Do equal numbers of men and women want to be MPs?

July 24, 2013

In the debate about gender balance in parliament I haven’t come across any discussion on whether equal numbers of men and women want to be MPs.

If more women are seeking selection and failing while fewer men try and succeed, and there is no great difference in their suitability, there could be an issue of discrimination.

But if fewer women seek selection in the first place, fewer getting to parliament might not be the problem those wanting better balance between the genders think it is.

I’ve been involved in selections several times.

The first one had two men and one woman seeking the candidacy. One of the men won the selection but didn’t win the seat.

The second one had two men standing and the successful one won the seat.

The third time a couple of men stood but the winner didn’t take the seat.

The next time only one applicant passed the pre-selection process. She became the candidate and won the seat.

The fifth time a man and a woman sought the candidacy, she was selected and won the seat.

The sixth time two men stood for selection but the one who became the candidate didn’t make it in to parliament .

The last time, two women sought selection. The successful one didn’t win the seat but was on the cusp of being a list MP.

In all these selections, the successful people became candidates on their merits.

That’s nine men seeking selection, five winning but only one of whom became an MP while five women sought to be a candidate, three succeeded and two became MPs.

This is anecdote not science.

It would be interesting to know what proper statistical analysis  of the numbers standing, succeeding as candidates and then becoming MPs showed.


Attributes of a good MP

January 27, 2011

Trusty, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind.

Those are the virtues a Guide or Scout should possess. They’re a a good start for an MP too but the successful one needs much more than that.

MPs require intelligence, confidence, common sense, diligence, flexibility, humility, versatility, energy, patience, perseverance, stamina versatility, vision and wisdom.

They must be adaptable, compassionate, decisive, dependable, fair, honest, honourable, innovative, open, polite, reasonable, tolerant and tough. They need the ability to find solutions to difficult problems and stressful situations without becoming emotionally involved and the strength to say “no” when they can’t help.

The position requires MPs to work with all sorts of people regardless of their abilities, backgrounds and views without fear or favour.

MPs need to learn how to not take personal attacks personally. A well developed sense of humour, including the ability to laugh at themselves, is essential.

They must be able to admit mistakes and apologise for them.

They need the support of family and friends who will lift them up when they’re knocked back and keep the grounded  if they start getting carried away with their own importance.

They need to be articulate, enthusiastic and persuasive. They require the ability to read quickly, understand complex and sometimes contradictory information and to sort what’s important and right from what’s not.

 MPs need to know what they believe in. They must be sure about what they will tolerate and what they won’t; what they stand for and what they stand against.

They must support the philosophy and principles of the party for which they are standing and not be like  Marilyn Waring who told Chris Laidlaw she stood for the National Party so she could get into parliament, not because she believed in it.

Supporting the philosophy and principles of the party doesn’t mean they’ll agree with every policy. They must be able to accept the need to promote policies they might not agree with and choose very carefully the rare occasions when they will not be able to do that.

Tonight 60 members of the National Party will be choosing one of five nominees who will be the candidate for Botany.

They are:  Maggie Barry, Aaron Bhatnagar, Darron Gedge, Jami-lee Ross and Edward Saafi.

I don’t know any of them well enough to have a view on who will be the best candidate.

The list of attributes isn’t exhaustive and none of the five will have all the ones I’ve mentioned. But I hope s/he has most of them because the man or woman who wins the selection will almost certainly be the next MP for the electorate.


Wrong comparison misses real story

January 23, 2011

You’d be forgiven if you imagined our MPs lived in a different world, writes Rob Stock.

That’s the opening statement of a Sunday Star Times story (not online) headlined A peek at how the other half lives.

It looks at likely policy initiatives this year and then says:

Examples of that kind of whack in the wallet came last year when working parents of young chidlren were told they would have to absorb the rising costs of pre-school childcare after the government cut funding to the sector by $449 million, and many feel that GST hikes left them worse off.

Whack in the wallet is a wonderfully emotive term and Stock makes no mention of the tax cuts and one-off increases to benefits which offset the GST increase.

While it would be foolish to expect the average MP to be on a par financially with the average person, the average man or woman in the street could be forgiven for thinking the parliamentarians making the decisions that hit their wallets live in a different world when it comes to personal finances.

And certainly, the 122 men and women occupying seats in parliament have a different financial profile from the average man or woman.

Stock then takes the 2010 register of parliamentarians pecuniary interests as a guide and says:

Though the register is now dated, it provides a view into the personal wealth themes among MPs, and allows readers to contrast parliamentarians fortunes with their own.

Passing over wealth themes whatever they might be, the inference from all this is that there is something wrong, on the contrary it shows there is something right.

It indicates that many of the people who govern us had successful careers before entering parliament and that they invested wisely. Rather than being something to envy, it’s something which ought to give us reassurance. If they know how to earn, and look after, their own money they are more likely to take a responsible attitude to policies which impact on ours.

It is meaningless to compare MPs’ salaries and assets with those of the average working-age person because the average person doesn’t have the work load and responsibilities of most MPs. (I say most because there could be the odd list MP who does little to earn his/her salary and I specify list because any electorate MP who doesn’t more than earn his/her salary loses his/her seat).

Stock has made the wrong comparison and missed the real story.

A more meaningful comparison would be between MPs and people who run their own businesses or have senior management or governance roles.

A much more interesting, and useful, story would compare what MPs earned before they got into parliament with what they get as an MP.

An even more fascinating story would show how many, and  from which party, took an income hit when they entered parliament; how many earn more as an MP than they did before and how many earn more afterwards.

Those comparisons would give us the real story.


Right diagnosis wrong prescription Dr Smith

November 1, 2010

John Key is correct that it would be better to make MPs’ travel expenditure public.

Unfortunately speaker Lockwood Smith disagrees and from now on an individual MP’s expense won’t be declared, we’ll only know the total for all MPs.

Dr Smith has correctly diagnosed public disquiet over revelations on what MPs have been spending but he’s come up with the wrong prescription.

His argument  is that expenditure on overseas trips is part of MPs’ salary package and what they do with it is their private business.

That may be technically correct but it’s not quite that simple when public money pays for the allowances to which they’re entitled and some MPs use them and some don’t.

Now that expenses have been public it’s going to be very difficult to keep them private.

The answer to the problem is to change the system which is what the Prime Minister is suggesting:

”The reality is we have worked on a process where we’ve opened up MPs expenses and now it will look to the public like we somehow are closing the door slightly.”
Mr Key, speaking from Vietnam where he is attending the East Asia Summit, said scrapping the travel perks and upping MPs salaries in compensation is ”a very hotly contested issue.”

”At some point we’ll have discussions with our caucus about that.”  The government had tried  to move to a system that coverts more compensations to cash, he said. ”I actually think that’s fundamentally the right way to go.” But he admitted ”selling that to the public might be an interesting charge.”

”I think this is a situation that is going to evolve… Given the charge we’ve lead in the past few years …the genie is out of the bottle.”

He’s right. Dr Smith opened the expenses to public scrutiny and it will be impossible to keep them hidden again.

Someone will recognise an MP on an overseas flight and tell someone and it will find its way in to the media with the inference they’re holidaying on the taxpayer whether or not they are.

But we don’t even have to wait for disclosure by chance. All it will take is for someone to ask all MPs regularly if they’ve been overseas and if so who footed the bill and make the answers public.  Anyone who refuses to answer will be judged guilty, whether or not they are.

It would be far better to take a fresh look at MP salaries, work out a reasonable value for the travel allowance and pay that in cash. That lets the MP choose to spend the money they earn with no need to disclose it to the public and the public will know exactly how much an MP is paid.

That is fairer and clearer for both MPs and the public.


Increase in women MPs slowed under MMP

September 25, 2010

MMP was supposed to help women enter parliament but has it?

Scrubone has a graph which shows the increase in the number of women MPs has slowed since MMP was introduced:

Pre the 1980s, clearly there was an upward trend for many years followed by some stagnation. But after 1978, numbers of women MPs shot up from 5% to 22%.

After the first MMP election however, something strange happened. The improvement has been much slower. Slower than the pre-MMP, and vastly slower than the 80′s and early 90′s trend. So things are getting better, but slowly – that’s point 1.

Now, think about this. Those big gains were made when all MPs were electorate MPs.

Scrubone also found that not only had the increase in the number of women MPs slowed, it was even slower for electorates.

There’s another, very obvious conclusion that can be taken from exactly the same data. MMP has meant that parties don’t need to take seriously the idea of equality anymore. Why bother to get a wide range of candidates in seats when you can just promote them in the list? That to me is a should be listed as a negative.

So is MMP really better for women’s representation in parliament? I see a reduction in the rate of increase that could hardly be more clear, plus a change in behaviour in that women are pushed from electorates into the list.

Is that really progress?

He’s got graphs to show that too . He worked on percentages so this trend has nothing to do with there being fewer electorate seats since MMP was introduced.

MMP has made electorates bigger geographically which makes them more difficult to serve and much harder to balance work and family responsibilities. That could put women off standing, but women MPs hold  some of the biggest electorates.

Rahui Katene is MP for Te Tai Tonga (161,443 square kilometres), Tariana Turia is MP for Te Tai Hauauru (35,825 sq kms), Jacqui Dean holds Waitaki (34,888 sq km),  Anne Tolley holds East Coast (13,649),  Nanaia Mahuta holds Hauraki-Waikato ( 12,580 sq kms),  Louise Upston holds Taupo (9,101 sq kms), Amy Adams is MP for Selwyn (7,854 sq kms) and Jo Goodhew is MP for Rangitata (6,826 sq kms).

Something which may partly explain why more women are on lists than in electorates is  that only three parties, National, Labour and the Maori Party, hold electorate seats so all Act and Green MPs are list MPs.

But that doesn’t explain why the increase in the number of women in parliament has slowed under MMP.

The may be other factors other than the electoral system which have impacted on the number of women MPs since 1996. But MMP was supposed to make parliament more representative and it hasn’t lived up to that promise when it comes to gender balance.


MP at 20

September 10, 2010

Most of the news in New Zealand about the Australian election focussed on who would form the government.

There are a lot of other stories:

Twenty-year-old Wyatt Roy won Longman, a seat taking in suburbs north of Brisbane and on the Sunshine Coast, by a slim margin for the Liberal Party at the August 21 election, which also produced other political “firsts”.

WA Liberal MP Ken Wyatt is Australia’s first Indigenous member of the lower house.  There is also a Greens MP elected at a federal election for the first time – Melbourne’s Adam Bandt.

The Australian  reports:

Mr Roy spent his first official day in Parliament yesterday sitting next to the longest serving MP, Philip Ruddock, 67, who took him under his wing.

Mr Ruddock was elected in 1973, 17 years before Mr Roy was born.

He sounds like he’s enjoying the experience, but some things will take a bit of getting used to:

The country’s youngest federal MP, Wyatt Roy, says he is uncomfortable with the formality of some at Parliament House.

“I would much rather they call me Wyatt. I was talking to some of the parliamentary staff today and I said, ‘oh no, call me Wyatt’,” he said.

“They have to call me Mr Roy, and I said, ‘well in the military you salute the rank’, and I suppose here it is about the position and not the person.”

We were in Australia on election day and saw Roy interviewed on television.

He was articulate and came across as mature for his age and very grounded. He’ll need to be because being Australia’s youngest MP will mean he is likely to get more attention than most other new MPs.

His profile is here.

Google tells me that New Zealand’s youngest MP was Marilyn Waring who was 22 when she elected. If memory serves me correctly Simon Upton was the next youngest at 23.


You don’t have to be mad to work in parliament . . .

July 31, 2010

If anyone had a case for saying their job made them mad it would be MPs.

They work long hours in an unnatural environment surrounded by Alpha personality types knowing every misstep is likely to end up in the media. Most have to live away from their families and when they go home they have to deal with electorate duties. Even Wellington based MPs spend a lot of time travelling round the rest of the country – and further afield.

To make matters worse they’re surrounded by people who are may be as much rivals as allies and not all your enemies are on the other side.

It’s a high pressured and unnatural life and it would be understandable if that had an detrimental impact on their mental health.

If it did, it wouldn’t be helpful if colleagues started publicly questioning your state of mind.

I agree with Inventory 2 who said:

 The personal attacks on Carter and the innuendo around his mental health reflect very poorly on Labour in our humble opinion.

This isn’t the first time Labour, which prides iteslf on its sensitivity, has been less than sensitive over mental illness. Regardless of  my state of mind, that strategy  would definitely make me mad – at least in the sense of being furious.

UPDATE: Apropos of attacks  getting personal, Kiwiblog has a post on the post deleted from Red Alert.


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