Yes and no


The preliminary results on the two referendum questions are yes and no:

Nearly two thirds of voters (62.5%) ticked yes for legalising euthanasia and 53.1% ticked no to legalising cannabis.

The final vote count will be announced next Friday. They won’t overturn the euthanasia result and will be very, very unlikely to change the cannabis one.

Little change in final referendum results


The final results for the referendum on the partial float of a few state assets show little change from the preliminary ones:


Number of Votes Received

Percentage of Total Valid Votes

For the response




For the response




Informal votes*



Total valid votes



*An informal vote is where the voter has not clearly indicated the response they wish to vote for.

Voter turnout on the basis of the final result is 45.1%.  Turnout is calculated by taking the total votes cast of 1,368,925 (being total valid and invalid votes) as a percentage of the total number of voters enrolled as at 21 November 2013 (3,037,405).

The number of invalid votes cast was 1,585 or 0.12% of total votes cast.  Invalid votes are excluded from the count and include, for example, voting papers that cannot be processed because the voter has made the QR code unreadable, or voting papers cancelled as a result of replacement voting papers being issued.

Breakdown by electorate can be found here.

The Dominion Post says the referendum was a waste of money:

. . . If opponents of partial privatisation believe the Government is now honour bound to reverse its position on state asset sales, then previous governments were presumably honour bound to give effect to the popular will expressed in referendums on firefighter numbers, the size of Parliament, tougher prison sentences and smacking.

Except that on each previous occasion a citizens-initiated referendum was held, the government of the day also ignored its outcome. The 1995 National government did not entrench firefighter numbers at January 1995 levels. The 1999 Labour-led government did not cut the number of MPs from 120 to 99. Nor did it introduce hard labour for serious violent offenders. The current National-led Government has not reversed the anti-smacking legislation introduced by its predecessor.

There’s the rub. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Referendums are, as the 1986 Royal Commission on the Electoral System observed, “blunt and crude” instruments.

They have their place. There are a handful of constitutional issues that should not be decided without reference to the public.

But generally governments should be left to govern. Issues can seldom be reduced to simple “yes” or “no” questions and the country’s position on serious matters should not be determined by populism. . .

Few issues are black and white and therefore most are unsuited to the referendum option of yes or no.

This has been an expensive exercise in self-promotion for the opposition.

Labour’s former president Mike Williams said it was also a way to harvest contact details which discredits the process even more.


Only 43.9% vote in referendum


Preliminary results of the referendum on the partial float of a few SOEs show:

2013 Citizens Initiated Referendum Preliminary Result


Number of Votes Received

Percentage of Total Valid Votes

For the response




For the response




Informal votes*



Total valid votes



Voter turnout on the basis of the preliminary result is 43.9%.  Turnout is calculated by taking the total votes cast of 1,333,402 (being total valid and invalid votes) as a percentage of the total number of voters enrolled as at 21 November 2013 (3,037,405).

The number of invalid votes cast was 1,062 or 0.08% of total votes cast.  Invalid votes are excluded from the count and include, for example, voting papers that cannot be processed because the voter has made the QR Code unreadable, or voting papers cancelled as a result of replacement voting papers being issued.

The politicians who initiated the referendum will say they got nearly 67% support for opposing the partial sales.

But 67% of just 43.9% of eligible voters is no victory. It’s just an expensive exercise in futility.

All they’ve done is waste money and reinforce that citizens’ – or politicians’ – initiated referenda have had their day.


Voting because I can


Today’s history post noted it was on this day  120 years ago that women in New Zealand first voted.

That’s a good reason to vote in the referendum, even though the question is wrong and the opposition subverted the process to make it a politicians’ initiated referendum rather than a citizens’ one.

I believe that if you’re free to vote you’re also free to not vote.

But because so many people fought so hard to win universal suffrage and that right isn’t available in too many other countries yet, I am voting because I can.

And I’ll be voting yes. Although it doesn’t reflect my views exactly, it’s closer to them than no would be.

I don’t have a problem with the government selling any or all of its shares in a few energy companies and Air New Zealand.

I’d far rather they did that than borrow more or not invest in other much-needed assets.

A good reason to vote yes


The comments in yesterday’s post about the referendum provide several good reasons to vote and vote yes in the referendum.

The best of which was from Poneke:

November 26, 2013 at 2:31 pm


Already voted. Yes. Anything the Greens oppose must be good.

If question is wrong how can any answer be valid?


The question on the politicians’ initiated referendum asks: do you support the Government selling up to 49% of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand.

Several people have pointed out that those who want more than 49% sold could vote no.

That would be taken as opposition to any sale when that’s the opposite of their view which favours total sales.

Then there’s the name of one of the companies – if Google is to be believed Genesis Energy is an SOE but I couldn’t find a Genesis Power.

There is another even more fundamental flaw in the question – the Government hasn’t sold and isn’t planning to sell up to 49% of Air New Zealand.

It didn’t own 100% of the shares in the first place and sold only 20% of the total, retaining 53%.

If the question is wrong, how can any answer be valid?

To vote or not to vote


Voting papers for the referendum arrived on Friday.

I haven’t opened the envelope yet and am not sure if I will.

The hijacking of what is supposed to be a citizens’ initiated referendum by politicians makes it just another political stunt.

The $9 million being wasted on this exercise in self-promotion for the opposition is a disgrace – and that’s not counting the other public money they used to get the petition signatures.

The tiny amount it will cost if I do vote won’t be significant.

But even so, is voting adding legitimacy to this farce, even if I vote yes or spoil the paper?

Inaccurate and out of date


Enough signatures have been gathered to force a politicians’ initiated referendum on asset sales.

The question we’ll be asked is:

“Do you support the Government selling up to 49% of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?”

That is inaccurate and out of date.

MRP has already been partially floated, Meridian Energy is about to be, Solid Energy has been taken off the list and there is no plan to reduce the government’s share in Air New Zealand.

The law states:

The Governor-General sets a date for the referendum within one month from the date of presentation. The referendum must be held within a year of the date of presentation unless 75% of all members of the House vote to defer it.

The left made the partial sale of assets the main policy of the last election.

They could do so again next year without wasting public money on this referendum which will have no impact on the policy.

Still a few thousand signatures short


The Green Party is wasting its time and our money soliciting signatures for the politicians’ initiated referendum against the partial sale of a few state assets.

A newsletter to supporters says:

I’m so blown away by the number of people all over the country who were gathering signatures for the Keep Our Assets petition.

I got to collect with Peter and the rest of the team in Wellington. Even through the wind, rain, snow and hail around New Zealand we collected thousands of signatures so I wanted to send you a huge thank you.

But we need your help to keep collecting.

We’re nearly there.

This weekend is the last full weekend we have to collect the final signatures we need – and we need a few thousand more.

Can you give another hour or two?

Sign up here to be contacted by one of our team about how you can take part.

Please put any petition sheets you have in the post by 30th June to make sure we get all signatures lodged by the 8th of July. It’s free to post them to me at Russel Norman MP, Parliament Buildings, Wellington. . .

It’s not free to post them – the sender doesn’t have to pay postage but the taxpayer does.

The petition fell well short of the number required the first time it was presented because of the high number of invalid signatures.

If they are still a few thousand short it’s likely this second, and last attempt, will also fail to get the numbers.


There’s already been a referendum


The petition seeking a referendum on the government’s policy to sell minority shares in a few energy companies was presented to parliament yesterday.

Parliamentary Services staff will now have to waste their time and our money ensuring the validity of the signatories.

They shouldn’t have to do it because Keeping Stock shows us there’s already been a referendum.

Labour’s then leader, Phil Goff said so.2011 referendum

Mr Goff said Prime Minister John Key had made this year’s election a referendum on whether New Zealanders wanted to see their most important assets being sold.

Perhaps the current leader, David Shearer, could explain why he’s wasting public money on another referendum when the 2011 was decisive.

And apropos of waste – does anyone know who paid for all those boxes in which the petition pages were delivered and the delivery?

How many signatures


In January the people organising a petition opposing the partial sale of a few state assets said they had enough signatures.

Grey Power national president Roy Reid said the group had collected more than 340,000 signatures, allowing for a percentage of signatures that did not meet the requirements under the Citizen Initiated Referendum Act.

But this was on Facebook yesterday:

Sign on for the Sign-a-thon


Just 22,000 more signatures are needed for a referendum on asset sales. Help collect signatures on 16-17 February!
Did Grey Power miscount or did a check find too many of the signatures didn’t meet the legal requirements to be counted?

Election results


Polls close at 7pm.

The Electoral Commission will post results here.

They are aiming to have all advance results, including the referendum released by 8.30; general election results from 50% of polling booths by 10pm and resutls from all polling places by 11:30.

Official results for the election and referendum will be published by 2pm on Saturday December 10.

Seven reasons to oppose MMP


Jim Hopkins has a very good reason to vote for change tomorrow:

Unless we vote for change, the politicians will decide how they are elected. They may tinker with MMP or change it radically. The choice will be theirs, not ours. A vote for change will ensure a second referendum, with MMP tested against one of the alternatives. It means we will control the evolution of our peaceful democracy. Let the politicians address the economy. But the elections belong to us!

Auckland businessman, Ashley Church, provides six more good reasons to ditch MMP:

1.      Confusion. After over 15 years, there are still a very large number of voters who don’t understand how MMP works and don’t know whether the List, or the Electorate vote, is more important. The procedure for electing an MP and decide who will form a Government should be simple, straightforward, and easy to understand. MMP isn’t.

2.       Strategic Voting. Voting for one party in order to get another elected, such as voting ACT in Epsom to get National into Government, is one of the perverse results of the MMP system. Having to vote for one party in order to get another elected is counter to the basic  principles of democracy Voting should be simple and straightforward and based on the principle of supporting the party you want in Government.

3.      Disproportional Representation. The 3 yearly ritual of allowing small parties (sometimes VERY small parties) to decide who they will go into coalition with (and therefore, who will be Government) puts far too much power in the hands of the few, over the many. Parties which enjoy widespread voter support should have power in proportion to that support – they should not be able to be held to ransom by small parties of extremists with unpopular agendas as allowed by the current system

4.      Backdoor MPS. Another insidious feature of MMP is the way it allows people who have been defeated in a fair electorate contest to get into Parliament by the backdoor, through the MMP Party List. If a candidate has been rejected by the voters – that rejection should stand.

5.       Unstable Government. One of the repeated consequences of coalition Government, in this country, is the reality of unstable Government. One particular party has made an art form of suddenly finding a conscience 6 to 12 months out from an election and engineering its departure from the coalition – thus throwing the country into turmoil and forcing the creation of bizarre short-term coalitions. Any system which allows a small party to bring down the Government, as MMP does, should be utterly rejected.

6.       Short term thinking. Because the major parties have to keep one eye on the needs of their smaller coalition partners, long-term thinking is virtually impossible under MMP. The concept of a nation-building plan which spans several electoral cycles is virtually impossible under MMP because the makeup of each Parliament differs so much depending on the configuration of parties which form the Government.  Governments should be able to plan for changes that take more than 3 or 6 years to implement – but under MMP they can’t.

I would add: MMP gives too much power to parties at the cost of representation for people; promotes groups at the expense of individuals and makes electorates too big.

P.S. the quote from Jim is the closing paragraph in a column on voting which deserves to be read in full.

P.P.S. I have no idea who Ashley Church is, I came across his media release on Scoop.

System or times?


Proponents of MMP argue that it is better for getting representation of women and ethnic minorities.

This post at the Hand Mirror leaves no doubt that parliament has become more diversified since MMP was introduced, but how much has that had to do with the system and how much has it had to do with the times?

Society has changed a lot in the last 15 years. More women and a wider range of people from different nationalities and cultures have entered parliament on lists, but I wouldn’t want to suggest many, maybe even most, could and would not have been able to win electorate seats.

An example of both how they can and what’s wrong with MMP is Georgina Beyer, the world’s first transvestite mayor. She entered parliament by winning a seat but then when the electorate kicked her out she stayed on as an MP through the list.

To believe that people on lists wouldn’t be able to win seats would be a very poor reflection on both them and the parties they represent. It would mean their presence in parliament wasn’t due to what they had to offer but to tokenism.

That leads on to the question of whether diversity in parliament has made a material and positive difference to the communities these people are supposed to represent and wider New Zealand or whether their presence has just been a token one.

I think the jury is out on that. Some have made very real contributions, others have been nothing more than a bum on a parliamentary seat when votes are counted.

It’s all very well to say parliament is more representative of some sectors of the population but it has come at the cost of others. Does, for example, any party but National have any farmers (proper ones, not lifestylers)? Phil Goff was asked in a radio interview how many of his caucus had run their own business and he struggled to name any.

Even if increased diversity could only be achieved through lists, and I don’t think that is the case, it has come at the very high cost of fewer and therefore much larger electorates.

Greater diversity in parliament is small comfort for the people who find it much more difficult to meet their MP in their electorates.

If we changed to a system with more electorates there would be far more opportunities for people to be selected for winnable seats. Smaller seats would also increase the pool of people able to stand, make it much easier for MPs to service the electorate and for constituents to have access to them.

No electoral system is perfect, all have advantages and disadvantages.

Among MMP’s weak points is the amount of power it gives to parties when National is the only one left with a wide and numerous membership base.

That increased power for parties has resulted in poorer representation for people.

Who sits in parliament doesn’t make much difference to most people.  MPs who are able to service their electorates easily and provide ready access for constituents is far more important.

That is why I’ll be voting for change tomorrow and choosing Supplementary Member.

MMP fails governance test


Former Finance Minister Ruth Richardson says the question voters need to be asking about the electoral system is: will it produce a government capable of governing?

Primacy must be accorded to the ability to  form an effective government and to be rid of that government if it is judged by the electorate to have failed in that quest.

MMP rarely delivers that. The most popular party will almost always be beholden to one or more of the wee ones for a majority and MPs an electorate gets rid of can return to parliament on their party’s list.

The awful truth is that MMP has condemned New Zealand to a regime where party and brand count for more than policy and a plan.

This regime has tended to produce craven politicians who judge it in their best interest to tow the party hierarchy line and has certainly corroded the quality of decision making as first-best policy is sacrificed to a lowest common denominator bargain.

The last thing a country needs in a global financial crisis is a government crippled by indecision and inaction; where the daily hand is forced by counting political not financial numbers.

While it is possible for a party to have an outright majority under MMP, it is very unlikely and the need for post-election wheeling and dealing has been very costly.

The jury is no longer out on the MMP experiment; the verdict is in and the evidence shows that coalition building has fuelled a rise in public expenditure and a drop in the quality of public policy leadership.

Ms Richardson goes on to quote Edmund Burke who said that:

“your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you, if he  sacrifices it to your opinion.”

Under MMP, MPs have to sacrifice their judgement not only to the opinions of the people they represent but to those of their coalition partners.

One of the reasons a slim majority of people voted for MMP in the first place was that they were sick of MPs implementing radical policy without a mandate.

Ironically that is even more likely under MMP because a lack of a strong party in the centre means the bigger parties are pulled towards more radical policies by the need to appease coalition partners.

That almost always means acting in the interest of small minorities at the expense of the public interest.

Vote for FPP won’t get change


Polls suggest that the status quo will be chosen by most people who vote in the referendum on MMP.

They also show the alternative which gets most support is FPP.

iPredict has the probability of retaining MMP varying from 70 – 90%.

But even if a majority vote for change in the referendum I don’t think FPP would stand a chance in the second referendum against MMP in 2014 and the chances of another system getting majority support aren’t high.

The majority of organisations registered with the Electoral Commission to campaign on the issue are supporters of MMP – including the Green and Labour parties and several unions.

Most people don’t know enough about the alternatives except FPP to be keen on one and there is no campaign – at least yet – for any other option.

Next month’s referendum will be the last chance to get a different electoral system for decades unless a majority vote for change. But unless there’s a lot more effort put into educating voters about the options and promoting an alternative to both MMP and FPP, we’re likely to be stuck with what we’ve got.




25/25 in the Electoral Commission’s quiz on the different electoral options we’ll be choosing form in the November referendum.

The tool kit also asks questions on how important you consider accountability, effective government, effective parliament, proportionality and representation. Your answers indicate which system best suits your preference.

My answers left me to choose between First Past the Post, Preferential Voting and Supplementary Member, all of which give more and therefore small electorates than Mixed Member Proportional or Single Transferable Vote.

Vote for change to what?


The campaign against MMP has become more organised with the newly incorporated Vote for Change .

“Vote for Change asks the 40% of New Zealanders who have already realised that MMP doesn’t offer enough accountability, to join our group” says Wellington Lawyer and Vote for Change Spokesperson, Jordan Williams. “We want Kiwis to use their opportunity to have a better voting system. Only by voting ‘change’ in November can we ensure a proper debate on MMP’s merits. Only a vote for change will mean there is another vote, a run-off between MMP and one of the four alternatives at the 2014 election.”

“Vote for Change wants a system that restores more certainty, that allows voters to easily hold governments to account and kick rascals out of Parliament,” says Mr Williams. “The current system lets party bosses sneak MPs who have been dismissed by their local electorates back into Parliament on party lists.

“New Zealanders are tired of Lists that make MPs beholden to political party bosses instead of being accountable to constituents. We want politicians to have to think of the people they serve and not party list rankings when making tough decisions” says Mr Williams.

Although it is clear it does not support MMP, VfC has not yet decided which alternative it will advocate voting to change to.

Vote for Change has not endorsed a particular alternative to MMP. “We want New Zealanders who understand that MMP has not delivered, to go to our website, join us help determine what voting system is best for New Zealand,” says Mr Williams. “With a more substantial membership base we will work out what voting system we think is the fairest”.

The VfC website lists its founding members who include former Labour Party president and mayor Bob Harvey, former Labour cabinet minister Michael Basset, former National party MP Annabel Young and Business Round Table executive director Roger Kerr.

Some of the more strident supporters of MMP try to vilify anyone who isn’t happy with the system but as David Farrar points out all five electoral systems on offer are acceptable electoral systems:

 All of them are in use in various countries that are universally recognised as democratic. The moment someone tells you that only one system is acceptable, is the moment when you should stop listening to them.

There are of course degrees of acceptability, some systems are more so than others, although which is very much a matter of opinion.

I don’t like MMP but am unsure which of the alternatives would be both better and have a chance of winning a referendum when put up against MMP.

Voting made difficult


An information pack arrived from the electoral Commission yesterday. The front page of the pamphlet said: voting in the referendum made easy.

On the other side was a flow chart which I reckon was more voting in the referendum made difficult. I found it left me with a lot more questions than answers.

If a political tragic who knows quite a bit about the referendum found it wanting, how useful is it to people who know little and aren’t particularly interested?

A website and telephone number were given and the website makes the process and options much clearer.

But what happens to all the people who are put off by the pamphlet, don’t try the phone number or website or don’t have access to a computer?

The results of the election will determine who governs us for the following three years. The results of the referendum could determine how we’re governed for decades.

It’s a very important process which deserves a much better explanation than this pamphlet provided.

Voting on voting


The Electoral Commission has begun its campaign to educate people about the options in this year’s referendum on the electoral system.

We’ve had MMP for 15 years and a disturbing number* of people still don’t understand how it works.

How much are people going to absorb about the other options in six months when many still don’t know there’s going to be a referendum?

* Disturbing number = an unknown amount based on anecdote and memory of media stories on surveys.

It may or may not include the 1.6% of people in the NZ Herald survey who want Hone Harawira to be the next Prime Minister.

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