party secretary, but will this case involve NZ First leader Winston Peters?

He has maintained that the Foundation and the party are separate.

The Electoral Commission obviously thinks otherwise.

Peters has also said the NZ Foundation was modeled on National’s but National treats donations to its Foundation as donations to the party and declares them as it’s required to do.

I was one of National’s regional chairs when the Foundation was established and this was made very clear to everyone in the party and all donors. This and the legal requirements for disclosure are spelled out on the Foundation website.

 


Govt playing fast and loose with referendum process

13/11/2019

The government is taking power from parliament with its approach to next year referendum process:

The Government’s Referendum Bill which was reported back to Parliament last night from the Justice Select Committee is unfair and undemocratic, National’s Electoral Law Spokesperson Nick Smith says.

“The Government is playing fast and loose with referendum at next year’s election. It is manipulating the rules to satisfy NZ First and the Greens and to get the referendum result it wants.

Why bother with the expense of a referendum if the government’s ensuring the result before we vote?

“It is wrong that this Referendum Bill transfers the decision on the topics and wording of referendum at next year’s election from Parliament to Cabinet. Every previous referendum since 1853 held at a general election has been determined by Parliament.

The Government’s justification for this change that ‘Parliament cannot be trusted’ is deeply concerning.

Many might agree that parliament isn’t to be trusted but that lack of trust will extend as much, possibly more,  to Cabinet.

At least if parliament determines the process, it does so in public and not behind closed doors as Cabinet will.

“The Government’s own officials said the Bill is contrary to ‘free and fair elections’. While former MP Peter Dunne has described the bill as ‘Putin-esque’ and ‘reminiscent of the plebiscite approach adopted in countries where democracy in any form is but the thinnest of veneers.’

“It is inconsistent for the Government to be supporting a referendum on euthanasia but not on abortion, when both are sensitive life and death issues at the beginning and end of life. It is also inconsistent that Parliament is having a say on the topic and wording on the euthanasia referendum, but being excluded from any input on the referendum for recreational cannabis.

The hypocrisy of the Referendum Bill is that it only applies to the 2020 Election. This is the Government writing the election’s rules to suit itself but not wanting any future Government to have these new powers.

If the government can’t trust future government’s with these powers, we can’t trust this one with them.

“It is also inappropriate for the Government to be setting up a new unit in the Ministry of Justice to manage and monitor the public debate on these referendum. The Government has a clear preference of outcome on these referendum and any controls on free speech need to be completely independent such as the Electoral Commission.

National wants a consistent and principled approach. We need to respect our democratic traditions. The topics and wording of questions for referendum at General Elections needs to be subject to a proper public and parliamentary process.”

The government’s inconsistent and unprincipled approach to the process is an affront to democracy and undermines the integrity of referendums.

It’s bad enough that the government wouldn’t leave the decision on these issues to MPs who ought to have been fully informed on all sides of the debate.

That it is now undermining the process and potentially biasing the question and therefore pre-determining  makes it even worse.


Dowry update

04/07/2018

The Taxpayers’ Union says Winston’s dowry continues to grow:

It was revealed last week, that the tax break for racing industry bloodstock is expected to cost significantly more than previously anticipated. The tax breaks for the racing industry have faced ridicule as the only tax cut in Budget 2018. 

That’s not surprising: the racing industry has historically been a strong supporter of New Zealand First. The Electoral Commission recently found that Sir Patrick Hogan was in breach of the Electoral Act when he funded a full page ad in support of the party prior to the General Election last year. 

At Budget 2018, the cost of the tax break was expected to equal $4.8 million over the next four years, however IRD officials expect the tax break will cost up to $40 million – a 733% increase in the cost of the policy. That means taxpayers will be on the line for an additional $35.2 million over the next four years, which is all added onto Winston’s Dowry!

Winston’s Dowry as at 2 July: $5.168 billion ($2989 per household)

The total cost so far is $5.168 billion – or $2989 for the average New Zealand household, although if officials continue to increase the expected cost of policies, this figure will grow. 

“The Dowry” to date:

  • Provincial Growth Fund: $3 billion or $1735 per household
  • Additional funding for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade: $1.144 billion or $661 per household
  • Additional funding for the Ministry of Defence: $426 million or $246 per household
  • Additional funding for learning support: $272.8 million or $157 per household
  • Additional funding for Oranga Tamariki: $269.9 million or $156 per household 
  • Adjusted ‘Hot horses’ tax break, the new Forestry Hub, and a rename for the Ministry of Children: $55.4 million or $32.05 per household

Some of that spend could be necessary and provide value for money.

But hot-horse tax breaks? Neigh!


Electoral law isn’t working

23/05/2018

The Electoral Commission is investigating an advertisement exhorting people to vote for New Zealand First.

It’s not hard to join the dots between tax breaks for fast horses and racing interests who back New Zealand First.

. . . Winston Peters has repaid the electoral support of the racing industry with changes to the bloodstock tax rules and plans for an all-weather track. 

Peters announced $4.8m for tax deductions towards the cost of breeding high quality horses, in Thursday’s budget. The change would encourage new investment in the breeding industry, he said, enhancing the country’s racing stock and making it a more financially attractive industry.  . . 

NZ First has not disclosed its party donors in the annual declarations to the Electoral Commission, this month, but Peters did have outspoken support at last year’s election from the Waikato thoroughbred and bloodstock industry.  . . 

Industry leaders were vocal in their support of NZ First, with thoroughbred breeders Sir Patrick and Lady Hogan taking out a full-page advertisement in industry newspaper The Informant to encourage racing participants to party vote NZ First in September last year.  . . .

It is permissible for people or groups to advertise in support of a party but Andrew Geddis raises some questions about this advertisement:

The advertisement definitely encouraged people to vote for New Zealand First. It was here on Sunday but if you click that link now you’ll get access denied. However it is in the link to the story at Stuff above and says:

There is only one horse to back, it’s New Zealand First. It has the race record.  It’s now imperative that you all take this opportunity to have what we want by  making our PARTY VOTE IN FAVOUR OF NEW ZEALAND FIRST.. . 

And under the signatures it says:

PLACE YOUR PARTY VOTE FOR NEW ZEALAND FRIST

It’s possible the Hogans and the industry magazine didn’t know the electoral law about third party promotion but ignorance isn’t a defence.

Although, like far too many instances when questions are raised about possible breaches of electoral law, the investigation is far too late, this horse has well and truly bolted.

Months after the election is far too late so whether or not there has been a breach of electoral law, this yet again raises questions about the effectiveness of the law.

However, it’s not too late to address any conflict the issue of Peters as Racing Minister.

David Farrar points out:

Jacinda Ardern said NZ First Ministers can’t be Minister of Fisheries due to their donations from the fishing industry. Yet she makes Winston Minister of Racing despite figures in the racing industry running advertisements campaigning for NZ First. . . 

If NZ First MPs can’t be Ministers of Fisheries because of donations from the fishing industry, this advertisement should disqualify Peters from being Racing Minister.


Greenpeace ad is electioneering

08/09/2014

The High Court has supported the Electoral Commission’s contention that a Greenpeace advertisement is electioneering.

The High Court in Wellington has today released a judgment in two cases filed concerning decisions of the Electoral Commission (Greenpeace of New Zealand Inc & Ors v Electoral Commission CIV-2014-485-8997) and (Greenpeace of New Zealand Inc v Electoral Commission CIV-2014-485-8998).

In the first case, Greenpeace and others were seeking a statutory declaration that the Climate Voter website was not an election advertisement under section 3A of the Electoral Act 1993. The Court rejected Greenpeace’s arguments and said that the website that the Electoral Commission considered when providing its advisory opinion was an election advertisement for the purposes of the Electoral Act.

In the second case, regarding a Greenpeace website criticising Simon Bridges, the Court has declared that the website was not an election advertisement as it related to his role as Minister of Energy and could not reasonably be regarded as encouraging or persuading people not to vote for a candidate or party.

The Electoral Commission will need to carefully consider the judgment and discuss the implications of the decision further with Greenpeace and others.

No further comment will be made while the judgment is under consideration . . .

Of course the advertisement was electioneering.

It was clearly aimed at persuading people to vote the way Greenpeace and its fellow travellers wanted them to.


Party and candidate lists

27/08/2014

The Electoral Commission has released the party and candidate lists for next month’s election.

The registered parties seeking the party vote are:

ACT New Zealand

Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party

Ban1080

Conservative

Democrats for Social Credit

Focus New Zealand

Green Party

Internet MANA

Labour Party

Māori Party

National Party

New Zealand First Party

NZ Independent Coalition

The Civilian Party

United Future

13 registered political parties contested the general election in 2011.

Candidates

A total of 554 candidates (electorate and list) are standing in this year’s election. This compares with 544 candidates in the 2011 election.

71 candidates are on the party list only and 114 are standing as electorate candidates only.  38 electorate candidates are standing as independents or representing unregistered parties (only registered parties are eligible to contest the party vote).

The number of candidates standing both as an electorate candidate and on a party list is 369.

The electorates with the most candidates are Epsom and Tauranga with 11 and the electorate with the lowest number of candidates is Hauraki-Waikato with 3.

390 men and 164 women are standing in the 2014 General Election. In 2011 there were 397 men and 147 women standing.

The elections website www.elections.org.nz has full information by electorate including candidates, advance voting places and election day voting places at

www.elections.org.nz/events/2014-general-election/information-voters-who-when-and-where

The party lists are available at www.elections.org.nz/2014partylists

Party

Number of Candidates

List Candidates

Electorate Candidates

ACT New Zealand

44

41

39

Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party

13

13

10

Ban1080

9

9

5

Conservative

64

20

64

Democrats for Social Credit

35

35

30

Focus New Zealand

8

8

2

Green Party

60

59

57

Internet MANA (figures include Electorate Candidates standing for MANA Movement or Internet Party)

35

32

Internet Party – 15

MANA Movement – 18

Labour Party

85

64

71

Māori Party

27

24

24

National Party

75

75

64

New Zealand First Party

32

31

31

NZ Independent Coalition

10

10

4

The Civilian Party

8

8

0

United Future

11

11

11

Unregistered party and independent candidates

38

N/A

38

Total

554

440

483

To see the break-down of list and electorate candidates click on the link at the top of the page.

Does anyone know why only 65 candidates appear on the published list when a few parties have more than that number of candidates?


Civilan Party regsitered

13/08/2014

The Civilian Party has met the membership and other criteria necessary to be registered as a political party:

On 11 August 2014 the Electoral Commission determined applications made under Part 4 of the Electoral Act 1993 to register the following political party and logo:

Party: The Civilian Party

Logo:

The Electoral Commission determined that the party and logo be registered in accordance with sections 67 and 71F of the Electoral Act 1993. The Register of Political Parties and logos has been updated accordingly.

I admire this party because it knows it and its policies are jokes.

There are several other parties without the required self-knowledge to realise they are too – though none of them is nearly as funny.


113 breaches referred 0 prosecutions?

02/07/2014

The Electoral Commission has referred 113 breaches of the electoral Act to police in the last three years and none has resulted in a prosecution:

Figures supplied by the Electoral Commission reveal 113 cases have been referred to police for investigation since the beginning of 2011 – not one has resulted in a prosecution.

Daljit Singh, a Labour Party candidate in Auckland’s first Super City elections, was convicted of electoral fraud earlier this year but the actions on which the charge of electoral fraud were based  took place more than three years ago.

Back to the original story:

It’s a figure Justice Minister Judith Collins wasn’t aware of.

Ms Collins doesn’t know the basis on which the Electoral Commission referred the cases to police, and says it’s something she’d have to find out more about before she could express an opinion.

While surprised at the figure, Ms Collins remains critical of opposition party calls for the Electoral Commission to be given the power to prosecute breaches of electoral laws.

“That would be an interesting situation since as I recall it’s mostly their parties that are actually responsible for most of the breaches, but that would be very interesting. That would be turkeys voting for an early Christmas wouldn’t it.” . . .

It would be very interesting and that might not be the answer.

But all those referrals and not a single prosecution is a very strong indication that the system is broken and needs to be fixed.

Alleged breaches need to be taken seriously and dealt with quickly – preferably before the election which might be affected by them.


All votes equal

03/02/2014

I don’t expect everyone to share my political views and respect others who have the courage of their convictions, whether or not they agree with mine.

What frustrates me is people who vote without understanding what they’re doing.

It’s a frustration shared by Paul Henry:

. . . “The problem with the democracy is that everyone’s vote counts the same as everyone else. I think it is diabolical that someone who doesn’t give a shit about politics, has no interest in it, doesn’t care, can go into the polling booth and nullify my vote through their own pig-ignorant stupidity,” he said.

If Henry ran the country (his 1999 foray into politics for the National Party in Wairarapa left him unelected) there would be a test at the beginning of the ballot paper to determine a voter’s intellectual capability to participate in democracy. A three-question, multi-choice quiz to establish a minimum knowledge of the system.

“And if you can’t get those three questions right, there is no way you can make an even vaguely intelligent independent decision on who should form the next government. It would be nice if people could upskill,” he said. . . .

I’ve often said that people should have a comprehension test before they’re allowed to vote – but only tongue in cheek.

If you’re free to vote you’re free to vote in ignorance or to not vote at all.

But could – and should – more be done to ensure people are better informed and engaged so that they can vote more intelligently?

I don’t know of any data on why people vote the way they do but Statistics NZ has found that the most common reason for not voting at all was they didn’t get round to it, forgot or weren’t interested.

Non-voters in 2008 and 2011 general elections: Findings from New Zealand General Social Survey shows 21 percent of people who didn’t vote in the 2011 General Election ‘didn’t get round to it, forgot or weren’t interested’.

A further 7 percent didn’t vote because they felt their vote wouldn’t make a difference. It’s interesting to see that this group has nearly doubled since the 2008 General Election, according to NZGSS manager, Philip Walker.

Age, income, and migrant status also made a difference to voting behaviour. Younger people were less likely to vote – 42 percent of people aged between 18–24 years said they didn’t vote in the 2011 General Election.

“People who feel they don’t have enough money to meet their daily needs are also less likely to vote,” Mr Walker said.

Whether people are migrants, and how long they have been in New Zealand also made a difference to their voting behaviour. Recent migrants had low voting rates, while migrants who had been in New Zealand for longer periods had very similar voting behaviour as people born in New Zealand.

The report is welcomed by the Electoral Commission, which is concerned about New Zealand’s declining voter participation.

“Declining voter engagement in our Parliamentary democracy is a problem that affects all of us and it will take a national effort to turn this worrying trend around,” Robert Peden, Chief Electoral Officer, said. “This research will further increase understanding of the problem, which is a necessary step in finding solutions.”

It’s not just a matter of quantity but quality.

We should be concerned not just about how many people vote but that they do so in an informed manner with a good understanding of what they’re doing.

I am sure one of the reasons people are disenchanted by politics and politicians is that they don’t understand them.


Want to bet on chances of a prosecution?

05/12/2013

The Electoral Commission has referred Labour leader David Cunliffe to the police over the tweet he sent on the morning of the Christchurch East by-election urging people to vote for Labour candidate Poto Williams.

It is the Electoral Commission’s view that the statement constituted a breach of section 197(1)(g)(i) of the Electoral Act 1993 because it was a statement published on polling day advising, or intended, or likely to influence electors as to the candidate for whom they should or should not vote in the by-election.

Does anyone want to bet on the chances of a prosecution resulting from the referral?

If the number of prosecutions made on electoral matters in recent years is anything to go by the odds would be very long.

Cunliffe issued a brief media statement:

Labour has today been advised the Electoral Commission has referred a tweet I made on Saturday to the Police, Labour Leader David Cunliffe says.

“I understand this is a routine part of the Commission’s process.

“I will be co-operating fully with any inquiry and won’t be making any further statement on this matter as it is now part of a formal process,” David Cunliffe says.

No mention there of him standing down as he has called for other MPs who have been referred to the police to do.

As a tweeter remarked:

Now that @DavidCunliffeMP has been referred to the Police, when is @DavidCunliffeMP going to demand that he be stood down from office

 


No more Maori seats good sign

09/10/2013

The Maori Party is blaming the Electoral Commission for no increase in the number of Maori seats.

The Maori Party is disappointed at this week’s announcement from the Representation Commission, that no new Maori electorate will be created following the census and the Maori Option.

“Proper investment by electoral agencies in promoting Maori engagement with Parliamentary politics could have convinced another 4% of electors to join the Maori Roll, and secured an eighth Maori seat,” said Co-leaders Tariana Turia and Te Ururoa Flavell. 

“The Electoral Commission’s campaign did not do enough to ensure that people were fully informed of the difference between the two rolls.  The feedback we received from rangatahi is that the information provided from the Electoral Commission left them feeling that they had more choices on the general roll.”

“The Electoral Commission spent around $1.5million on the Maori Option Campaign, but measured their success based on the number of times their advertisements were viewed, not on results or ensuring that the message received by whanau were transformed into action – the action of filling in the forms and sending them back in.” . . .

It’s the Commission’s job to ensure people are informed of their options and to present the facts not to influence them one way or the other.

People are better on the general roll – most seats are smaller geographically making it easier for MPs to service and for constituents to access MPs and electorate offices.

. . . “The Maori Party will be making submissions on new boundaries for the current Maori seats – we think it is quite unrealistic for the whole of the South Island and part of the North Island to be represented by one MP, for example. The lack of access to Maori electorate MPs is a valid reason for Maori electors to opt onto the General roll – which reduces the number of Maori seats. The whole system works to disenfranchise the Treaty partner in Parliamentary politics.”

Te Tai Tonga is too big and poorer access will influence decisions on which roll to go on.

But that problem isn’t confined to Maori electorates. Some general seats are bigger than some Maori ones.

We’d all be better off if there were no Maori seats because more general seats would make all electorates smaller.

No increase in Maori seats is a good sign that people are recognising that, as Tariana Turia said, Maori seats don’t give Maori a voice.

It might also reflect that more Treaty settlements have been concluded and more Maori are moving from grievance mode to growth.


Mandatory audit of party membership

22/08/2013

United Future has been re-registered and recognised as a party in parliament again.

One of the problems the party had was the Electoral Commission’s refusal to recognise electronic memberships.

Its leader Peter Dunne took the opportunity in Question Time yesterday to ask about bringing the law up to date:

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: . . .  —I agree that the time has come when we should also be looking into the greater use of electronic data for all aspects of our electoral system. I have asked my officials and the Electoral Commission to consider ways in which this can be achieved while retaining the very high levels of security and public confidence in the system.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister’s answer mean that she is prepared to look, in the context of the forthcoming rewrite of the Electoral Act, at changes to the law, to ensure that where parties register members online, those memberships will be accepted as valid?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yes.

Hon Peter Dunne: Is the Minister also prepared to consider, as part of that review or changes to that legislation, looking at providing for a mandatory audit by the Electoral Commission of all parties’ membership once every 3 years?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I have not given that matter any thought, but it is a matter that I could always discuss with the Electoral Commission.

Parties are required to have 500 members to be, and remain, registered. All the Electoral Commission has to go on is confirmation of this from the party.

There is no check on the accuracy of the count of the validity of the memberships and there should be. I would also like to see a significant increase in the minimum number.

Five  hundred members is a very low target for a party to reach.

MMP has given a lot more power to parties, the law needs to ensure that they are representative of more than a few hundred people.

If a party can get tens, even hundreds, of thousands of people to vote for them, they ought to be able to persuade a couple of thousand to join them.

They, and democracy, would be stronger for it.


Civics in schools to boost election turn-out?

25/07/2013

The government has responded to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee’s report on the 2011 election.

One recommendation, is to ask the Electoral Commission to liaise with the Ministry of Education on the feasibility of ongoing comprehensive civics education in schools.

While I’m loathe to add anything to an already very full curriculum, and whether or not it boosts voter turn out, I think this is a good idea.

We all ought to understand the process and institutions of government and our rights and duties as citizens.

Greater knowledge could lead to greater interest which could increase voter turn out and participation in other areas such as submissions to select committees.

 


Which other parties don’t have 500 members?

25/06/2013

Jane Clifton is feeling sympathy for Peter Dunne over the Electoral Commission’s insistence on signed applications for membership and treating United Future’s application for registration as if it was a new party.

. . . That the party must now be treated as an entirely new entity for the purposes of the system, and wait a couple of months for restoration, is little short of a joke. Again, this may be legally in order. But it’s still inane.

The Opposition, and doubtless members of the public, will see the financial penalties Dunne has incurred as perfectly righteous – but that’s a different argument. It is rather grandiose for a one- or even three-person caucus in Parliament to have the mighty infrastructure of a Leader’s Office and a Research Budget. A bit of judicious recalibration of parties’ entitlements is probably overdue.

MMP allows single-MP parties into parliament but there should be a higher hurdel than a very few members to justify a leaders’ office and the budget that goes with it.

But that Dunne should lose these entitlements because a) his party was the only party foolish enough to be honest with the commission, and b) because the law is an ass and it was unclear how to process such a novel situation through the red tape and c) because in all likelihood officials were spooked by the histrionics of Winston and Labour in Parliament about Dunne’s entitlements, is very unfair.

The Commission must obey the law, even if in this case, it appears the law is at the very lest in need of an update.

However, if the law must be applied it must be applied evenly.

Dunne is facing a tricky climb-back to redeem his career. But the commission needs to redeem itself too, by instigating equal treatment for all registered parties. Having taken such a flinty line with United Future, it should now actively check the numbers for all the parties, and keep a running monitor. That would, of course, be to look for more trouble, so it will probably handily find it lacks the resources for such rigour. . .

I don’t know where the figure of 500 came from in the requirement for a party to have at least that many members.

It is a very low hurdle for an organisation to jump and it ought to be monitored properly.

Givent he low number of members required, it shouldn’t require too much for the Commission to satisfy itself and the public that all registered parties, or at least all those in parliament, do have 500 real, living, human members.


6 – 8 weeks to re-register UF

19/06/2013

The Electoral Commission is requiring United Future to have signed, dated membership forms from at least 500 members before it will be re-registered.

The forms can be submitted to the party electronically.

Once the Commission has the forms and the party rectifies other deficiencies in its application it will process the application which is expected to take six to eight weeks.

The Commission is notifying the speaker because this could have an impact on United Future’s position in parliament and funding for its leader, Peter Dunne.

The requirement for 500 members is a very low hurdle for a party to jump and it reflects very poorly on United Future that it let its membership slip under that number.

It is possible other wee parties don’t have 500 members but haven’t fronted up to the electoral Commission.

 


More or fewer?

06/06/2013

Several commentators have been picking there will be an extra Maori seat after people choose which roll to be on.

But so far  more people are switching from the Maori roll to the general roll than from the general roll to the Maori one.

If that trend continues the number of Maori seats will stay the same or there could be one fewer.

This could be a reflection of Treaty settlements which have enabled Maori to move from grievance mode to growth mode.

It could be because Maori realise the size of the electorates makes it much more difficult for their MPs to represent them effectively.

It could be because there is no single Maori voice.

It could also be because people realise the seats have had their day.

The Maori Party isn’t happy about the trend:

Tariana Turia said “When we first entered into a relationship with the National Party in 2008, the first thing we did was negotiate to keep the Maori seats in place. At that time it was a huge deal because National had campaigned on getting rid of the Maori seats. We cannot be complacent, we know that our seats remain vulnerable, and if we don’t use them we risk losing them.”

“Māori voter participation is absolutely crucial to any system of political representation. And yet, for at least the last decade, there has been ample evidence demonstrating that the electoral system is not effectively engaging with Māori. Much more work must be done on all fronts, to encourage Māori uptake on their democratic right, to get on the electoral roll”.

Voter participation and representation do not depend on special Maori seats.

Participation is equally important which ever roll people are on and being on the general roll doesn’t mean Maori aren’t represented.

Turia herself said that Maori seats didn’t give Maori a voice:

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.

I don’t know if there are any figures for Maori voter participation on the general roll but voting in Maori seats is usually lower than in general seats. Many who enrol on the Maori roll don’t bother to vote.

One argument used to defend the continuation of Maori seats is that it’s up to Maori to choose.

That’s like saying only those 65 and over should have a say on superannuation. Having Maori seats affects us all.

If those seats were dropped and the current total number of electorates retained the seats would decrease in geographical size which would give better representation for all of us.


No consensus, no change

15/05/2013

One of the arguments used to urge people to vote for a change in the electoral system was that it was the only way we’d get a second vote.

They’ve been proved right.

Justice Minister Judith Collins says since there’s no consensus there will be no change.

In November last year, the Electoral Commission released its review of the Mixed Member Proportional system, estimated to have cost $1.6 million.

It recommended dropping the party vote threshold from 5% to 4% and scrapping the “coat-tails rule”, which would stop a party that won an electorate seat bringing in extra list MPs unless it reached the party vote threshold.

However Ms Collins says the changes would have been significant, and can not be done without widespread support.

On the coat-tails rule, Ms Collins told Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report that five parties want to keep the status quo and three want it abolished, so there are major differences of opinion.

“Law changes in this country require 61 votes to get through Parliament. I don’t have 61 votes to bring forward the law changes suggested by the Electoral Commission. It’s as simple as that.”

It’s not just that law changes require 61 votes, it’s that major constitutional changes should either have the support of at least 75% of parliament or be put to the people in a referendum.

Had a majority of people voted for change in  2011 there would have been a review of MMP and we’d have got to vote between the modified version of the current system and the most preferred alternative next year.

A majority voted for the status quo, there’s been a review but there’s no consensus and so there will be no change before next year’s election.

It would have been better for the review to have been carried out before the referendum then we’d have all known exactly what we were voting for.

As it was some people who supported MMP might have supported it as it is and others as they’d hoped it would be after the review.

LabourGreen might decided to campaign on the issue and promise to implement the recommendations of the Electoral Commission.

But even if they win the election they won’t be able to claim a mandate for change.

They’ve put so much energy into saying National campaigning on the partial sale of a few state assets and winning the election didn’t give them a mandate, they won’t be able to claim campaigning on the electoral system and winning would give them a mandate.


%d bloggers like this: