Greens want Government to adopt electoral reform bill

Greens are pushing for electoral reform. Golriz Ghahraman is introducing a member’s bill, and her party wants the Government to adopt it. That would require NZ First or National support to get it over the line.

Proposed changes:

  • Ban foreign donations to political parties to “stop unfair influence and potential corruption in politics”
  • Overturn a ban on prisoner voting
  • Enable Māori to change roll types at any time
  • Lower the MMP threshold to 4%

If foreign donations can be effectively banned it should be a worthwhile change.  They coukld be suported by National. In January (NZH): National floats ban on foreign donations

Calls to ban foreign donations to political parties received a shot in the arm yesterday after National Party MP Nick Smith signalled reforms were needed to ensure the integrity of the New Zealand electoral system.

… in a speech last night to Nelson Rotary, Smith went public with his call for electoral finance reform, saying he wished to promote “a ban on foreign donations.”

“The existing electoral law does put limits on foreign donors, but needs strengthening. Only Kiwi citizens and residents should be able to donate to political parties or to campaigns that seek to influence an election outcome,” Smith said.

Prisoner voting is a human rights issue. Excluding people from voting on things that directly affect them is undemocratic.

Andrew Geddis:  Taylor strikes again (but still has no right to take his place in the human race)

The Court of Appeal has upheld Arthur Taylor’s challenge to the ban on prisoner voting under the NZ Bill of Rights Act … except that he personally shouldn’t have been able to bring the case in the first place, and he still won’t be able to vote. But still – exciting!

I’ve been writing on the issue of prisoner voting generally, and jailhouse lawyer Arthur Taylor’s various challenges to the 2010 law preventing it in particular, for quite some time now.

Māori roll changes is not a big deal, but the current system seems odd, where voters can only switch rolls during a designated Māori Electoral Option period.

One could be cynical about the proposed threshold drop to 4% given the closeness to this of both Greens and NZ First. I ask why 4%? Why not 3%? But 4% may be a pragmatic increment – I would strongly support any lowering of the threshold, which currently favours larger parties, hence their reluctance to make it more democratic.

Source NZH: The Green Party will introduce a members’ bill which would ban all offshore political donations

75% of Parliament means Labour plus National. They should support it. In the past they have been too self interested to implement lower threshold recommendations, but the new reality means it may be in their interests to lower it. It’ is also in the interests oif democracy.

Ridiculed ‘teacher’ bill dropped

A New Zealand First members’ bill that would have restricted who could call themselves a teacher has been dropped. Sometimes ridicule can be effective.

Newshub:  NZ First drops ‘severely flawed’ Bill restricting use of word ‘teacher’

New Zealand First has abandoned a controversial Member’s Bill which would have placed restrictions who can call themselves a teacher.

On Monday, MP Jenny Marcroft announced she had withdrawn the ‘Education (Protecting Teacher Title) Amendment Bill’ after a “positive discussion” between her party and the office of the Minister of Education.

She says the launch of the nationwide initiative ‘Education Conversation 2018’ over the weekend has given her renewed confidence in the country’s respect for teachers.

“Add this to the multiple trains of work the Minister of Education is undertaking and I see a real commitment to raising and recognising the status of our teaching profession which gives me confidence that my Member’s Bill is no longer needed.”

The Bill would have meant that only those who have trained and are qualified as teachers can use the title in order to “lift the status of teachers”.

It would have become an offence, punishable with a $2000 fine, to connect the word with any unqualified person or business. People who were not qualified would have had to use the title of lecturer, tutor or educator instead.

The proposed Bill was harshly criticised by National, which NZ First MP Tracey Martin called “scaremongering”.

I think it was criticised and ridiculed quite widely.

National education spokesperson Nikki Kaye: Coalition Govt finally sees sense on teacher title bill

The withdrawal of the Education (Protecting Teacher Title) Amendment Bill is a big win for hardworking swimming teachers, music teachers, ballet teachers and other teachers affected by the bill, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.

“It’s clear that National’s campaign against this flawed bill has succeeded. The lack of work on the bill to determine the number of people affected, the costings, and the general impact that the bill would have had meant that it was destined to fail.

Fair enough for Kaye to claim some credit for National, but there was other pressure as well.

“The bill’s misguided attempt to raise the status of the teaching profession by stopping those who have not gained recognised teaching qualifications from calling themselves ‘teachers’ was not even supported by the teaching profession.

“It’s extraordinary that it got to Select Committee with the support of Labour and the Greens despite opposition from the Government’s own Attorney-General David Parker.

“It’s good that Jenny Marcroft has recognised the overwhelming opposition to the bill she inherited from Tracey Martin and made the right call to drop it. Her heart was in the right place but the bill was not well thought-through.

“People who teach swimming, music, dance or art make a significant contribution in our communities and should have every right to call themselves teachers. Fining them for using that title would have done nothing to raise the status of qualified school teachers.

“There are far better ways to raise the status of teachers. We need to make sure we have high quality graduates choosing teaching as a career and investing in professional learning and development opportunities.

If this bill had been passed the Government would have worn the ridicule, including Labour.

I presume NZ First discovered they wouldn’t get the numbers so it was better to withdraw it rather than have it fail.


Maori seats should be ‘entrenched’ or scrapped?

Last week a bill seeking to ‘entrench’ the Māori seats in Parliament was drawn from the members’ ballot last week. Are the Māori seats an important part of our democracy, or outdated and unnecessary under MMP?

RNZ: Bill to protect Māori seats selected

The Electoral Entrenchment of Maori Seats Ammendment Bill introduced by Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene ensures Māori seats have the same protections as general electorates seats.

Mr Tirikatane said that under the Electoral Act the provisions establishing the general electorates are entrenched, meaning only a 75 percent majority can overturn them.

However, only a majority of 51 per cent is needed to abolish Māori seats.

Mr Tirikatene said the bill was about fixing the constitution.

“We should be able to have equal protection just like the general seats.”

The protection of Māori electoral seats was vital, Mr Tirikatene said.

“I think they’re unique to Aotearoa, it symbolises our Treaty of Waitangi partnership and they’ve been a long standing, important part of our parliamentary democracy.”

‘Entrenchment’ is a curious term to use here. If the bill passes it would make it a lot harder to get a big enough vote in Parliament to scrap the Māori seats so it may effectively entrench them, but it doesn’t guarantee they would always be retained.

Entrenchment (Oxford):

1 [with object] Establish (an attitude, habit, or belief) so firmly that change is very difficult or unlikely.

1.1 Establish (someone) in a position of great strength or security.

‘by 1947 de Gaulle’s political opponents were firmly entrenched in power’

1.2 Apply extra legal safeguards to (a right guaranteed by legislation)‘steady progress was made in entrenching the individual rights of noblemen’

2 [with object] Establish (a military force) in trenches or other fortified positions.

Origin: Mid 16th century (in the sense ‘place within a trench’): from en-, in- ‘into’ + trench.

Labour currently have about 37% of the vote in Parliament, and 100% of the Māori seats, they would easily stop them from being scrapped if a 75% vote was required. Greens also support retaining the Māori seats, and while National have previously had a policy to scrap them they have softened on this.

Winston Peters and therefore NZ First have strongly supported scrapping the seats.

So does Barry Soper: Seven Maori seats are obsolete

The seven Maori seats in Parliament should be scrapped. The need for them has long passed.

Originally they were only meant to be there for five years to give Maori the right to vote in the general election 150 years ago this year. That was extended by another five years but in 1876 it was extended indefinitely.

The Royal Commission, which proposed our MMP electorate system, said if it was adopted the Maori seats should go. It rightly argued that under MMP all parties would have to pay attention to Maori voters and their concerns and they felt their continued existence would marginalise those concerns.

Around that time the seats came the closest they’ve ever come to abolition with an Electoral Reform Bill, but it failed after strong opposition from Maori.

The seats have been something of a political football ever since. The First MMP election in 1996 saw them all going to New Zealand First, which lost the lot of them just three years later. At the last election Winston Peters promised a binding referendum to consider their abolition and on reducing the number of MPs to 100. His coalition deal with Labour’s put paid to that.

Before the 2008 election John Key promised to get rid of the seats but in his first coalition deal embraced the Maori Party which served as National’s insurance policy right up until the last election.

And today there are the most Maori MPs ever in Parliament, 29 with our indigenous culture’s heritage, or 24 percent of Parliament and most coming from the general electorate roll.

All of the political leaders with the exception of Jacinda Ardern and James Shaw lay claim to Maori heritage. So surely Maori are, or should be, better catered for then ever before.

The seats have become redundant, other than a political crutch for Labour, they serve no purpose and rather than entrenching them, Parliament should be doing away with them.

Should the seats be protected for Māori, or are they give an unfair electoral advantage to Labour?

Is this a real problem, or a self interested jack-up?

Would Tirikatene be an MP if there were no Māori seats? Possibly now via Labour’s list, but probably now not if he hadn’t already been an MP.

The bill would require the support of NZ First or National to pass, so it seems far from guaranteed.

What about public support? 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll August 2017:

  • Should be kept 55%
  • Should be abolished 13%
  • Should be abolished some time in the future 23%

Is the Tirikatene bill trying to fix something that isn’t broken?