Winston’s referendums “daft” and “dangerous”

Winston Peters has said that having binding referendums on the Maori seats in Parliament and the number of MPs in Parliament is non-negotiable. Sort of. Winston-speak means anything can change if it suits him.

RNZ:  Peter’s referendum call would sideline Māori – Fox

At his party’s annual convention in Auckland, Mr Peters said the Māori seats should go and promised a mid-term binding referendum on whether to abolish the seven seats. Voters would also decide whether to reduce the number of MPs in Parliament to 100.

“My strategy is to tell everyone out there that you will not be talking to New Zealand First unless you want a referendum on both those issues – mid-term after this election.”

That effectively rules out both Labour and the Greens on the Maori seats. National has a policy to do away with the Maori seats but that’s on the back burner as they make use of Maori Party votes to maintain a majority.

But in The trouble with Winston Peters’ referendums Andrew Geddis says that “One is daft and the other is daft and dangerous”.

First, reducing the number of MPs from the current 120 to 100.

Even if you believe that voters generally should get a greater direct say on public policy, these are particularly silly things to promise a vote on.

Take the number of MPs. Asking people if they would like fewer politicians has some immediately obvious appeal. So, it’s little surprise that at a 1999 non-binding citizens initiated referendum, 81.5% of voters approved of reducing the number of MPs to 99.

But a parliamentary backgrounder at the time of that referendum showed that there really was no justification for such a reduction in parliamentary numbers. That message then was echoed by Parliament’s Justice and Electoral Committee in a 2006 report on a members’ bill proposing to cut MP numbers in line with the referendum result:

“The current number of 120 members ensures proportionality and diversity in Parliament and thus contributes to its effectiveness; and we consider it essential that these benefits are not compromised. We do not consider that New Zealand is over-represented compared with other countries, especially given that it is a unicameral system.”

And the proposal is even dafter now than when it was when mooted at the end of the 1990s. Parliament last had 99 MPs back in 1993, prior to MMP’s introduction. At that point New Zealand’s population was 3.6 million, meaning we had one MP for every 36,363 people.

Today, our population is 4.8 million. If we want to use the apparently halcyon pre-MMP days as our baseline, today’s Parliament actually should have 132 MPs on a straight population growth basis.

So going the other way and reducing the number of MPs and would significantly reduce our representation.

Second, whether to retain the Māori seats in Parliament.

Similarly, his call to allow voters to decide the future of the Māori seats is superficially attractive. However, it ignores the fact that the five-yearly Māori electoral option already provides a de-facto referendum on this question.

During this option period, every voter of Māori descent can choose whether to be on the Maori or General electoral roll. If enough Māori voters decide to switch from the Māori to the General roll, then the Māori seats automatically will cease to exist.

Instead, 55% of all Māori voters prefer to be on the Māori roll. That point really needs emphasising; a majority of those Māori enrolled to vote consciously have chosen that the Māori seats should continue.

Peters now is proposing the non-Māori majority will get to decide the future of these seats for Māori. That is just a really, really bad idea. Putting aside the sheer injustice of the proposal, it is a recipe for divisive social conflict.

Peters thrives on promoting divisive issues. There’s votes in it, and his priority is getting votes, not what’s democratically sound.

Geddis has A little bit more on Winston’s proposed referendums:

Peters is flat out lying about the Māori seats. Today he told RNZ’s Morning Report that:

The vast majority of Māori, entitled to be on the Māori roll, are on the general roll.

Here’s the actual statistics from the Electoral Commission at the end of the 2013 Maori Electoral Option period (the last time that voters of Māori descent got to choose which electoral roll to be on).

At that time, there were 228,718 voters on the Māori roll, or 55% of all voters of Māori descent. On the general roll there were 184,630 voters of Māori descent, or 45% of that cohort. So far from the “vast majority” not being on the Māori roll, a small but significant majority of Māori voters positively have chosen to do so. And by making that choice, they thereby indicate their support for the Māori seats continuing in the future … because the more Māori on the Māori roll, the more such Māori seats there are.

He also has two additional reasons why the thinks it is bad to reduce the number of seats in Parliament from 120 to 100.

First of all, even if the number of parliamentary seats were cut to 100, the number of electorates would remain at 71. This is because the statutory formula that provides that number is entrenched – you can’t change it except by a 75% vote of MPs or a separate, stand alone referendum.

I guess Parliament could get enough support to change that.

That means there would only be 29 list seats to apportion in order to create overall proportionality in an MMP Parliament. And this simply isn’t be enough to do so – we will frequently see Parliaments that are distorted by “parliamentary overhangs” where parties win more electorate seats than their share of the party vote actually entitles them to.

Furthermore, at present there are 27 Ministers in the executive branch, or 22.5% of the total number of MPs. Cut the size of Parliament to 100, and that executive branch becomes some 27% of total MPs – tightening the stranglehold that it already applies to the legislative branch.

So cutting the number of MPs to 100 will not only damage how MMP functions, but it will lead to even greater executive dominance of Parliament as an institution.

So there are obvious problems with the proposed referendums.

There is also no guarantee National would agree to having them, and Labour and Greens would seem to rule out considering it.

And the reality is that Peters is unlikely to be able to insist on all his bottom line policies. He is extremely unlikely to get anywhere near a majority say in a coalition.

See  Number of Electorates and Electoral Populations: 2013 Census  –  Media Release

Maori versus Peters on referendum bottom line

I think NZ First have always had a policy to have a referendum on whether to retain the Maori seats in Parliament or not.

The only different yesterday was Winston Peters saying it was a non-negotiable policy this election. He repeated his party’s referendum policy but made it clear which outcome he wanted – scrapping the seats. The other outcome he no doubt wants is picking up some anti-Maori votes, an easy target against a minority.

Parliament has to balance the need to represent majority wishes with the need to protect minorities. Referendums are useful for some things but are a democratic risk when they attack a minority representation in Parliament.

RNZ:  Peter’s referendum call would sideline Māori – Fox

At his party’s annual convention in Auckland, Mr Peters said the Māori seats should go and promised a mid-term binding referendum on whether to abolish the seven seats. Voters would also decide whether to reduce the number of MPs in Parliament to 100.

“My strategy is to tell everyone out there that you will not be talking to New Zealand First unless you want a referendum on both those issues – mid-term after this election.”

Maori Party list MP Marama Fox (in Parliament through the overall party vote)…

…said the seats could go only when disparity was removed for Māori in this country.

“We have the highest … rates of youth suicide in the world. We have the highest rates of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) for Māori women in the world.

“We have a shorter life expectancy – and so on and so on and so on, and Winston Peters is merely politicking for votes and trying to take us back to the good old days of colonisation where you stick Māori in the corner and don’t give them a voice.”

Labour Maori electorate MP Kelvin Davis…

…said it was probably smart politics on Mr Peters’ part to attack Māori and politicians in the two-pronged referendum.

“The majority love hearing that sort of stuff: ‘we’re all New Zealanders, we should all be the same’.

“Well, the reality is, tangata whenua have different views, different values and we should be the ones that decide whether those seats stay or go.”

Shane Jones agreed with this earlier this month:

That was also the view of new New Zealand First candidate for Whangārei, Shane Jones, when asked earlier this month on TV3’s The Hui whether Māori seats should stay or go.

He said Māori seats should continue to exist “as long as people of Māori extraction remain on them and want them to continue”.

I think that’s a fair position. As long as every vote is equal as it is under MMP then I don’t have a problem with whether we have Maori electorates or not – in fact if it gives Maori better representation that’s a good thing.

The rest of us should look at how to improve our own representation. Our best way of doing that is by tactical voting in general elections, not in voting away a minority’s preference for their own representation.

More Winston bottom lines

Yesterday Winston Peters implied that a Northland rail link to Marsden Point was a bottom line, or at least was an election promise.

Newshub:  Northland rail ‘going to happen’, Winston Peters promises

Winston Peters says the Northport rail project at Marsden Point is his bottom line for any coalition deal.

NZ First has been strongly advocating the connection, which may cost up to $1 billion.

Mr Peters says it’s the first thing both National and Labour will have to concede if he’s the kingmaker.

“I can say for the people of Northland and Whangerei this is going to happen,” he told The Nation on Saturday morning.

“We’ve got the corridor, it’s been designated – the only thing it lacks is the commitment from central Government, and that’s one of the first things we’re going to be doing straight after the election.”

Today he had another promise/bottom line: Winston Peters delivers bottom-line binding referendum on abolishing Maori seats

Winston Peters promised “explosive policy” at his party’s convention on Sunday but it was a tried and true pledge of referenda on abolishing the Maori seats and reducing the number of MPs that he delivered.

Speaking to media following his speech, Peters said the size of Parliament needs to reduce because there was a referendum in 1999 where 80 per cent of the country wanted to reduce the overall number of MPs but it wasn’t binding.

“The public should be asked again now whether they want the 120 or 100.”

A binding referendum on the two matters would be held on the same day in the middle of the next election term.

Peters said both issues were “explosive” but in particular the Maori seats because “Maori progress economically and socially has been massively sidetracked, detoured and road blocked by the Waitangi industry”.

“How could that possibly happen when we’ve got all these new members of Parliament coming from the Maori world?”

Peters said he wouldn’t use “silly phrases” like “bottom lines” but he made it clear the referendum wasn’t negotiable.

“My strategy is to tell everybody out there that you won’t be talking to NZ First unless you want a referendum on both those issues at the mid-term mark of this election.”

So it’s not a ‘bottom line’, it’s non-negotiable.

Peters is clocking up a few non negotiable policies. Unless he doesn’t have to negotiate:

Peters’ interview with media was interrupted several times by members of his youth wing yelling “Make New Zealand great again” but when asked if he thought his supporters using a Donald Trump slogan was helpful, Peters said he had never heard Trump say that.

He talked about a “great political upset coming” and signed off with a promise – “we will be, most definitely, the Government.”

That’s fairly ambitious to say the least, unless it’s just hot air.

I wonder if he would agree to a referendum of MPs in the next coalition on whether a referendum on Maori seats should happen?

 

The Nation: Iraq/Daesh, Maori seats, data

Today on The Nation:

As the battle for Mosul heats up talks to Gerry Brownlee about NZ’s role in Iraq.

Brownlee has just attended a meeting in France between the coalition countries trying to sort out Iraq.

Brownlee says a reconstruction team in Iraq is not on the table… but will see what requests come through.

Brownlee says NZ troops are “absolutely not” involved in combat in Iraq.

Brownlee confirms NZ troops have travelled outside of Taji to another camp near Baghdad.

What’s the end goal for our role in Iraq? Brownlee says it’s to ensure a stable civilian Govt in Iraq.

Live tweeting :

Fighting Daesh on the ground in Mosul is the easy part. We will win this battle. Fighting the ideology is the hard par.

NZ cannot be naïve about Daesh. Its ability to ideologically inspire people is scary. Thus, beating it in Iraq not sufficient.

How the West deals with the Kurds, who has suffered most with Daesh, will be interesting. I fear Turkey’s interests win out…

Turkish P Erdogan has been using rhetoric which evokes the Ottoman Empire. Fear is he has designs on Mosul and curtailing Kurds.

For me the broader question is: is it pertinent to NZ’s foreign policy to be part of America’s international security community?

If answer is yes then participating in American-led initiatives like Iraq is probably a price we have to pay.

Answering no is only palatable if you think NZ has zero security risks in an increasingly geopolitically sensitive Asia-Pacific.

I begrudgingly accept our Iraq action is a necessary activity. However, transparency is critical. Brownlee not convincing me.

Iraq’s problems are deeper than Daesh. Daesh is a symptom, not a cause.

Maiki Sherman, Chris Wikaira and Ella Henry on next year’s fight for the Maori seats… how crucial will they be for forming a Govt?

Ella Henry says it’s going to be a social media-driven campaign.

Sherman says Nanaia Mahuta has come out fighting after the King’s speech endorsing the Maori Party earlier this year (and also points out the questions will be asked what Mahuta has done for Maori after 20 years in Parliament).

Will Mana and the Maori Party do a deal? Sherman says she doesn’t think they’ll go down that path.

Te Tai Tonga and Te Tai Hauauru are the electorates to watch says Sherman.

Sherman on candidates in Māori seats: the people want to see that you’ve been peeling spuds or washing dishes at the marae.

Data Futures chair (and former Auckland City Missioner) Diane Robertson on what the Govt’s doing with your data… and how’s she’s trying to boost the public’s trust.

The Govt is collecting and sharing more data about us – but how do we make sure it’s being used the right way?