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.


This doesn’t mean Maori are over-represented

December 10, 2013

Kiwiblog makes an interesting observation on the make-up of parliament:

Incidentally with Williams and Hayes both replacing non-Maori MPs, the number of MPs in Parliament of Maori descent is a record 25 out of 121, or 21% of Parliament. That is a significant over-representation. The makeup of the Maori MPs in Parliament is:

  • Maori seats 7
  • General seats 6
  • List seats 12

Very very hard to claim you need the Maori seats to continue, to maintain effective Maori representation in Parliament.

The breakdown of the 25 Maori MPs is also interesting:

  • National 9
  • Labour 7
  • Greens 3
  • Maori 3
  • NZ First 1
  • Mana 1
  • Independent 1

That might be over-representation as a percentage.

It doesn’t mean Maori are over-represented.

As Te Ururoa Flavell pointed out most Maori seats are too big which makes effective representation much more difficult.

The solution isn’t more Maori seats, it’s getting rid of them.

That would add another general seat in the South Island and several in the North, all of which would be smaller and easier to service than the biggest electorates are now.

The Royal Commission which designed MMP said there would be no need for Maori seats under this voting system.

That the majority of Maori MPs hold general or list seats proves that.


No more Maori seats good sign

October 9, 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.


Maori seats to stay at 7?

July 24, 2013

Today is the last day for people to change between the Maori and general electoral rolls .

The number doing so will determine if there is a change in the number of Maori seats.

. . . The latest campaign opened in March – and preliminary results show 5200 people joined the Maori roll halfway through – most of them being new voters.

Nearly ten thousand more people would need to join it by Wednesday to be on par with the number of people who joined in the 2006 option – which saw no increase in Maori seats. . .

A report in June said:

The 6774 voters moving from the General Roll to the Maori Roll are essentially cancelled out by the 6727 leaving it to go on the General Roll.

Unless there’s been a large number of people opting for the Maori roll and very few for the general roll in the last month it is likely the status quo of seven Maori seats will remain.

The Maori seats are an anachronism which ought to have disappeared when MMP was introduced.

No new ones is good, fewer would be better and none at all would be best.

The seats were taken for granted by Labour for years and the area most of them cover make it much more difficult to service them and constituents to get access to their MPs.


Can’t change one rolll without changing other

May 3, 2013

The Electoral Commission wants to allow Maori voters to change between the general and Maori rolls more often.

Current law allows Maori to opt for the general or Maori roll every five years, after the census.

The results could increase, or decrease, the number of Maori seats. A change could also have an impact on the number of people in general seats – increasing or decreasing the population.

Boundaries are considered after every census. The South island population is divided by 16 to get the number of people in each electorate, plus or minus 5%.

That includes the number of people in Maori seats.

There is always some change between censuses which could put seats under or over the 5% tolerance. Enabling Maori to opt for one roll or the other in isolation from consideration of all electorates could exacerbate that.

It could also allow Maori more of a say – being able to move from one roll to the other for a by-election then back for the general election, for example.

I think Maori seats have outlived their usefulness and would definitely not be in favour of allowing people to opt for a different roll any more often than every five years when the boundaries for all seats are set.


Information not persuasion

February 12, 2013

This year Maori have the first chance since 2006 to choose whether they’re on the Maori or general electoral roll.

“If you are Maori and on the electoral roll, then this year you get to choose which type of electoral roll you want to vote on,” Enrolment Services national manager Murray Wicks said.

“There hasn’t been a Maori Electoral Option since 2006, so we want to make sure that Maori have access to all the information about the option and what it means before making their decision when the option period begins.

“It’s an important choice, and we want people to be confident to take part.”

The Electoral Commission is bound to present information on the options rather than persuade and says Maori organisation tasked with spreading the word should be strictly impartial.

Kiwiblog noted yesterday that one of those organisations is the Maori Council which is in the midst of legal proceedings against the government.

How impartial will it be?

Other groups, not employed by the Commission are free to persuade and they usually urge people to sign up for the Maori roll.

It would be good to see a campaign explaining the disadvantages of that and the benefits of being on the general roll.

As Tariana Turia said, 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.

Maori seats not only didn’t give Maori a voice, they gave and continue to give them inferior representation because most of them are too big to service effectively and provide constituents with ready access to their MPs.

Te Tai Tonga covers 161,443 square kilometres – the whole of the South Island, Stewart Island and part of Wellington. Te Tai Hauauru is 35, 825 square kilometres in area, Ikaroa-Rawhiti covers 30,952 square kilometres and Waiariki 19,212 square kilometres.

Maori seats were created when the right to vote depended on the ownership of land. That hasn’t applied for decades and there are now more Maori MPs in general seats and on the lists than representing Maori seats.

This gives them better representation than the Maori electorates which were taken for granted until National invited the Maori Party to be a support partner in government.


Fairness and equity when it suits

November 9, 2012

Trans Tasman comments on the Electoral Commission’s recommendations on MMP:

The Commission had recommended the 5% threshold be cut to 4%, and abolition of the one-seat (or “coat-tail” rule). It said the one-seat rule’s effect had been to undermine the principles of fairness and equity and the primacy of the party vote in determining the overall composition of Parliament which underpin MMP. This is because it gives voters in some electorates more power than those in others. However it is hard to argue in favour of refined principles of fairness and equity so long as separate Maori seats are retained in the NZ electoral system.

Opposition MPs are keen to support the recommendation, though Labour didn’t regard the one-seat rule as a problem when it gave them the support of Peter Dunne and those he brought in on his coat tails.

Nor will they suggest there is no longer a need for Maori seats because in that case fairness and equity won’t suit them so well.

 

 


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