Cannabis referendum could be ignored or low priority by incoming Government

We get to vote on the cannabis legislation that allows for recreational for those 20 or older bit with strict controls.

But will the next Government honour the result if a majority vote in favour? There’s no guarantee of that as it is not a binding referendum.

The cannabis reform bill got this far due to a governing agreement between Greens and Labour at the Green Party’s request. The Greens have not had a strong influence in Government (they operate outside Cabinet) and the Bill is quite conservative.

And it could still be ignored or put on the back burner. At best it could take a year or two to happen, depending on what priority the Government gives it in the next term.

If Greens don’t make the threshold, or just get in again with a small number of MPs, or are rejected by Labour in the next governing arrangement (NZ First may make a condition of support being that Greens are left out), then Greens may have little or no say.

NZ First + Labour may not honour the referendum result, but that would be a ridiculous stance for NZ First given their insistence on referendums to let the people decide.

If National lead the next Government they may ignore the will of the people, they have been very conservative on cannabis reform.

But a possibility that should not be ignored is if Act get a few seats and enable National to govern – they may insist on change.

Peter Dunne discusses these issues except the last point (Newsroom):  Cannabis questions dropped in too hard basket?

Given that the moves towards freeing up the recreational cannabis market were primarily Green Party initiatives that neither Labour nor especially New Zealand First were all that keen about, the proposal that has now emerged hangs together reasonably well. It is an improvement on the current de facto situation, and for that reason alone is worth supporting in the referendum.

However, possibly reflecting the awkwardness of its development, it is far from perfect, with a significant number of issues either apparently unresolved, or seemingly parked in a very deep too hard basket.

What happens if the referendum supports change?

The present Government has made it clear that while it will not regard the outcome as binding, it will undertake to introduce reform legislation at some unspecified time during the next Parliamentary term.

There is no guarantee within that commitment that any such legislation will mirror the referendum proposals or that the Labour Party will even support it beyond its introduction stage. If, for example, the Greens have less influence in the next government, what influence will that have on the shape of legislation? Conversely, if the next government is more reliant on New Zealand First, what assurance is there that a Bill will even make it to the introduction stage?

Should the National Party lead the next government, the prospects for any form of legislative change following on from a positive referendum vote seem pretty low, based on statements to date from its various spokespeople.

They reinforce my own experience working as Associate Health Minister responsible for drug policy, in the last National-led government where National was extraordinarily wary of any changes to drug laws.

How long it will take to pass such legislation?

Typically, a Bill of this type takes between six and nine months to pass through all its stages in the House, including the select committee process and the hearing of public submissions.

Even if such a Bill were to be introduced early in the life of the next government, it would most probably be the latter half of 2021 at the absolute earliest before it would be passed by Parliament. Again, typically, allowing time of say two to three months as a minimum for the development and implementation of the regulatory regime to follow, it would most likely be late next year at the earliest before recreational cannabis could be legally available.

So if the law change is supported will people wait until it actually becomes law? If not, how will the Police deal with it?

In the meantime, assuming a vote for change, there will be a strong public feeling that having voted for change it should be permissible to use cannabis recreationally immediately.

That would put the police in a very awkward position. Would they be quietly encouraged to go lightly on the current law, because it is about to change, which would be a very dangerous precedent, or would they be expected to keep enforcing a law that everyone knows is about to be overturned?

Either way, their position is invidious, and does not appear to have given been sufficient consideration. Certainly, to date, the Government has given no indication of its thinking on this point, which is not helpful.

Maybe they haven’t thought about it. The Greens should be making sure the Government does think ahead on this.

Presumably, the police would be expected to enforce these new restrictions vigorously, otherwise they are pointless. But enforcement of this type would lead to more people coming before the Courts for diversion, a fine, community service, or even possible imprisonment.

However, the current law on illegal use has been barely enforced by the police for years now, so it is an open question whether they would be any more diligent in enforcing any new, tighter law. And if they are not going to do so, what is the point of making the law tougher?

Current policing attitudes notwithstanding, one of the strongest criticisms over the years from cannabis reform advocates has been of what they have seen as the clogging of the Courts from cannabis prosecutions and the consequent labelling for life of many people with criminal records as drug offenders.

Yet under the new regime, this could potentially intensify, making the situation much less satisfactory than at present.

An unintended consequence could be more arrests and convictions.

All this could be rendered moot if the majority vote against change.

If a small majority vote for change it may give National or NZ First (or Labour without the Greens) to drag it out over years, or ignore it altogether.

The best way to make it difficult to ignore the referendum result is for a significant majority to vote in favour of the modest reform being proposed, but it could be difficult getting enough to see it this way.

Stuff/YouGov poll: Labour 41%, National 38%

Stuff have started political polling again, this time with YouGov, who are new to New Zealand polling. With no record to give any idea how they compare to other polls analysis of this poll should be even more cautious than normal (not that media or parties treat polls as they should).

  • Labour 41%
  • National 38%
  • Greens 8%
  • NZ First 8%
  • ACT 2%
  • Maori Party 1%
  • TOP 1%
  • Other 1%

The poll was conducted between 7 and 11 November by YouGov so events over the past two weeks are not reflected in these results, of particular note the revelations last week about a secretive foundation that handles party donations.

Labour and National shouldn’t be too worried bout this result. Greens will be happy. Winston Peters usually slams polls and had a major hissy fit against media last week, but should be relieved with the timing of this poll.

There’s a glimmer of hope there for ACT, who may benefit from David Seymour’s hard work and success over the End of Life Choice bill.

Stuff: Labour ahead while National dips below 40 in new Stuff poll

Labour and its coalition partners are riding high while National have dropped below 40 per cent support in a recent Stuff/YouGov poll.

That is a mediocre summary. National are down on other polls but have not dropped under YouGov polling, which is untested in New Zealand. Labour, Greens and NZ First together look strong, but that could have changed last week.

It is the first poll published by Stuff from YouGov, a global polling firm who run regular polls for The Australian, The Times, The Economist, and CBS News.

A spokesperson for National leader Simon Bridges said the poll did not match their own figures and was incorrect.

The poll isn’t incorrect, it is the results YouGov got. There could be a variety of reasons it differs from National’s own polling – and without publishing National’s polling it’s impossible to compare anyway, politicians are notorious for promoting their own polling (when it suits them) without showing any evidence or details.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was “encouraging”, as it showed Labour building on its election result.

“It’s really encouraging to see all of the coalition parties up when we compare the numbers against the last election. We’ve taken on some big challenges but we’re making good progress — I’d like to think this poll reflects that,” Ardern said.

Ardern may like to think that but it’s also nonsense. It shows only what those who were polled thought 2-3 weeks ago.

Labour is widely seen to be making mediocre and disappointing progress. The poll is more likely to reflect the lack of progress Bridges is making with his negative, whiny dog whistle strategy.

Leaders’ favourable/unfavourable rating:

  • Jacinda Ardern +35%
  • Simon Bridges -37%

Winston Peters was about -23% (30% favourable, 53% unfavourable, but that was before last week’s Foundation/donation revelations.

That’s good for Ardern and bad for Bridges, but unsurprising.

The methodology for the YouGov poll is different to other political polls in New Zealand, which rely on phone-calling or a mix of phone calling and online responses. It is conducted entirely online by a panel of respondents, as other YouGov polls around the world are.

Certainly YouGov is untested in New Zealand, but Reid Research (for Newshub) have already been using part “online methods” (along with “Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing”)

We need to see several YouGov poll results alongside the other public polls from Reid Research and Colmar Brunton, and at least one general election, before we can see how close to or distant from reality they are.

Campbell White, YouGov’s head of polling and public affairs for Asia Pacific, said online sampling was the best way to make sure a wide variety of people were polled.

“The reason is over time we are better able to represent the population online. Rather than just the people who answer their phone and don’t use call screening,” White said.

The sample has quotas, so various demographics are represented, and the figures are scientifically weighted to match the voting population.

Phone surveys also screen respondents to try to ensure they poll a representative sample of demographics are obtained.

I don’t know there is any research or evidence to show whether online only polling is any more accurate than other polling or not.

Mrgin of Error stated as +/-3.1% which is standard for 1005 respondents.

It’s good to see another public political poll, there has been a lack of polling over the last few years. YouGov results will add to the mix, but need to be viewed cautiously until they build a track record.

David Seymour on Arms Amendment Bill – third reading speech

ACT MP David Seymour was the only one to vote against the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill. This is his third reading speech.


DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT): Thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker. I rise on behalf of the ACT Party in opposition to this bill, but not in opposition to changing our gun laws. I want to pay tribute to those victims of our nation’s tragedy of 15 March; it is for them that our gun laws must change, because it is not sustainable to have a set of laws where such a deranged individual can get their hands on such lethal weapons with almost nobody knowing about it. That much is certain, and that much is consensus in this House of Parliament, and almost up and down the entire length of this country. However, this bill is not an attempt to improve public safety; it is an exercise in political theatre.

This bill was made redundant and unnecessary by an Order in Council passed down by the Prime Minister and the Government in the week after the tragedy of 15 March. That Order in Council made it clear that only those approximately 7,500 people with the most restricted level of licence—an E category licence that requires extreme vetting and registration of every single weapon—could have semi-automatic weapons. That was a great start. That was a good placeholder, which wouldn’t expire until 30 June. That Order in Council could have been the beginning of a careful, considered, thoughtful legislative process; the type of legislative process that the Government now promises will commence almost as soon as this bill has passed through this House and become a law.

People might ask themselves: “What was the rush and what was the hurry?” Other than the need to be seen to be doing something, there was none. The fact is that, unlike the Prime Minister, who asked, “Well, is it better to do nothing?”, I believe that this bill may end up being worse than nothing.

We could not find, in the select committee, what the officials’ estimates of the success of the gun buy-back might be. So what will members of this House say when we get to the end of the amnesty period this September, and we find that our gun buy-back has been no more successful than the Australian one? One that found that between 40 and 80 percent—just as our Prime Minister couldn’t say, today, how many guns there are in New Zealand, the Australians didn’t know either—of these dangerous weapons have been handed in, and they’ve been handed in by the people who are the law-abiding ones. We could find ourselves with a bigger black market in dangerous semi-automatic weapons than ever outside any regulatory cordon whatsoever. Why might that be? Well, one good reason is that today, in the eleventh hour—such is the rush of this process—the Government decided that they would reward people with compensation if their weapons were owned legally, but they wouldn’t offer compensation for people who hand in illegal weapons. That is how insane the outcomes of this process are.

That is to say nothing—maybe it’s a law that won’t work—about the way it has been gone about; to say nothing of the truncated select committee process, which gave no serious consideration to improving the law, didn’t consider any other options such as upgrading licensing, didn’t allow the committee to consider what the success of the buy-back might be. It simply said, “There is urgency, we must act, we’re going to do this anyway.” That is not good lawmaking, that is not the way to get the law-abiding gun community—whom we need as allies in creating a safer society—on board, and that is not the way to celebrate the institution of Parliament and our democracy at a time when exactly our democratic institutions of freedom have been challenged so violently.

So, for all of those reasons, I am in support of changing our gun laws, but it is impossible for anyone of good conscience to support this bill, the way it’s been brought about, and the problems with it that may well make our society more dangerous than we had on 15 March. Thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker.


See Arms Amendment Bill passes third reading

Seymour grandstanding while Parliament sat and acted without him

David Seymour was busy talking the democratic high ground over the pending rush job on the Arms Amendment Bill, the Government (with the support of the National Opposition) outmanoeuvred him in the House.

NZ Herald: ACT Leader David Seymour misses chance to force Govt to use urgency for gun law’s first reading

Act leader David Seymour was so busy objecting to media about the speed of the Government’s gun law reform that he missed being in the House to block the process being streamlined.

The Government was planning on seeking leave to streamline the bill’s passage through Parliament, including having the first reading this afternoon.

Seymour had planned to block any such attempt, which would have forced the Government to use urgency, but Seymour was not in the House when a motion for an expedited process was moved.

He was outside the House at the time, telling media that the Government was too concerned with “being seen to do the right thing on the global stage”.

TUESDAY, 2 APRIL 2019

The Speaker took the Chair at 2 p.m.

Prayers.

ARMS (PROHIBITED FIREARMS, MAGAZINES, AND PARTS) AMENDMENT BILL

Procedure

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Leader of the House): I seek leave for the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill to be set down for first reading after general business today, despite Standing Order 285(1)(b); for there to be no debate on the instruction to the select committee to consider the bill despite Standing Order 290; for the bill to be available for second reading on Tuesday, 9 April, despite Standing Order 296; should the member in charge desire, for the bill to be set down for the committee of the whole House forthwith, following the second reading, despite Standing Order 299; and for the bill to be set down for third reading forthwith, following the committee stage, despite Standing Order 310.

SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that process being followed? There appears to be none.

Chuckling could be heard from Members, most of whom had made it into the House on time.

Claire Trevett: Act’s David Seymour hoist on tardy petard

Seymour had been strutting around proud as a peacock for being the only self-proclaimed true champion of democracy by refusing to give his leave for firearms legislation to be passed in a hurry.

He stood alone on his high horse. In the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks, all other parties had agreed to support hasty progression for at least the first tranche of changes – the banning of some guns, and tougher new penalties.

Seymour was so busy talking to the media about his plans to refuse leave for the reforms to be rushed that by the time he made it to his seat to carry out this superhuman feat it was already done.

Instead of delivering democracy he was outfoxed by Leader of the House Chris Hipkins.

Rather than wait until after Question Time as usual, Hipkins stood just before Question Time began to ask for the leave of Parliament to expedite the bill. Seymour was still outside, oblivious.

Members of Parliament did not quite manage to stay as deadpan as the Speaker. Audible laughter swept through Parliament. The Greens – usually most opposed to the hasty progression of legislation – were first to gloat on Twitter.

National MPs Maggie Barry, Paul Goldsmith and Paula Bennett could all be seen looking at Seymour’s desk and laughing. He wandered in a few minutes later.

Undaunted, Seymour sought to re-cast himself as the Superman of Democracy. Rather than berate himself for bad timekeeping, he claimed the fact Hipkins had taken advantage of his tardiness in such a fashion showed what little regard Hipkins had for democracy.

To succeed at democracy you have to be on top of democratic processes. Seymour should have saved hos crowing until after his democratic egg was laid, but he ended up with yolk on his face.

Whether it was good democracy or not, the quick thinking and speed reading of Hipkins meant that the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill is rushing through Parliament than Urgency would have allowed.

Bridges urges RMA reform now, but National blew it while in Government

Simon Bridges has joined the chorus singing for RMA reform, but Peter Dunne has given a timely reminder that National were off key and blew their chances of reform while in Government.

RNZ: National leader Simon Bridges urges RMA reform over $100m for Māori land ownership

Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced that the government’s Provincial Growth Fund would spend $100 million on supporting Māori landowners to make better use of their land.

Today Mr Bridges told Morning Report the government was just throwing money at the issue and although $100 million sounded like a lot of money it would just “scratch the surface” for a select few.

“It may be a bit harsh but I think it’s a waste of money. You’re throwing it at a select few but you’re not actually going to help Māori.”

Mr Bridges said he would instead help Māori land ownership through law reform.

At yesterday’s announcement Ms Ardern said 80 percent of Māori freehold land was under-utilised and unproductive because the special status of some land made getting loans difficult.

Mr Bridges said the government was making the same mistake as it had with KiwiBuild.

“The one thing that is required is Te Ture Whenua Māori land reform. That’s what’s got to happen because the complex legal intricacies of multiple owners mean it’s always going to be incredibly difficult to do this unless you get that law reform. It’s not a question of the financing.”

“They think if they splash some cash at something there’s good politics in it. But just as with Kiwibuild what you actually have to do is hard law reform around the Resource Management Act,” he said.

Fair point. It is widely known that the Resource Management Act generally is stifling development.

Last month Dave Cull, president of Local Government New Zealand, said RMA ‘broken’, not fit for purpose for local government

To build at scale, the Government is looking to give the UDA the power of compulsory acquisition to assemble large parcels of land and the ability to shortcut the onerous public consultation processes required under the Resource Management Act (RMA).

It is an acknowledgment that the RMA is too consultative and encourages a tragedy of the anti-commons. This is where everyone gets a say in a development, not just affected parties, and as a result many worthwhile projects never get off the ground.

The RMA’s consultation requirements also vastly complicate the already fiendishly difficult matter of assembling land for urban development.

The current Government is trying to work around the RMA with new Urban Development Authority (UDA), responsible for delivering on the Government’s KiwiBuild programme.

The Government is also going try to fix the RMA: Two-step RMA reform to start by fixing the previous government’s blunders

The changes are separate from the legislation to set up an Urban Development Authority to fast-track housing and urban development projects.

“The Resource Management Act is underperforming in some critical areas and needs fixing,” David Parker said.

Stage One will reverse some objectionable changes made by the previous government in 2017 that were widely criticised.

For example, the Bill would repeal measures that prevent public notification and appeals by applicants and submitters in residential and subdivision consent applications.

Another change, recommended by Regional Councils, is the ability to upgrade groups of consents in line with updated standards. This will help speed the cleaning up of our rivers, which otherwise can be delayed for decades.

A Bill addressing changes that can be made straight away will be introduced to Parliament early next year.

It will address particular issues with resource consenting, and monitoring and enforcement processes in the RMA.

Stage Two will be a more comprehensive review of the resource management system. It will build on current Government work priorities across urban development, climate change, and freshwater, and wider projects being led by various external groups. Stage Two is currently being scoped and is expected to start in 2019.

Good luck with getting agreement with both the Greens and NZ First on meaningful reform. This could take some time.

National tried to reform the RMA while in Government, but failed. Now National blames MMP, minor parties for housing crisis

A National MP has blamed the former Government’s partners for his party’s failure to stop house prices rising beyond the reach of many Kiwis.

“We did a lot in housing – we did a lot of work around the Resource Management Act (RMA). The problem with MMP is we had a partner that actually wouldn’t allow us to make the changes that we wanted to make.”

National actually did poorly in addressing the growing housing problem. This was a significant reason why they failed to retain power in 2017.

RMA changes passed into law in April 2017 after changes were made to satisfy minor partner the Māori Party, while United Future and ACT voted against.

Bridges has also blamed ACT and United Future for National’s failure to reform the RMA

David Seymour has been scathing – ‘Promise. Win. Fail. Apologise’: David Seymour rips into National’s ‘failure’ in Government

On Thursday, National Party leader Simon Bridges expressed regret at his party’s failure to reform the Resource Management Act (RMA), and said it was getting a new RMA reform bill ready.

“The reality is, we should have [reformed the RMA] in the first term,” Mr Bridges said, blaming later support partners for failing to allow changes to be passed.

“The reality is though, by second and third terms we were reliant on partners whether it was the Māori Party, whether it was Peter Dunne – they weren’t up for changes there.”

However ACT Party leader David Seymour says he’s heard similar promises before – but National has always failed to deliver.

“They promise action in Opposition, win Government, fail to do what they said they would, and then apologise after New Zealanders boot them out.

“The four stages of the National Party political cycle are: Promise. Win. Fail. Apologise.”

Mr Seymour says part of the blame of that cycle is down to National’s governance style, which he claims operates “from the left” despite the party “campaigning from the right”.

“Only ACT has been consistent on fundamental RMA reform. The next Government will need a stronger ACT to get National back on track,” he said.

Peter Dunne has explained why National failed to get the support of United Future and ACT in Peter Dunne looks at the challenges for a possible ‘blue-green’ party and the National Party’s quest to get the numbers to allow it to govern:

There is also the delicious irony of National‘s excitement at the prospect of such a party emerging occurring the same week that it blamed previous support partners, UnitedFuture and Act, for the current housing crisis because they would let it gut the Resource Management Act the way it wanted.

National’s approach then was all or nothing – I well recall their Minister telling me he was only prepared to negotiate about the RMA if I gave him an assurance in advance that we would reach an agreement. On another occasion, that same Minister told me he was unwilling to talk further because he suspected (correctly) that I was also consulting with Sir Geoffrey Palmer, the architect of the RMA, and he did not want that.

I think that minister was Nick Smith. He was probably National’s biggest problem with failing RMA reform and letting the housing problems escalate.

Yet, all the while, right up to the eleventh hour, UnitedFuture and Act were putting up separate proposals to the Government for possible changes to streamline the way the RMA operated, and to remove perceived procedural roadblocks. UnitedFuture even suggested bringing the provision of affordable housing into the objectives of the RMA but that was rejected because we would not agree to National’s planned watering down of the RMA’s principles and objectives.

Ideally with something as important as the RMA both Labour and National should work together to sort out it’s weaknesses while retaining important environmental protections.

But National, with a near majority Government, could not work out decent RMA reform with two one MP parties, and still blames them for their own failure.

The Government is trying to throw money at Maori land development, and it’s fair for National to question that approach. They can’t undo their reform blunder while in Government, but they could put petty politics aside and work with Labour on lasting RMA reform.

 

Political year review – the parties 2018

A lot of politics and politicians fly under the media radar. Some MPs make the headlines, because the have prominent jobs, because they seek publicity, or because publicity seeks them, or they cock up. Here’s a few of my thoughts and impressions on the 2018 political year.

Party-wise I don’t think there is much of note.

National and Labour have settled into competing for top party status through the year, with the poll lead fluctuating. It’s far too soon to call how this will impact on the 2020 election, with both parties having problems but still in the running.

Greens and NZ First have also settled in to competing for second level party honours. Nothing drastic has gone wrong for either, but they are both struggling to impress in the polls, and they keep flirting with the threshold. again too soon to call how this will impact on the next election.

ACT is virtually invisible, and unless something drastic changes will remain largely an MP rather than a party.

TOP is trying to reinvent itself without Gareth Morgan leading but Morgan is having trouble letting go of his influence. They have a lot of work to do to build a new profile with whoever they choose as new leader. As with any party without an MP they have an uphill battle with media and with the threshold.

The New Conservative Party is not getting any publicity, apart from their deputy leader posting at Whale Oil, which won’t do much for their credibility. The media seem disinterested, which is the kiss of political death.

No other party looks like making an impression.

With NZ First and Greens expected to struggle to maintain support while in Government (as have support parties in the past), one prospect is that the political landscape and the next election will be a two party race, with Labour and National competing to earn the votes to become a single party Government, which would be a first under MMP.

It’s too soon to call on this. A major factor could be whether voters are happy to see support parties fade away out of contention, or whether enough voters decide small party checks on power are important to maintain.

If the latter this may benefit the Greens IF voters aren’t too worried about a Labour+Green coalition who would have confidence in getting more revolutionary with a second term mandate.

For NZ First much may depend on how let down some of their support feels over a lack of living up to their promises on things like immigration and dumping the Maori seats. A lot may also depend on how Winston Peters weathers another term and whether he stands again.

Winners?

Labour have won back a position as a top dog party after struggling for nearly all of the nine years they were in Opposition.

National continue to win a surprising level of support as long as individual MPs aren’t trying to sabotage the party. The Ross rampage is unlikely to be repeated as other MPs will have seen it as little more than self destructive of an individual’s political future.

So joint winners, sort of but with no prize, and no party deserving of a runner-up place.

Do we really need fewer MPs?

ACT have announced policy that would reduce the number of MPs from 120 to 100, and reduce the number of electorates. Are the targeting the real problems?

Our system of MMP was introduced in 1994 after a referendum supporting it in 1993. The system was reviewed in 2012 but the size of parliament was excluded from this.

In the last non-MMP election there were 99 electorate seats. In the first MMP election in 1996 there were 120 seats – the number was increased so that the reduced number of electorates didn’t get too big, and there were sufficient list seats to ensure reasonable proportionality. The number of seats varies slightly, and has ranged from 120 to 122 under MMP.

Estimated population of New Zealand:

  • 1996:  3,762,300
  • 2018:  4,749,598

Number of voters:

  • 1996:  2,418,587 – votes per electorate 20,155
  • 2017:  3,298,009 – votes per electorate 27,483

Number of eligible voters:

  • 1996:  2,739,057 – eligible voters per 120 electorates 22,825
  • 2017:  4,174,167 – eligible voters per 120 electorates 34,785

These numbers are calculated over all 120 electorates.

Comparisons if we had a 100 MP parliament:

  • 1996: eligible voters per 100 electorates 27,391
  • 2017: eligible voters per 120 electorates 41,742

So that means a significant reduction in voter power.

There are other and probably better ways of decreasing the cost of democracy without reducing the value of votes.  ACT addresses one of these:

“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.

It is often claimed that every government has a handful of very good ministers, and the rest middling to mediocre. The number of Ministers and Ministries is a valid target for better efficiency and performance.

What about the number of MP support staff – advisers and PR staff. MPs need help with good advice, but the overhead of spin doctors deserves scrutiny. The number of ex journalists who are now employed in Parliament is probably significantly greater than the number of active press gallery journalists.

Also worth considering are number of paid members of working groups and inquiries, and paid consultants.

What about other elected bodies like DHBs? Merging some of them would reduce health sector overheads.

Councils? Would we be better off with fewer councils, or at least fewer councillors? A smaller number of full time councillors may be able to do a better job. Most people voting in local body elections don’t know most councillors.

It may seem like political sense for ACT to focus on a simple populist policy like cutting MP numbers, but it may not give us better democracy. It would certainly dilute our vote.

It’s easy to diss MPs and demand we have fewer, but reducing the number of them may simply increase the number of bureaucrats, advisers and consultants.

At least with MPs voters have a three yearly option to vote them out.

Voters have no power over non-MPs who are mostly faceless, unknown. They would have more power if we cut the number of MPs, and we the people would have less.

See:

The Government must ensure that its decision to remove the cap on public service numbers will not see bureaucracy spiral out of control as it did under the last Labour Government, National’s State Services spokesperson Nick Smith says.

“Between 2003 and 2008 under Labour, public service expenditure grew by 50 per cent with no improvement in outcomes for New Zealanders.

“Today’s announcement carries the risk that we’ll see another blowout of the public service and taxpayers’ money will again be frittered away on pointless bureaucracy.

“It comes at a time when the Government has outsourced most of its work to 122 working groups which could cost up to $1 million each.

ACT second in attempt to attract some support

NZ First, ACT second? That’s how it looks with new ACT policy announced at their annual conference today, but while taking on NZ First policies may have attracted a bit of media attention the party needs to find a way of attracting more supporters than they got to their conference.

The policy is to reduce the number of MPs to 100, reduce the number of electorates and scrap the Maori seats.

I guess that would give ACT a chance of improving their power in Parliament fro  1/120 to 1/100, but with National out of power it is closer to 0/0.

If Seymour’s member’s bill got drawn (a long shot) and made it through Parliament (I doubt there’s any chance of that this term) it would then go to a referendum.


ACT will deliver fewer politicians

ACT is drawing a line in the sand on the size of government with a new bill aimed at rolling back the 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.

“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.

“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.

“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.

“New Zealand needs smaller, smarter government. ACT is the only party with a practical workable solutions for achieving just that”, says Mr Seymour.

A silly ACT

David Seymour getting desperate for attention?

Stuff – Below the Beltway: The ups and downs of the political week

DOWN

David Seymour – The ACT leader is going to be on Dancing With The Stars. He needs to find 15 hours a week to train, which will no doubt cut into the time he has for his Epsom constituents. Also, the show didn’t work out so well for the last ACT leader who took part – Rodney Hide dropped his dance partner during a lift.

Rodney Hide did a stint embarassing himself like that. Publicity stunts via ‘reality TV” are lame at best and likely to do an MP’s credibility more harm than good.

This will open Seymour to ridicule, and it has already started. The Standard:

Seymour’s decision shows his commitment to New Zealand politics. And what a poodle party ACT is.

It’s worse than posing for Vogue, because it drags out the exposure for weeks.

Party websites post-election

An odd thing about the Labour Party website. Under Team / Labour MPs  they only show 28 of their 46 MPs. It appears to be the MPs who have returned to Parliament, with none of their new MPs there.

Their ‘Latest’ news is Our first two weeks, posted over two weeks ago.

I guess they have been busy negotiating and then getting their Government on the road.

NZ First has nothing at the moment:

Website Down for Maintenance

Please follow us on Facebook or party leader Winston Peters on Twitter for updates.

– NZ First

Greens are up to date with their ‘Our People’ page.

An interesting thing with their home page photo:

James Shaw is currently sole leader of the Greens.The will decide on their new female co-leader in April, eight months after Metiria Turei stepped down.

Marama Davidson was placed second on the Green Party list for the election, but she wasn’t given ministerial responsibilities, with Julie Anne Genter, Eugenie Sage and Jan Logie all preferred over her. She is relatively inexperienced, becoming an MP just under two years ago (filling Russel Norman’s place via the list).

The photo shows Shaw and Davidson together in the front and middle. The party PR department doesn’t get to decide leaders, the members do, but this is suggestive of someone’s leadership preferences.

In contrast to the three parties in Government the National party website has been churning out the ‘News’ with often a couple of posts a day. They have more time available to do this in Opposition. I’m not sure that a photo of English with Angela Merkel is a positive given her problems trying to form a government.

National’s ‘Our Team’ page has been fully updated with their new MPs and their new responsibilities.

Remember ACT?

They have an odd home page – they get around the fact that they still only have one MP by showing David Seymour in duplicate.

Promoting his book. I guess they are a party of free enterprise.

The Maori Party website looks little changed from the election campaign. They have only three posts since the election, but have said they will try to come back in 2020. Much will depend on how well Labour do for Maori this term – if they don’t front up then the Maori Party could have a chance, but it will be difficult with no MPs.

The United Future website is still standing. The party isn’t. Their last post: UnitedFuture proud of it’s history, but all good things must end.