National snatches electoral reform back from the people

The Green Party initiative to have electoral reform reviewed and managed by a citizens’ jury has been scrapped by the National government today. While not surprising, it does mean that electoral reform falls back into the hands of the politicians – putting the wolves back in charge of the hen house. The press release came at the usual “don’t look now” time of 4 pm on a Friday, a trick that both National and Labour use to hide unpopular announcements.

The Greens supported the EFA only with the promise of a wide ranging review of electoral reform, driven by a citizen’s jury to keep the politics to a minimum. That’s now history as National says it wants to start over from scratch. After all that I have learned and written about citizens’ juries, I still think it is the best way to go to get an independent, multipartisan view of a difficult topic.

While I understand the desire to make your own mark when entering government after a decade in the wilderness, throwing out an independent, sensible mechanism is a waste of time and resources.

90 Comments Posted

  1. Random selection versus popular election : some second thoughts on the idea of a citizens’ jury randomly selected from the population at large.

    Could such a random sample provide a better legislature than a parliament of “duly elected representatives”? On reflection, I have to concede that a random sample would have some advantages. Firstly, because they would not be people who had promoted themselves into positions of power and authority, the randomly selected legislature would include those who are not motivated by the desire for power, wealth, or fame. It would also include those who are of a modest and reserved disposition, and those who would be deterred by the aggressive, competitive nature of democratic politics. So it is arguable that a randomly selected body could deliver better laws and better government than a democratically elected parliament.

    The advantage of random selection is that it would produce a more truly representative government than a popular election. In contrast to the present electoral system, a randomly selected government could accurately reflect the full range of age, race, gender, creed, intellectual ability and moral character in the population at large. The disadvantage is that by virtue of being truly representative it would fall short of the republican ideal, according to which the role of governance should be given to those members of society who are most capable and of the highest moral character.

    To agree that a randomly selected citizens’ jury could be preferable to an elected parliament is to tacitly concede that democratic elections deliver less desirable outcomes than could be obtained by pure chance. And I do so agree. But I also believe that to accept the method of random selection would be to set our sights too low.

  2. Kahikatea says:

    “no, the proposal was to pick people at random, the same way as ordinary juries are chosen.”

    The jury system is a reasonably effective way of determining criminal guilt or innocence. But a constitutional convention is not analogous to a judicial process. The role of a jury is to determine facts, and make judgements on those facts according to law. The purpose of a constitutional assembly is to make laws, a process which requires quite different qualities to those required from the jury in a court of law.

    And given a randomly selected constitutional assembly, one would expect the conventional political wisdom to be dominant. So although it would be, in some respects, the exact antithesis of the elitist assembly that I was anticipating, I still can not see how it could work to bring about constructive constitutional change.

    My point remains, that it is foolish to try to engineer constitutional reform by artificial means. Perhaps the left hope that by bringing “ordinary folks” into the corridors of power they might be able to provide a balance to the corrupting power of wealth in the political process. If so, I believe that they are mistaken in their hopes. It is not going to be that easy. Constitutional reform will only come when the people are ready for it, work for it, and demand it. Inviting a bunch of “ordinary New Zealanders” into parliament would probably amount to nothing more than an act of political condescension by the professional politicians.

  3. One of the problems with that idea is that juries are not really random. They consist of people who have the time to attend.

    I know a significant number of people who had thenselves excused from jury duty on the basis that they were too busy and in important occupations.

    That type of intelligent productive person would be missing from the citizens assembly if it was chosen by the same means as our juries.

    It’s frightening how many court cases have been decided by people who are not really competent to adequately weigh up the evidence.

  4. Geoff Fischer Says:
    December 1st, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    > The problem with “citizens’ assemblies” or a “citizen jury” is that they will inevitably be elitist. One would expect them to be filled with hand picked constitutional lawyers (the conservative option) or self-appointed political activists (the radical option) but in neither case would they be representative of the people. Therefore the abandonment of the previous government’s plans for electoral reform is no great loss.

    no, the proposal was to pick people at random, the same way as ordinary juries are chosen.

  5. The problem with “citizens’ assemblies” or a “citizen jury” is that they will inevitably be elitist. One would expect them to be filled with hand picked constitutional lawyers (the conservative option) or self-appointed political activists (the radical option) but in neither case would they be representative of the people. Therefore the abandonment of the previous government’s plans for electoral reform is no great loss.

    I agree that the democratic process in New Zealand is able to be manipulated by moneyed interests. I agree that is not a good state of affairs.

    But the right wing of the regime has no will to reform the system, and, even if given the chance, the left-wing of the regime would have no ability to do so. Change will only come as ordinary working people cease to participate in political parties (the participation rate has already dropped from about 25% of voters in the heyday of the regime to just over 2% today), refuse to vote (currently up to 30% of the voting age population), and eventually go on to establish new forms of economic, political and military organisation in opposition to the current regime. And that will be a very good thing, going far beyond what could be achieved by an elite group of the regime’s political insiders.

  6. bj

    “You feel the urge to “slam” people… How civilized.”

    Oh, do lighten up. Use the word “criticize” if you sensibilities are that delicate.

    >>childish invective

    Compelling arguments 🙂

    >>Have you learned something?

    Yes.

  7. Eredwen

    “a local name for mental institutions in pre-effective-medication days.”

    Is that your idea of humour?

    If so I think it is sick, there is NOTHING effective about modern mental health practices.

  8. You are looking at 4.7 million to run this a citizen jury made up of people picked by the greens and labour. I doubt very much it would have been non partisan. The law was flawed at the start and I am glad it is being scrapped. Also, we the taxpayers save 4.7 million. Great, we cut the toe nail off the bureaucratic dinosaur.

  9. >>Some folks seem to think that “they’ve won” and as a result that all they have to do is pile on to finish us off. Ignorance is bliss and there are a lot of people on the right who are simply way too happy.

    It took more than 1800 years (from Aristarchus to after Copernicus) for the idea that the Earth revolved around the sun to be accepted into mainstream thinking. The complicated epicycle constructs, developed to a high degree of sophistication by Ptolemy, provided a model that ensured the acceptance of the geocentric model of the universe for many centuries. The green position that humankind has both a dependence on and a responsibility to the broader environment can be regarded as a further salvo at the powerful belief that Man is the centre of the universe.
    I don’t really know why most of humankind continue to hold onto the anthropocentric paradigm. However, ironically it may well result in our undoing – it may turn out to be our ‘asteroid of extinction’ vis a vis the dinosaurs (supposedly).

  10. Eredwen

    Some folks seem to think that “they’ve won” and as a result that all they have to do is pile on to finish us off. Ignorance is bliss and there are a lot of people on the right who are simply way too happy.

    I’ve noticed the change. Less content and more rhetoric. Not that I’d have regarded that as possible 4 weeks ago.

    respectfully
    BJ

  11. bj

    Reading through frogblog at the moment … it really seems to be turning into a “funny farm” (a local name for mental institutions in pre-effective-medication days. )

  12. Davec has a problem with truth

    I don’t expect anything. That is not the same as saying it won’t happen, just that I don’t expect it and if your attitude is any indication, my expectations are likely to be correct.

    “A closed mind” is a trans-dimensional leap from my expecting National to make a mess of things. Typical right-wing rhetoric, devoid of realistic content.

    BJ

  13. bjchip has a closed mind
    Which is the reason for having an EFA. This EFA, not so much. We will I think, happily support anything that comes out that is effective. We will not I suspect, get to support anything that comes out of this government.

    Meaning that nothing that comes out of this govt is ever likely to be effective, suspects bjchip. Go have a coffee with eeredwyn and Ari – you should be able to create an environmentally safe cafe somewhere under the sand to make your heads feel at home.

  14. DaveS:

    I have gone through our various posts and interchanges in order to write this (and have read, and noted, that you are of Welsh origin which will be a factor in your use and interpretation of language.) I now realize that I was mistaken in my original assumption that you were one of the young-male frequenters of frogblog.

    The following is comment and partial analysis (of informal, and friendly intent.)

    On my side of the equation:
    Firstly, you will note the absence of women on this and other blogs.
    I visit frogblog from time to time, as a part of the (unsolicited) Green presence, of which only a very small proportion are women.
    In general, women find most blogs “testosterone dominated” and, unfortunately, frogblog is no longer an exception.

    Males as a group have different ways of interacting, which can be described as a combination of “pissing contests” and “male bonding”(or “mateship”)! These flow over into blogs, including frogblog.

    Using this categorization: “Dave S” (Davie) is on frogblog as part of the “opposing team” in the “pissing contest”, and your posts do reflect this, no matter how carefully you write them.

    My reactions to your posts are from a woman (minority group and with different ways of interacting)
    and as a long time Green (who sees you as a guest),
    and as a long time Tertiary Teacher of Communications English (now retired).
    We have clashed at all those levels.

    Perhaps, from now on we could find common interests in the futures of our grandchildren (living or potential)?

    I have been too fast to categorize you, and you have seemed too slow to recognize/acknowledge that the Greens DO know what they are doing, currently and long term. We are a very well organized Movement, and Political Party (which I first joined as the Values Party in the early 1970’s.)

    By the way, I’m curious: did you know what “a Freudian slip” is ?

    I hope this clears the air!

    eredwen

  15. I’d just like to address the first sentence of the post, ignoring altogether the pros and cons of the EFA, and instead look at the first four words: “The Green Party initiative”.

    Given the current position occupied by the Green Party, I dont think there will be a lot of Green Party initiatives under the current parliamentary arrangements….

  16. You feel the urge to “slam” people… How civilized.

    We remain what we actually are, not what you claim we are, not what you think we are, and all your childish invective has proven nothing but our greater patience.

    Go then and “slam” them.

    I do wonder what your motive is for being here at all. You’ve added no knowledge. Most people here I can have conversations with and learn SOMEthing. You have been an empty vessel. Have you learned something? That seems unlikely but I have to hope it is possible… barring that I have no idea why you’d bother coming here at all.

    BJ

  17. >>It just makes you responsible for the next 3 years.

    The difference is that I’ll slam National just as easily as I’ll slam the LabGreens.

    The price of democracy etc….

  18. Icebaby

    They were tired of Helen and they were tired of being treated like children, so they opted for being treated like wholly owned (wage) slaves.

    I don’t disagree that there were problems here. I’ve pointed them out myself thanks, and no insults from you were ever likely to alter them.

    That doesn’t make you “right”. There are vastly more ways to be wrong than to be right as you are going to spend some time learning. It just makes you responsible for the next 3 years. The mistakes are all there for you to make. Have fun.

  19. Woops!

    Posts have crossed each other again!

    Dave S:

    Thanks for making contact. I appreciate that!

    I WILL reply to your post(s), but I can’t do so adequately now.

    Please expect a reply on this thread by tomorrow morning at the latest!

    eredwen

  20. bj and Dave S:

    bj: I missed your last post (1:36 pm) and probably you are correct !

    The “youth” thing probably is a factor …

    Dave S: If this is so, I apologize for any misunderstanding, and I hope that you can learn from the fact that your words were interpreted in the way they were by an experienced “communications” teacher!

    We are not writing literary English essays here
    … just plain “Communications English”.

    Cheers!

    eredwen

  21. bj

    Father wanted to name me Dai – the Welsh form of David; Mother wanted David. Father protested that he had fought in a war to ensure freedom, which meant Britons not having to carry IDs, so they compromised on Daive, which was misspelled by the man at the BMD Registry as Dave – so here I am with just a humdrum name! Ho hummocks 🙂 😉

  22. >>When the next election comes the policies that National finally adopts will be measured and found wanting.

    By whom? Green voters? Big deal.

    >>Either as errors which are rejected by most people of NZ or as betrayals by the rabid right wing to who’s loyalty they owe their current position.

    The rabid right wing have the option of ACT. Errors – no doubt they’ll make a few, but none quite so stupid as an anti-smacking bill in a country beset with cultural violence, a partisan EFA, and the “strategy” to back the losing side going into an election.

    That would require a religious level of stupidity 🙂

    Most people of New Zealand are tried of the left, and voted accordingly….

  23. eredwen

    No superiority complex here, just a desire for understanding.

    I would appreciate you pointing out the aspect of my original post you find to consist of ‘scorn’, then I would like you to point to the place where I stated
    > ““We want to return to the spirit of bipartisanship on this issue which till recently had shaped electoral reform in New Zealand.”>
    As I cannot find that in a post of mine anywhere. Indeed, as far as I can discern sweet disorder posted it when quoting a minister, it was no ‘Freudian slip’ of mine.

    Finally, I responded to your assertion that
    >
    AotearoaNZ has a “Mixed Member Proportional” method of Government.
    >
    With some comments regarding the reality, as I see it, of MMP.

    Your comment
    >
    Surely the word should be “multi-partisan”? (especially when and you are on the blog of AotearoaNZs Third Party, whose MPs have chosen to remain independently on the cross benches from “your side”.)
    >
    was condescending and meant to belittle my grammar (I have a degree in English FYI,) as well as alleging that I have posted the quote with “bi-partisan” in it, which I clearly had not, by saying
    >
    “when and you are on the blog of AotearoaNZs Third Party”
    >
    to which I commented on the reality that there is a green party, but not a “Third Party”.

    Finally, let me say that your comment regarding condescension is resented. I have four daughters and three sons, every one of whom is a high achiever in his or her area of endeavour and who have always been given equal opportunity. I have supported and worked for equality for probably more years than you have been alive. As an example, I have owned three and run two ore businesses, with between 16 and 3,000 employees and I HAVE NEVER having paid a woman less than a man for the same job IN ANY COUNTRY!! Your comment reeked of what you probably accuse every man you meet of – SEXISM – and I doubt that many of the women who post here would support your position as the ones I exchange conversation and opinion with have a better perspective on themselves than you seem to have of you.

    Don’t reply to this post unless you are prepared to address its points with sensible discussion – it won’t be worth your time to dictate,or anyone else’s to read far enough to skip the rest.

  24. bj

    Thanks for the warning, but there was no crossing of identity wires!

    “Polite” condescension is an area that women are well aware of.

    e

  25. bjchip says: You say a “three year term” – as in a term limit for the individual MP? It makes for an interesting problem in learning curves if so.

    Not specifically for the MP. I meant I do not want the electoral cycle extended to 4 years as some have suggested should be the case.

    I know it’s impractical (at present) to have regular referenda, or get each voter to give their opinion about every topic, but I want to see a minimisation of the ability of an unpopular government or coalition to pass bad law.

    I want them all to face the jury of public opinion no later than every 3 years. Even thats too long sometimes.

  26. Yes… they do Eredwen. They are children. They have gained power and they think that this somehow proves them right. They haven’t learned to separate the concepts.

    When the next election comes the policies that National finally adopts will be measured and found wanting. Either as errors which are rejected by most people of NZ or as betrayals by the rabid right wing to who’s loyalty they owe their current position.

    Either way I think we win.

    respectfully
    BJ

  27. It is a mis-characterisation. The implication is that you’re important.

    As for “growing support”, the Greens haven’t grown at all since Values. This time round, you got some Labour protest vote. Next time round you’ll be below 5%.

    >>AotearoaNZs Third Party, whose MPs have chosen to remain independently

    Hilarious. They assured themselves of a loss of power by “choosing” to back the wrong horse.

    >>AotearoaNZs

    New Zealand.

  28. “..somewhere behind Peter Dunne, and ahead of Winston.”

    That’s a silly argument. Like saying Labour is not NZ’s second party, or that the Nats weren’t before the election. It is not a comment about influence, which will always wax and wane to some degree for all parties, but about growing support from the population. Do I really need to point this out? Surely, you can’t think that we’d like to change places with Dunne, who’s party will not even survive him.

  29. Eredwen

    dave S is not davec …. ? I think identity wires may be crossed. I was very peeved with davec, Dave S was somewhat more polite.

    “Why would the want to name the kid Dave? Every Tom, Dick and Harry is named Dave.” – I don’t remember the comedian and probably didn’t get the quote QUITE correct, but it applies… no insult intended to anyone… 🙂

    respectfully
    BJ

  30. >>AotearoaNZs Third Party

    That’s like saying Germany were the runners-up in World War 2.

    Your influence is zero. Peter Dunne has more influence than you do. SO you’re somewhere behind Peter Dunne and Winston.

  31. Dave S
    Having read your reply, and then carefully reread my post and your reply again, I have little idea of how the two relate!

    However, from the content of your reply and its condescending tone, I do get the clear message that you (have a need to?) feel “superior”.

    I’ll leave you with that.

    e

  32. “For a start this citizens jury wasn’t to reform the EFA. It had two very narrow jobs – to obtain state funding for Labour and the Greens, and to review the organisation of electoral agencies. … I suggest you go read how narrow the panel and jury’s mandate was”

    DPF is wrong here. Labour’s plan was to do just as he describes. The Greens contribution was to add the Citizen’s Jury, which could look at *any* aspect of election funding, including the EFA. As he says, its all in the terms of reference, so I don’t know how he missed it. Labour did not want this to happen, however, and balked for six months before getting things up and running. Otherwise, the panel would have completed the first phase and the jury would have been underway before the election and much harder for the Nats to ditch. Stupid.

  33. eredwen

    Is it possible you’re having a bad day? If so you have my sympathy, yesterday morning there was much for my body to recover from.

    re 1.
    I have read my posting again, and cannot find what you might have taken offense at, unless it was the term “old pond-hopper” which was meant in an affectionate, rather than demeaning vein; a bit like saying ‘old bean’ when at a school reunion for me,. However, if that is the ‘tine’ you have taken offense at then, as one guest on frog-blog to another, I apologise and withdraw the statement.

    As for point 2. the statement you quote, i.e. “We want to return to the spirit of bipartisanship on this issue which till recently had shaped electoral reform in New Zealand.” was not mine, and so how you can accuse me of improper grammar I don’t know.

    As for your comment “Aotearoa NZ has a “Mixed Member Proportional” method of Government”, I am afraid this is wrong. We have MMP as our method of election to membership of the House of Representatives. We have a “confidence and supply” approach to formation of a Government, which in today’s reality means the parties with the second and third most party votes have no entitlement to a say in governing, other than through
    debate and invitation.

    If MMP was the basis of our government, and we wanted it to be truly representative, any citizens jury on a proposal for reform of the electoral approach of the country should be based on having members nominated by those parties in Parliament in proportion to the number of seats they hold in the house of representatives; it would also make sense for any ‘expert panel’s’ membership to be composed the same way. However, given the National Party’s willingness to include in its government parties whose votes were not needed for it to be able to govern, I doubt that it will be as partisan as this.

    I feel for your lack of influence in the house, it is hard to live with such a loss. However, I do believe that making attacks such as you have on me above will do your cause no good at all for the long haul. There are no 1st, or 2nd or 3rd parties in New Zealand, there are Government and opposition, sit back, accept your role, and for the 2011 election, perhaps think about being exclusively a Green party rather than a green-socialist one; it might result in a much more influential role than has been achieve so far after the split from the Alliance.

    I truly hope your day gets better.

  34. Would you go as far as blocking the efforts of political commentators who had nice houses, well paying jobs and drove expensive cars?

    Of course not.

    The media is the media Greengeek. It always gets its turn to speak and “political commentators” are part of that show. However, you missed something here. I am not EXCLUDING people who have money from speaking out or up.

    It DOES NOT MATTER what a person earns or makes. They can speak their opinion and if the media reports it as news, for free, that’s perfectly OK.

    I am excluding them from buying advertising space. I am not preventing the media from providing editorial opinions and covering controversy. I am preventing that from being presented in full page advertisements by people who are not part of a party.

    There are already laws punishing the dissemination of false information. I regard them as weak compared to what they ought to be but the difficulty of using them in an election campaign (or in general) is Mark Twain’s complaint “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes”. We experienced this in this last campaign with respect to our population policy. I am sure that this hurt us and the reporter and station that mis-stated it were quick to retract when the error was pointed out. The mis-statement however, lived on in people’s minds for the better part of 2 weeks and I doubt not that there are people still misinformed by that single error. An error I think, reporting someone else’s lie, but the media has a duty to truth that it USUALLY honours by doing independent verification before broadcasting anything.

    Lets make it clear, that when I am discussing TRUE information I am referring to the policy statements of any given party. I do not trust anyone to speak for my party EXCEPT my party. I do not trust statements about National party policy EXCEPT those I see on the National website or in their official documents.

    The problem with disseminating accurate information in a money talks environment is that it is competing with a much broader base of inaccurate information that is, broadly speaking, organized and promulgated to give greater advantages to money. The signal to noise ratio is impossible. The signal is swamped by the noise. That is what happened in the USA and the result is an incredible perversion of the democratic process.

    The “citizen’s jury” was related only to the electoral process changes themselves. It isn’t required for everything but if we are determining how our votes are counted and how we regulate our freedom to advertise during the election, those things get discussed with everyone represented. Most government activities are perfectly well managed through the parliamentary representation and the processes around it. The activity of CHOOSING the parliamentary representation however, is more sensitive and requires more citizen input.

    You know as well as I, that every citizen voting on every issue is a nonsense. Preferable if every citizen knew everything about every issue, but in the absence of such perfect information we have parliamentary processes.

    I think you’ve mistaken where I was going with this a bit.

    I believe that the aim of ensuring that good quality TRUE information be available to the masses is not advanced by the EFA.

    Not to the extent we want, to be sure. However, we accepted the Labour bill would at least reduce the noise. We demanded that it would be altered through some arrangement that included ordinary citizens representatives. That was part of the price of our support for the bill.

    Negated at a stroke by this government which I suspect strongly, wants nothing less than a rich-folks-free-for-all at the next election.

    I’ll wind up moving to Oz or into the hills. The devolution of the democratic process into the demagogic process will be assured if that is done. It is an INEVITABLE result of failing to restrict money’s influence. Remember, I have seen it at work in the USA. The influence of money is as corrosive as acid. It is as deadly to democracy as cobra venom is to a bird. Look what it did to New Zealand First.

    ++++++++++++

    You say a “three year term” – as in a term limit for the individual MP? It makes for an interesting problem in learning curves if so. My proposal for limiting the power of the incumbent was a randomized term limit for the government… the next election takes place sometime within 1-3 years of the last, but the actual date is selected by lottery. Seventy days from the date of the “election” ball dropping out of the lotto machine. A full on advertising blackout for all third parties for 50 days preceding the election.

    At no time could the government be so comfortable in its seats of power that it could afford to ignore the need to do things the way the PEOPLE want them done.

    The voice of the poor IS cut out of the advertising media. Previous laws and regulations were wholly ineffective at preventing abuse.

    Which is the reason for having an EFA. This EFA, not so much. We will I think, happily support anything that comes out that is effective. We will not I suspect, get to support anything that comes out of this government.

    Time will tell.

    respectfully
    BJ

  35. Dave S
    There are some issues for me in YOUR post.

    1. The major one is its tone:

    You are a guest on frogblog, and your message will be read by many people, generally in their own “personal spaces”.

    If you wish to communicate on this forum, politeness (and inclusiveness) works much better than scorn.

    2. As far as its content goes:

    Is the following example a Freudian slip by any chance?

    “We want to return to the spirit of bipartisanship on this issue which till recently had shaped electoral reform in New Zealand.”

    AotearoaNZ has a “Mixed Member Proportional” method of Government. Surely the word should be “multipartisan”? (especially when and you are on the blog of AotearoaNZs Third Party, whose MPs have chosen to remain independently on the cross benches from “your side”.)

  36. Kiwiblog has a good thread on this, which buries the Greens under an avalanche of truth.

    I think this comment by DPF sums it up:

    “f the Green had for once in their lives stood up to Labour on electoral issues and insisted on bipartisan or multipartisan input into the composition of the panel, then it may have survived. You have only yourselves to blame…..The Greens are totally to blame. Their record has been shameful. For a start this citizens jury wasn’t to reform the EFA. It had two very narrow jobs – to obtain state funding for Labour and the Greens, and to review the organisation of electoral agencies. State funding is off the agenda (I hope) and it is stupid to review the organisation of agencies until you have reviewed the law. I suggest you go read how narrow the panel and jury’s mandate was”

  37. Ari

    >
    Which contradicts the fact that they’ve disestablished the citizen’s jury on the matter how?
    >

    Simply actually. As no Citizen’s Jury had been convened, it did not exist except as a possible way forward, therefore it could not have been established meaning it could not have been disestablished.

    Frog
    There are some issues for me in your original post.

    Firstly, the deal you did was with a Labour Led Government which no longer exists, you cannot expect it to binding on anyone else.

    Secondly, there is a clear inference in the Minister’s statement that the panel appointed unilaterally by the Labour Party was not judged to be expert in politically independent enough to have the confidence of the house (given that the National led Government now has the votes for any confidence issue).

    Thirdly, having based your post on the press release, you omitted to point out the statement that the new government “will start work on a new law that will seek as broad a range of parliamentary and public support as possible, to provide an enduring framework for the administration of elections.”

    SO here’s my point old pond-hopper. When you become overly selective in the words you select to express your angst and pain, you receive initial sympathy, but eventual contempt. I really don’t think that such a state is where the Green Party, and its Blog, should be positioning itself for the next 3, 6 or 9 years.

  38. I hold that even if the money were honest……… it would be immoral to use it to determine that one person has a greater voice than others in the exercise of democracy.

    Participatory democracy requires that every voting citizen have access to as much TRUE information as is possible to amass.

    Is it your desire to restrict the political use of money simply because it is an artificial token of value? Would you go as far as blocking the efforts of political commentators who had nice houses, well paying jobs and drove expensive cars?

    Wouldn’t such a person have enormous power to corrupt the necessary TRUE information? I don’t see how it is possible to limit the influence of money (or other resources) without similarly limiting the influence of information (for good or evil)

    Should not the restraining influence have been more to do with punishing dissemination of false information rather than targeting the silencing of those who use financial or other resources to disseminate a message? (libel/slander laws etc)

    I believe that the aim of ensuring that good quality TRUE information be available to the masses is not advanced by the EFA.

    In fact I believe you could make a good case for ENCOURAGING expenditure as a means of ensuring this outcome.

    As for the use of a citizens jury to keep politicians in line, it is an idea that at first glance appears to have merit, but I don’t see it as being valuable unless (more or less in line with your suggestion above) this jury involves a participatory democracy based on every citizen voting in accordance with TRUE information.

    In other words: either EVERY citizen gets to vote on EVERY issue, or else a select “citizens jury” makes up the electorates mind for them.

    I prefer the former of those two ideas. Trust each voter to make up their own minds. Allow unlimited expenditure to disseminate ideas. Punish severely any use of untrue information and any attempt to prevent such information seeing the light of day.

    A citizens jury would just be another lobby group. Swayed by force of individual personality and with the same protections (or lack of protections) against false information as our current system.

    As part of any reform I would prefer to see a three year term (or preferably a two year term) cemented into our electoral law.

    That would be a better way of giving an effective voice to every voting citizen.

    I don’t want to deputise my voting to a citizens jury, and I don’t want the voice of the rich cut out of the information landscape any more than I want the voice of the poor cut out of the media and off of the blogosphere.

    It is all a vital part of the process.

  39. Greengeek

    I should not expect it to be understood. If it could be determined that success was ENTIRELY a matter of hard work and intelligence, we would have agreement. I am quite sure that this is not the case. Intelligence is a necessary but not sufficient condition. Hard work is a necessary but not sufficient condition. Good fortune is a necessary but not sufficient condition.

    This is I think, where the fundamental difference arises between liberals like myself and libertarians.

    It isn’t even in equal parts. George W. Bush was made President of the USA. He doesn’t speak English properly. He failed at EVERY previous job he ever had. He is not curious by his own admission and a “C” student. The luck of his birth covered a multitude of failings and he “succeeded”.

    That’s just one example. Almost any CEO or member of the board of the major financial institutions will be much the same story. There ARE the exceptions, the people who have succeeded because of what they made happen rather than who they were. Such people still needed luck… and they deserve respect for what they achieved.

    Also… to measure success with money is to use a false ruler. The nature of money itself has been polluted by it being turned into a product of fractional-reserve debt, issued by fiat and backed by greed.

    However… I hold that even if the money were honest, the question of luck would still be part of the equation, and it would be immoral to use it to determine that one person has a greater voice than others in the exercise of democracy.

    Participatory democracy requires that every voting citizen have access to as much TRUE information as is possible to amass. I have experienced the effect of money in the USA, and it is far more insidious and deadly to actual democracy than anyone in this country appears to appreciate.

    Obama is still a member of the wealth party. Democrats and Republicans are very very similar on the biggest issues. This is very similar to the sameness that affects labour and national. There are some differences in style and there are some differences in policies around the edges, but overall both are hostile to real democracy, because that would dilute the power of money.

    That leads to accepting the notion that labour went with the EFA as it proposed it, largely as a bid to stack the electoral odds more in its favor. When it finally came out in its final form it was still ugly, but it was the only game in town and many changes had been made at our behest. It actually DID limit campaign spending a bit (much to the annoyance of the media, which expected to make more money out of the election).

    The difference between having a labour 4th term and the government we have now was only a single percent.. distributed appropriately. Workable perhaps, but the EFA was certainly ugly though and our support was predicated on an acceptance of a longer and more democratic change process.

    We will see how honest the party now in power actually is.

    I have no expectation of pleasant surprises.

    respectfully
    BJ

  40. “An election is coming. Universal peace is declared and the foxes have a
    sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.”

    ~T.S. Eliot

  41. People who work and produce for a living can’t earn enough to get a “large sum”. That is reserved for the people who use money to make money. It is a form of distributed theft as practiced in most western societies. When there was nobody left to steal from the system broke.

    respectfully
    BJ

  42. We should respect success but IT HAS NO RIGHT TO AN UNEQUAL VOICE IN THE POLITICAL PROCESS!!!!

    I don’t understand your point here.

    Nature itself respects success. (If you believe in evolution and natural selection)

    God itself/himself/whateverself respects success too. (even Jesus said that “the unproductive figtree will be cut down”)

    Are you suggesting that you want an equal say given to those who are unsuccessful/unproductive?

    I would have thought it was a given that energy/success/productivity were heralded as vitruous.

    That is certainly what seems to be behind the natural cycle of birth/ maturation/decay/rejuvenation/new generation.

  43. If you consider what money actually IS in this society, the debt-based, fractional-reserve fiat currency based money. The money that automatically and perniciously encourages wealth concentration in the hands of bankers and financiers, the accumulation of a large sum of it is almost an indictment.

    BJ

  44. Among several other very sweeping statements, self named “greengeek” says:

    “As for money having undue influence in politics…it is important to appreciate that money is just a token of effort and reward and we should generally respect the opinions of those who have shown an ability to earn money and be productive.”

    Yeah right ! as in “very Right”.

  45. No Greengeek

    What I am saying would have to be more elaborately stated as as meaning that differences in the amount of money people have should not affect their ability to speak. There is no moral way that wealth can amplify your voice in the process. Each person on the street should have the same ability to speak no matter whether they are in a trolleybus or a Rolls.

    This blog is like that. Nobody is charged entry. The minimal access required to post can be had at a public library. Even a beneficiary has a right to speak here.

    The fact that some money must be spent to get ANY message out is real enough. The problem that the message that gets out is dependent on the money spent, is an immense evil.

    We should respect success but IT HAS NO RIGHT TO AN UNEQUAL VOICE IN THE POLITICAL PROCESS!!!!

    The EFA had to change.. and the mechanism to change it was always present. Starting from scratch is not actually a problem for me… but the citizen’s input did NOT have to go and its elimination is a clear indication of the real aims of the wealthy controllers of National policy.

    You can’t equate internet technology and money. They work in entirely different ways and are accessible in entirely different measures to the average citizen.

    respectfully
    BJ

  46. bjchip Says:
    The problem is that MONEY has no moral right to have anything whatsoever to say in an election or in the consultation about how the EFA needs to be changed,

    BJ, if you are going to say that, how can you justify the use of such things as this blog as a means of changing peoples minds??

    If money (and the advertising it buys) is such an evil, then maybe you favour a return to the days pre-Guttenburg, when the peasants were victims of misinformation?? Or a return to pre-blog days??

    From a political perspective, money and information technology are simply means to educate the masses (or to misinform if you believe that. But then thats true on both sides of the political fence)

    Money is often an indicator of success. It certainly has a right to have it’s part in the political process.

    If not money, then what is next??

    “No-one who speaks English shall be part of the political process”
    “No-one who owns a house shall be part of the political process”
    “No-one who owns a car shall be part of the political process”

    “Only those who lie on a beach and smoke dope shall be part of the political process”

    We should respect success, and respect money, and at the same time condemn those who use it inappropriately.

    As the Human rights commision suggested, the EFA worked against the free speech of the collective instruments of poor people as much as against the wealthy.

    It HAD to go, and you know it.

  47. Stacked so the outcome is inevitable,

    Right

    How exactly do you stack a group of 70 some odd citizens? By not letting people buy their way onto the jury?

    The problem is that MONEY has no moral right to have anything whatsoever to say in an election or in the consultation about how the EFA needs to be changed, and !mbeciles who think it ought to are the ones who are going to get consulted.

    That is the history of National and it isn’t very likely to change.

    It isn’t any change at all. It is exactly the same sh!t you’ve always served the average New Zealander. Given the attitude in evidence you’re exactly the same as you ever were.

    I don’t have any expectation that you’re going to do any better than blind obedience to the wealthy, providing them with greater power over the body politic. That’s the National way. Claiming that it is a higher calling as you do is so far from the truth as to be in an alternate dimension. This is not surprising as that dimension appears to be the source of a LOT of the right-wing rhetoric we see here.

    BJ

  48. BTW:

    Pre-election promise:

    “National will repeal the Electoral Finance Act 2007 immediately after the election. As an interim measure, the Electoral Act 1993 will be reinstated and the sections in the Electoral Finance Act relating to donations will be inserted into the reinstated act. National will then undertake a considered process involving all parliamentary parties and the public to reform electoral law prior to the 2011 general election. ”

    That’s what we voted for, and that’s what we’re getting. An open, consultative process, rather than “we know best” from you lot.

    What a refreshing change 🙂

  49. >>None of us were particularly happy with the EFA

    You voted for it.
    We matched against it.
    Actions, not words, BJ.
    You picked your side.

    >>We’ve always wanted the citizens input on fixing the EFA

    Stacked so the outcome is inevitable, which is why the review was – rightly – dismissed.

    Perhaps now we’ll have *real* cross party input and citizens input to get the law right in the first place.

  50. Greenfly… they are as stones hurled into deep water for I am an ocean of patience, learned from the ocean itself. I can be angry, but usually it serves no purpose. They could no more challenge my self-confidence than they could fly to the moon by flapping their arms.

    respectfully
    BJ

  51. icebaby is the newest member of the tag-team charged with the task of eroding Green self confidence on the Frogblog. Once he/she has become too hackneyed to count, the next provocateur will appear, niggling and sniping. Water wearing away stone.

  52. Davec

    When you post coherently you will be welcome, Right now you have a sentence that cannot be parsed followed by a meaningless insult.

    Lift your game… the gutter is within reach.

    BJ

  53. IceBaby – That is bnllsh!t ! We’ve always wanted the citizens input on fixing the EFA and we always had a lot of reservations about the EFA. None of us were particularly happy with the EFA and if you weren’t a newcomer to this blog you’d have known that much at least.

    If you had any web sense at all, you’d know that ignorant newbies do better by making sure they know what they are talking about before posting.

    BJ

  54. Pure hypocrisy, once again.

    So *now* you want everyone involved? Shame you couldn’t have shown the same desire for co-operation when you were ramming the EFA down everyone’s throats, despite massive public opposition.

    We had the citizen’s jury on Nov 8. The citizens decided you and your Labour mates were irrelevant.

  55. National snatches electoral reform back from the people
    Oh Hahahaha. It was you and Labour who snatched it back from the people.

    The Greens supported the EFA only with the promise of a wide ranging review of electoral reform, driven by a citizen’s jury to keep the politics to a minimum. That’s now history

    So why didn’t you come out and say that your support of the EFA history. Aren’t you principled enough to do that? Or are you just hypocrites – say one thing and progress another.

  56. I will be glad if they scrap the EFA. The human rights commission came out against it and surely their perspective counts for something here.

    As for money having undue influence in politics…it is important to appreciate that money is just a token of effort and reward and we should generally respect the opinions of those who have shown an ability to earn money and be productive.

    There are planty of people who have spare money as a result of honest work and investment. We should not seek to take money out of the political equation just because we don’t like some rich people.

    We live in an age where information is so readily available. We don’t need to fear the effects of political advertising the way we might have before the advent of the internet.

    If we truly believe that many people are swayed by the information that comes from rich lobbyists then we should simply take the vote off those people because they don’t deserve to have it.

    We each get one vote, and we each have access to good information with which to choose our preferred politicians.

    Any bad law passed in one electoral cycle can be undone by the next government as chosen by the people.

    As we have just seen during this election.

    Freedom of speech and freedom of information is so much more important than the misguided intentions of the EFA.

  57. “Bi-partisan” is the bit that most bothers me. This translates to “rules that make it easier for National and Labour, and everyone else takes their chances”.

    That and the fact that they are repealing the old law before working on a new one is a real sign of bad faith. The next election is (presumably) three years away, so this really does look like a chance to go raise some funds between scrapping the old law and getting a new one. It would have been much more transparent for any new law to replace the old one when it takes effect.

    Are they going to do this for other laws too? Repeal laws prohibiting violence so they can change them later?

  58. jgg – why the obsession with Nqationals donors? We don’t know the donations to Labour thru the unions as this is good hard working peoples money, not the unions. I bet quite a few union members did not vote Lab/Grn but contributed to the campaign. At least the Nat money was from the pockets of the source, not other peoples.

    The unions & Labour are all but one, Fed Farm ect are not.

    Frog, you voted for the EFA ‘only with the promise of a wide ranging review of electoral reform, driven by a citizen’s jury to keep the politics to a minimum’. Well stoopid Greens then, what were the polls and people saying a year ago about the EFA? (Hint: like the S59 bill 80% were against it). A bit like turkeys voting for Xmas. Those 3 university types appointed by Clark to review electroal reform are Labour stooges so the Nats are right to disband it. Also appointed 2 months b4 the election was cinical as well.

    Starting to show how irrevalent the Greens are becoming, have your say, thanks for your input but no thanks. Lightbulbs anyone?

  59. The saddest thing about National’s scrapping of the EFA is that it means any real legislation in the future (ie after this corporate-owned government leaves office) will be have to be retrospective. The day after the EFA is repealed, I’d love to see a copy of the Nats bank statement as the vote buying starts. John Key understand wheeling and dealing only too well.

    The only people who won’t be donating are the road transport lobby; why buy votes when the entire government is simply a glove puppet for your industry.

  60. It strikes me as a simple,venal act – familiar with the Private Sector: ie; ‘We just Won – don’t change a thing!’

  61. “By the same logic groups like the Business Roundtable, Family First, “Sensible” Sentencing Trust”

    Well you’re dreaming, because the Nats have nowhere *near* the association Labour has with unions – automatic spaces on councils, that sort of thing.

  62. Keep the EFA. It will help National get re-elected. Just 1 change is needed, make the Unions part of Labour. So they cannot advertise like they were allowed in the past election.

    By the same logic groups like the Business Roundtable, Family First, “Sensible” Sentencing Trust, etc… should count against National’s expenditure. No thankyou.

    I prefer the current system where third parties can advertise what they like so long as they’re actually talking about policies rather than telling us Helen Clark is a terrorist or to vote for FPP if we don’t want perpetual baby crying all over TV. 🙂

  63. Keep the EFA. It will help National get re-elected. Just 1 change is needed, make the Unions part of Labour. So they cannot advertise like they were allowed in the past election.

  64. My personal opinion is that this is the result of making bad law in the first place. Now the precedent has been set and worse law will follow. National has absolutely no incentive or intention to actually restrict campaign finance abuse. The more money gets to talk, the better they like it.

    Well, I certainly trust National even less than Labour to institute fair electoral rules, especially around advertising and campaign finance. I think you underestimate just how important it is to them to come out of this smelling of roses. They need to have a way to change the law that lets them blame any and all failures on the previous law, and for the kind of flagrant money-talks elections National has had in the past, they would need a much better excuse than their unsubstantiated warbles about freedom of speech. (Which they don’t seem to understand is a barrier between the government and the public, not between the government and private/SOE media)

  65. My personal opinion is that this is the result of making bad law in the first place. Now the precedent has been set and worse law will follow. National has absolutely no incentive or intention to actually restrict campaign finance abuse. The more money gets to talk, the better they like it.

    This IS the road to the destruction of democracy in New Zealand. It is wider now that the Americans have traveled it… an inviting superhighway to greater power for the ultra-rich.

    The “bipartisan” comment was one of those instances when the inability of the speaker to think in terms of a broader and more diverse society having rights other than what he imagines we all should have, comes out.

    BJ

  66. Best to start again from scratch as the EFA was the most partisan and corrupt piece of legislation from the most corrupt and partisan administration this country has ever seen.

    I wasn’t aware that the EFA was passed during the end of the fourth National Government’s term… 🙂

    And no, it wasn’t really that partisan. There were some bits of it that favoured parties with more average-sized pockets, (read: Labour) but a lot of it was genuine good faith efforts that prevented flood advertising, third parties being used as proxies without substantial policy critiques, people hiding behind fronts, and large anonymous donations.

    It would be nice if National had stuck with it and we had got a multiparty accord, but like Labour, they were pushing too hard for changes that benefitted them, making electoral law favourable to those with very large pockets. (read: National and its friends in the Waitemata Trust) Throwing their toys out of the cot and repealing the whole law and starting from scratch when they actually very nearly agreed with it, broadly speaking, strikes me as being just as partisan as what they’re accusing Labour of, especially when there were a couple things that National wanted to throw in that would’ve made the law a whole lot better.

    Wanting to keep a bad law just for a few parts strikes me as odd. If the parts are good, they they will survive in the new law.

    As I said, if they aim for 75% support, I think we will have a bill everyone can agree on.

    The law isn’t fundamentally bad. Really the biggest problem is that we’ve not HAD an election law as comprehensive as this one and that the increased accountability for parties was difficult to handle. Rodney Hide can and should deal with the fact that if he wants a jacket with his Party logo on it, he has to authorise it.

    If anything the problem is that the law didn’t go far enough, not that the fundamentals of it are wrong: You can still put through $10,000 before having to declare your identity, ($1,000 or $2,000 would seem more appropriate) the Green Party was suspiciously the party that declared the most money in large personal donations despite not spending very much at all, (and that the conspicuous absense of significant reporting from National and Labour and NZF and UF and the Progressives wasn’t investigated) the fact that we still essentially forgive people who break election law if we don’t catch them fast enough, and several other holes.

    As for 75% support: You’re really missing the point of consensus-based policy agreement. The point is that you try and address every single issue that comes up as best the facts support it. Sometimes you have to dismiss an issue because it’s just impossible to agree, but you should always try. It’s about more than just setting a quota of how many people you agree with- it’s about viewing disagreements that can be practically solved as harmful to good policy development.

  67. I don’ think the likes of Jim’s Progressive’s have the right to call themselves a party. But bipartisan, in my mind is more like 75% support of parliament, not just a larger number of parties where some of those parties had just one or two seats.

    Wanting to keep a bad law just for a few parts strikes me as odd. If the parts are good, they they will survive in the new law.

    As I said, if they aim for 75% support, I think we will have a bill everyone can agree on.

  68. bipartisan

    Which two parties are you referring to here? Because at my last count, we had seven in Parliament, and if you’d like to refer to working on a consensus basis, the appropriate word for New Zealand politics is probably multipartisan, or non-partisan 😉

    And yes, I supported some parts of the EFA, (more declaration of donations, making it harder for trusts, ) understanding that it was a rushed and flawed effort and it would need reform. I don’t mind having another go at it, but completely starting over and shutting out two very good initiatives to have both representative consultation and expert advice strikes me as a very bad sign that this will just be National and Act tailoring the electoral law to suit them once more, just like Labour tried to do as much as possible with the EFA, and just like National and Labour took turns at doing before then.

    And at worst, this could mean a temporary return to pre-EFA laws where National grabs a whole bunch of large anonymous big-business donations (anonymity being the big baddy there) before passing feel-good changes to the electoral law that still allows them to spend those secret donations. I think they need to be consultative, transperant, and clear with their plans right from the start if they want New Zealanders to trust them to play fair at the next election. This move is none of those things.

  69. The Panel and the Jury are hopelessly tainted by association with the EFA and the way they were set up in contravention of Parliamentary etiquette. Best to start again from scratch as the EFA was the most partisan and corrupt piece of legislation from the most corrupt and partisan administration this country has ever seen.

  70. Ari

    They are starting from scratch. Who knows what will come up. Better to analyze that, than to demise the passing of this.

    The experts panel, even though is may have been a good idea was not in keeping with the bipartisan approach this should take. All parties should be able to have their say on who makes up this panel, not just those that support the govt. of of the time.

    I can’t see why you are defending this? Do/did you support the EFA in its current form?

  71. Sweet: My point is that regardless of what they want to do with the EFA or a successor to it, disbanding the expert’s panel and citizen’s jury are poor moves and a signal that this government will be less consultative than the one that the Right were recently condemning for being out of touch, arrogant, and not listening to the people.

    This would seem like a poor start. One can always pass a new law with the aids of both of these.

    “How so?”

    How many legal opinions do you want?

    Here’s but one: tinyurl.com/5djt5w

    Firstly, this document doesn’t understand that free speech is about message, not media. Limiting spending does not and can not limit free speech. Secondly, I wasn’t even talking about the EFA.

    I am talking about the Citizen’s Jury and Expert’s Panel to review electoral law. Regardless of what direction National and its partners wish to take our electoral law, the advice of those two processes would have been very helpful, and shouldn’t have been thrown out with the bathwater.

  72. If you’re rebuilding a house, why would you stop talking to the people who are going to live in it”

    They haven’t. You will be involved in the next house, this one is condemned, not fit for human inhabitation.

  73. Do you rebuild the roof on a house with bad foundations?

    If you’re rebuilding a house, why would you stop talking to the people who are going to live in it? 😉

  74. >>the citizen’s jury

    …would have been just a big a farce as the bill itseelf. You can’t patch up this pig.

    Scrap it, and do it how it should have been done in the first place, had we had some real leadership and governance, rather than sell-outs.

    Yes, you!

  75. Which contradicts the fact that they’ve disestablished the citizen’s jury on the matter how? You’d think that it would still be necessary regardless of how multipartisan National’s planned new laws are. People have made it clear that they want a more direct say in their own electoral laws, and National has a duty to oblige.

  76. Frog, it is nothing of the sort. If i can post the press release of Simon Power then it might lesson your fears.

    Government disbands EFA Expert Panel
    Justice Minister Simon Power today announced that the Government has disestablished the Expert Panel on Electoral Administration which was established by the Labour Government two months ago.
    The panel was to have reviewed the administration of the electoral system under the Electoral Finance Act and whether or not political parties should be state funded.
    Its terms of reference included convening a Citizens’ Forum of 70 people to consider the findings of the panel. The cost of the Expert Panel and the forums had been budgeted at $4.57 million.
    The three members appointed to the panel were Associate Professor Andrew Geddis (Chair) of Otago University, Dr Jean Drage of Canterbury University/Victoria University, and Professor Stephen Levine of Victoria University.
    Mr Power says he has written to the panellists advising them of the decision to disestablish the committee and thanking them for their willingness to contribute their “considerable expertise”.
    “The Electoral Finance Act 2007 was passed without a broad base of support across parties represented in Parliament. Similarly, the Expert Panel was established without wider political consultation. National opposed both of these measures.
    “So we are disbanding the panel and will start this whole process afresh.
    “The next phase in the Government’s plan is to repeal the EFA as an interim measure, as promised during the election campaign.
    “We want to return to the spirit of bipartisanship on this issue which till recently had shaped electoral reform in New Zealand.
    “The Government has been sufficiently encouraged by statements made by the Leader of the Opposition since the election which suggest there is now a willingness to participate in a constructive approach toward the reform of electoral administration.
    “Following the repeal of the EFA, we will start work on a new law that will seek as broad a range of parliamentary and public support as possible, to provide an enduring framework for the administration of elections.”
    Ends

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