Compulsory voting and brussel sprouts

Making something compulsory because many people don’t like doing it is a daft approach with anything, and especially with democracy.

Hardly anyone likes brussel sprouts but that’s no good reason to make eating them compulsory.

Voting should be a choice and not forced by the State.

Guyon Espiner/RNZ has just done a length interview with ex Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer – see The Reformer – Geoffrey Palmer: Prime Minister 1989-90

Picking up on something from this NZ Herald reports:

New Zealand should adopt Australian rules and make it illegal not to vote, former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer says.

Palmer…told Radio NZ’s Guyon Espiner that voter apathy had led to Trumpery and Brexit.

“Democratic government around the western world is in some sort of crisis,” Palmer said.

“Look at the level of voting in the 2016 New Zealand municipal elections – hardly anyone votes. And yet we’ve got a supercity in Auckland with enormous powers – why would they not vote?

“It’s quite hard to understand. Are they turned off by it? Do they think it doesn’t matter?”

Voting in both local government and parliamentary elections should be enforced, Palmer said.

It’s not hard to understand why many voters might be turned off voting for politicians if people like Palmer try to force them to vote.

There’s a number of things wrong with what Palmer says in this one short article excerpt.

“voter apathy had led to Trumpery and Brexit”

That was in the US and UK, both very different situations to New Zealand.

If Australia, Indonesia and Fiji dictated laws and regulations in New Zealand I think there would be a lot of objections to ‘union’, as there have been in the UK.

If we had an election choice like Trump versus Hillary Clinton there would be voter despair here too.

Voter apathy is because politicians and politics don’t appeal to a lot of people – especially when they try to force things on you like compulsory voting.

“Democratic government around the western world is in some sort of crisis”

“Around the Western world” and “crisis” are both exaggerations, possibly massive exaggerations.

And I see little if any sign of crisis in democracy in New Zealand. It would be ridiculous trying to force Kiwis to vote because Aussies have had a high turnover of Governments – and ironically voting is compulsory in Australia.

“Look at the level of voting in the 2016 New Zealand municipal elections – hardly anyone votes.

Many people did not vote, but many people did vote. There are a number of reasons for low turnout in local body elections.

Most people find local body politics uninteresting. Most people know little or nothing about most candidates. Local body ballot papers are bulky and confusing.

And yet we’ve got a supercity in Auckland with enormous powers – why would they not vote?

In last year’s local body elections the two largest mayoralty contests were foregone conclusions so there was little to inspire voters.

In Auckland Phil Goff was chosen by media to be mayor months before the election, and he has weak opponents.

In Christchurch Lianne Dalzeil had two opponents, John Minto who had moved down from Auckland to try to start a socialist revolution, and another guy who stands a lot and campaigns very little.

“It’s quite hard to understand. Are they turned off by it?”

It’s not hard to understand at all. Yes, many people are turned off by politicians and ex politicians who are totally out of touch with ordinary people’s lives and who try to force them to do things they don’t want to do.

“Do they think it doesn’t matter?”

Many people do think that their voting doesn’t matter, that it wouldn’t change anything much for them. And that it doesn’t matter which of National or Labour leads the Government.

“Voting in both local government and parliamentary elections should be enforced”.

Hardly anyone likes brussel sprouts but that’s no good reason to make their consumption compulsory.

Palmer could try forcing people to vote, and while they are at the booth force them to eat some veges, but I don’t think that would go down very well.


If politicians want more people to vote for them they should earn support, not try to force it.

If disinterested uninformed are forced to vote we are likely to get an uninformed result – or silly results due to protest voters.

Australia’s compulsory voting is in part they reason they have fringe parties who sometimes hold the balance of power, see The rise of `fringe’ parties.

Certainly attempts should be made to inform people more and encourage them to vote, starting with civics education in schools.

But if people don’t want to vote, and if people don’t want to be informed, then they should not be forced to vote.

We are better pushing for quality votes, not quantity votes.

And if we get better quality parties and candidates then more people might be inclined to vote.

However there is one problem with modern democracy in New Zealand.

Under MMP we have tended to have steady stable predictable governments that don’t  swing and knee jerk wildly.

Good government should mainly mean quietly administering the country in the background, helping where necessary but not interfering in people’s lives.

A good government will be largely anonymous. Politics shouldn’t be a lolly scramble vote bribing disruptive imposer of unnecessary laws and regulations.

If that means less people are interested in voting then so be it.

As long as we are all able to vote if we choose then I don’t see what the problem with falling turnout is.

Palmer seems to be looking to regulate to solve a problem that doesn’t really need fixing – and certainly shouldn’t be fixed by force.

Many people see politicians as the see brussel sprouts – distasetful.

Perhaps politicians should try offering a better flavour.


  1. David

     /  10th April 2017

    “As long as we are all able to vote if we choose then I don’t see what the problem with falling turnout is.”

    Exactly. A choice not to vote, is voting to accept the outcome of other people’s votes.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  10th April 2017

      The man I know who doesn’t vote and sends in postal votes blank as a protest doesn’t seem to think that doing so means not whinging about the government. He’s a clever man, but can’t work out that if he doesn’t vote, he’s done nothing to change things.

      • David

         /  10th April 2017

        There are people who are like that. They are happier to disregard the ownership of a vote and moan the outcome.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  10th April 2017

          Try explaining to them that….it’s waste of time, they’d rather think themselves clever protestors (i. e. lazy bums who can’t be bothered to go and vote) The people who open the envelopes of blank votes are too busy to think why this has happened, although people like the man I know flatter themselves that they will realise that it’s a protest (and be impressed ?)

          It’s a privilege to have a vote, and these idiots can’t see it. In living memory, not all black Americans had it, which is unbelievable.

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  10th April 2017

    Palmer proves yet again to be an intellectual idiot. It’s hard to think of an issue he has ever been on the right side of. If he advocates something you can be pretty sure it is stupid.

    • Conspiratoor

       /  10th April 2017

      Unfortunately for the country he stumbled into a position of influence and went beyond advocacy.Al. A constitutional lawyer whose specialty is theory and has never had a real job. . We had this discussion a while ago. One of the few politicians to leave an enduring legacy …the erosion of democracy

  3. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  10th April 2017

    Brussel Sprouts are yummy. Try roasting them.

    • Missy

       /  10th April 2017

      I prefer them steamed, they are lovely though.

      • Gezza

         /  10th April 2017

        They look nice, like cute little cabbages, & I will eat them every once in a while, but their taste is just bit strong for my liking really.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  10th April 2017

          Roasted Brussels sprouts ! I have never had those-I didn’t know that they could be roasted.

          . I like them steamed-preparing them is a nuisance, but it’s worth it. I love them. We once bought some seedlings that were supposed to be cabbages, but they were Brussels sprouts. Fresh ones….delicious.

          ‘Traffic light’ silverbeet is seriously nice-I really like the yellow kind.

  4. Ray

     /  10th April 2017

    That is a bit harsh Alan, he is such a windbag though, wasn’t the RMA one of his bright ideas.
    So the lack of houses can be also laid at his feet.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  10th April 2017

      Of course the RMA was his supreme disaster. He’s trying to top that with a constitution now.

  5. duperez

     /  10th April 2017

    It’s reasonable to say people see politicians as they see brussel sprouts.
    The taste of the sprouts might have something to do with the nutrients, I don’t know. I also don’t know whether brussel sprouts are high in food value or not, but figure they’re not essential to us flourishing or our survival.
    Politicians should try offering a better flavour? Should brussel sprouts try to taste more like strawberries?

    Politicians should try to do what needs to be done. They should try to do what the people think should be done. Then you don’t have to worry about the flavour politicians are or the flavour they offer. That’s probably called populism. Any brussel sprout decision should be discarded. If 50.1% think it’s a brussel sprout, don’t do it.

    Rule by referenda and polls.

    Or maybe do it as we do now but refine the processes so that while the flavour hasn’t changed, propaganda and bullshit makes enough think the taste is different and better, or put enough condiments on the plate to disguise the taste.

  6. Missy

     /  10th April 2017

    On the compulsory voting in Australia, one thing is often missed when discussing it – It is not compulsory to be on the electoral roll in Australia.

    So, if the Government were to look at making voting compulsory in NZ they would then have to make registering to vote voluntary, which may lead to a higher turnout of ‘registered voters’ but not necessarily a higher turnout of those eligible to vote. Those that will register to vote will be those that are most likely to vote.

  7. Zedd

     /  10th April 2017

    Voting should be compulsory, then we would get an accurate picture of NZ politics.. OR if 30% dont vote on 23/9, then they should leave 30% of seats vacant, to truly represent those voters (disinterested/apathetic) ? :/

    It would also save the tax-payer heaps 😀

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  10th April 2017

      Why make voting compulsory when thinking isn’t?

      • Zedd

         /  10th April 2017

        ho ho hum.. Alan

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  10th April 2017

          No answer then, Zedd?

          • Zedd

             /  10th April 2017

            I just gave it…
            btw; ‘always thinking’ just from a different perspective, maybe ? :/

            • Corky

               /  10th April 2017

              I always knew you were a closet intellectual, Zedd%. Time to come out, son.

            • Zedd

               /  10th April 2017


              ‘a closet intellectual’ not I (I left school after 6th form) I did not go to Uni, instead, went to the ‘school of life’…. Dad 😀

    • Missy

       /  10th April 2017

      Zeffirelli, do you think being registered to vote should also be compulsory?

      Because it sounds like you are advocating forcing people into taking part in the electoral process whether or not they want to. This is no different to dictators that force the population to take part in nationalistic displays.

      People should be educated and encouraged to engage in politics, but not forced to take part, that is a form of totalitarianism.

  8. Blazer

     /  10th April 2017

    Voting should not be compulsory…but all those eligible who abstain from voting. ..should be made to eat. ..Brussels sprouts.

    • Gezza

       /  10th April 2017

      👍 Emailed link to Geoffrey.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  10th April 2017

        Uptick for spelling Brussels sprouts right.

        The problem with compulsory voting is that unless people are supervised, there is nothing to stop them putting in a blank paper or ricking everyone. I seem to have heard that this happens in Australia, pointless as it seems. One man I know sends in blank voting papers as a protest; he must think that the people who open them and count votes are interested and will realise why his are blank. I doubt it.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  10th April 2017

          ‘Spoiled/informal votes’ have increased as a % in Australia.

    • Zedd

       /  10th April 2017


      hey good idea man ! 😀

  9. People like Palmer and other compulsion advocates astound me. They are the faces and voices of a system that a high percentage of citizens feel disenchanted about, disaffected by and alienated from, yet their solution to this lack of engagement is compulsion. Oh the irony!

    Another good reason never to vote Labour/Greens.

  1. Compulsory voting and brussel sprouts – NZ Conservative Coalition