Fair’s not fair with MMP

November 18, 2011

Proponents of MMP like to say it’s the fairest system because every vote counts.

The results contradict that.

National supporters whose votes allowed Peter Dunne into three successive Labour-led governments show that under MMP your vote can count for the opposite of what you intend.

People who voted for New Zealand First to get a Labour-led government in 1996 would be equally unhappy and the greater lack of unfairness is that MMP can allow the leader of a minor party to determine the government.

David Farrar points out in his Herald column that Winston Peters could get to choose the next Prime Minister.:

 If NZ First makes five per cent, then there is a reasonable chance Peters will hold the balance of power. His caucus will defer to him absolutely. . .

. . . if he holds the balance of power in 2011, make no mistake he will choose Phil Goff over John Key, and there will be a Government that can only pass a law if it can get the Greens, Winston, Hone, and the Maori Party to all agree to it.

The parliament might reflect how people some vote but I doubt that many would call the outcome for government fair.

He has not pledged to allow the largest party to govern. He has merely said they should be able to first try and form a Government. That may mean he’ll talk to them for ten minutes before he picks up the phone and makes Phil Goff Prime Minister.

Many New Zealanders, unaware of how MMP works in practice, will be shocked. They’ll say how can the guy who leads his party to a massive defeat, getting (for example) 6% less support than they got when thrown out in 2008, end up Prime Minister?

But this is a design feature of MMP, not a defect. MMP will more often than not require minor parties to decide after the election who will be Prime Minister. Sometimes their preferences will be known before the election, sometimes they will not be.

John Key and National have been up-front about coalition partners and have categorically ruled out Peters. Phil Goff and Labour have ruled out Hone Harawira and Mana but are saying maybe to Peters and New Zealand First.

Peters in his usual Humpty Dumpty manner has said something that will mean whatever he wishes it to should he be in a position to use the election results to his advantage.

What’s fairer, stating your intentions so voters are clear what they’re voting for before the election or waiting to do covert deals afterwards and leaving voters to find their votes have counted for something they don’t want?

What’s fairer, a system which gives power to the people or hands it to an individual?

MMP is perfect for demagogues such as Peters. He selects who will be on his party list, and they become MPs based on his personal popularity, despite the fact 99% of New Zealanders could not tell you who the top six candidates on his list are. Their loyalty is purely to him, not to the New Zealand public.

What’s fairer, a system that gives more power to parties or better representation for people?

MMP gives far too much power to parties, which in the case of more than one of the wee ones means the leader. That leaves people will poorer representation and that weakness is exacerbated by the geographical size of the electorates.

I wrote about that in a column for the ODT’s Paddock talk on Monday.

P.S. Motella illustrates the horror of what could happen next week.


Why not wool?

April 19, 2010

Why not wool for carpets, insulation and furnishings? I asked in today’s Paddock Talk column in the ODT.

It’s not online, but this is: retailers floored by lack of promotion.

Talk to the co-owners of a United States flooring retailer about wool and it becomes clear why crossbred wool has struggled to connect with carpet buyers.

Kaddy Carpenter Ward and her sister, Jane Rinaca, say until very recently there had been no promotional or advertising material to support the sales of woollen carpets in the United States – the world’s largest carpet market.

Compare that with nylon carpet, and Mrs Rinaca said that since manufacturers had solved issues such as weave and lustre, the product had been supported to the point where it was promoted as being sustainable because used carpets were being recycled.

That’s what we’re up against.

Wool isn’t going to sell when it’s up against such tough competition and consumers don’t understand its qualities – or even how it’s harvested:

Mrs Rinaca said many people in the US still believed sheep were killed to produce wool, a misconception they put to rest when they shore a sheep on a Hawkes Bay farm.

Wool ticks all the boxes for people seeking natural, renewable, sustainable products – it also passes the touch test:

“Nylon has been made to look like wool, but they will never make it feel like wool,” Mrs Carpenter Ward said.

With all that going for it wool ought to be selling itself  but of course it won’t if people don’t know about it.


Benefits of Blogging

June 27, 2008

Bernard Hickey has become an evangelist for blogging. 

Let me explain why after 19 years as a journalist I’ve never been so excited about being a journalist and why I think blogging will over time become the main venue for political and other debate.  It will also become another way for communities to form and for people to talk to each other about the things that matter.

I share his enthusiasm and agree with his reasons. But one advantage that he doesn’t mention is that what you write is what people read without editing by someone else.

I know subs are lovely people who sometimes save journalists from themselves by correcting potentially embarrassing, stupid and/or litigious mistakes. But sometimes they also take your carefully worded prose and leave it the worse for their intervention.

I was taught to write news stories so they were structured like an inverted pyramid with the most important points at the start. That meant if lack of space required some cutting the sub could start at the bottom without ruining the story.

Columns are different from news stories in that the point often comes at the end so the concluding words are as important as the intro.

The worst subbing of one of my opinion pieces was many years ago and simply chopped the middle from it so the intro was no longer connected to the end and the phrase which made sense of the headline was lost.

The cut to my offering in Paddock Talk  today was minor by comparison. I’d concluded it by saying:

The taskforce has hired PriceWaterhouseCoopers to prepare a strategy report which is expected to take 12 weeks. That may seem a long time for farmers desperately seeking a solution to their own problems, but as the cheese advertisement says, good things take time and a strategy which leads to a healthy future for the meat industry will be a very good thing indeed.

Somewhere between my outbox and publication the last 19 words disappeared, which probably doesn’t matter to anyone except me, especially now that events have over taken what I was writing about.

The Meat Industry Taskforce was disbanded today. Federated Farmers  has a press release expressing disapointment and the grapevine is buzzing but I haven’t been able to find anything in the media about it yet.


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