Launch of anti-MMP moves selectively leaked

MMP referendumb

According to NZ Herald Columnist Fran O’Sullivan the issue of a referendum on MMP was discussed at cabinet on Monday 31 August 2009. 

 Yesterday Ms O’Sullivan informed Newstalk ZB drive time host Larry Williams of how this information was conveyed to her – presumably by Mr Key – and how the parliamentary press gallery was kept in the dark.

 Larry Williams: You wrote about this a week ago the MMP [referendum] – well it looks like it’s going to happen.

 Fran O ‘Sullivan: Oh yes I did.  I don’t usually get it that wrong.  It was very much on the table at last week’s cabinet though they never made an announcement of it in the post-cabinet press conference but it [the referendum] was let drop at a business function I was at during the week so I decided to put it in the public domain.

What is interesting, at least to this frog, is who it was in the media that was fed the information about the referendum.  Rather than being dispersed to the press gallery it was selectively leaked at a business function.  And was this information given to a defender of the status quo? Hell no.  Here’s how Ms O’ Sullivan conveyed her scoop to readers of the Weekend Herald.

 Gamesmanship will again come into calculations on the sequencing of the MMP referendum.

Businessman Peter Shirtcliffe has been campaigning for “enough intellectual and organisational horsepower” to be applied so a single stage definitive referendum could be held next year, then applied at the 2011 election.

Frankly, Key should adopt Shirtcliffe’s timetable. If past polling is anything to go by, many Kiwis would vote MMP down if given the chance.

Fighting the next election on an electoral system – even First Past the Post – which gave more power to the major party to implement sensible policies would do more to even the gap with Australia than endless horsetrading.

 And what sensible policies would Ms O’Sullivan like implanted? Time to go back to Larry Williams drive time show where Ms O’Sullivan explains what MMP has stopped happening for the last decade or so – privatisation.

…various single issue or smaller parties will be able to point to wins they have had through [their] influence on the major parties that happens to be in power.  But there are also some big things that aren’t happening – there are things from a business perspective.  No-one can talk about privatisation…

No-one can talk about privatisation! – well that’s probably because National took privatisation off the agenda last year fearing that it would remind everyone of the 1990s and lose them the 2008 election.  However it looks like it is back to the 1990s when it comes to electoral reform.  Ms O’Sullivan explains just where the push for getting rid of MMP is coming from.

Larry Williams: Are you expecting vigorous debate on it – we had Peter Shirtcliffe last time – [is he] still going to be in there?

 Fran O’Sullivan: Yes Peter and Graham Hunt have teamed up again to push this one – they are definitely in there. And Peter has been saying a few words behind the scenes…


Frog wants to know who Mr Shirtcliffe has been having a few words and why the once valiant defender of First Past the Post is now floating the idea of a  Supplementary Member system – the exact same system John Key favours and a system that will lead to smaller parties being decimated.

Whoever Mr Shirtcliffe was chatting to about the alleged evils of MMP it probably wasn’t  Bill English.  In 2007 Mr English told the media a National-controlled government would NOT hold a referendum on MMP.  By 2008 with National riding high in the polls holding a referendum became National party policy and Mr English’s view was – according to Mr Key –  a “personal one”.

47 Comments Posted

  1. Panda
    What you don’t seem to get is that Fran and her ilk actually don’t want democracy. Their whole reason for reopening this debate and trying to game the process is to regain the control over the country they lost when MMP was introduced, and restructure things to benefit themselves at the expense of the public.

  2. perhaps the smacking referendum provided a good adjunct to the democratic process as people were able give some feedback as to the influence of this 1969 Voter politician?

  3. A dog whose tail is wagging is usually a happy dog.
    MMP is still a relatively new system and has come a long way in a short time.
    Minor party politicians involved in this system have shown an increasing amount of maturity as this system has become better understood and the general public have not made MMP an issue to this point.
    Perhaps John Key could try to work with this system for a term and gain some experience and skills with it before looking to something else.

  4. What Greenfly said.

    Peter Shirtcliffe was first chairman of Telecom when it was privatised, and was the very public face who led the anti-MMP campaign in 1990 – 1993. So, yes, it most emphatically IS a big business conspiracy. Shirtcliffe and his ilk still haven’t forgiven the hoi-polloi for daring to defy them back then. Sad to see them all slithering back out from under their rocks again.

    (What Shirtcliffe probably still hasn’t realised is how many people likely decided that anything the chairman of Telecom was for they were against on general principle 🙂 )

    With luck someone like the chairman of Contact Energy is the public face for the anti-MMP campaign this time…

  5. Ari says:
    September 9, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    > Most of the problems with MMP are comparatively minor and can actually be addressed with further small reforms, or a move to OLP.

    what, or where, is OLP?

  6. An elected Upper House is essential in any proper system of democratic representation. How else do we stop the Shenigans perpetrated by Nats under ’emergency’. What a sham !

  7. I have had enough of the tail wagging the dog it is time for some balance to be bought back to the NZ electoral system

    The problem is that under FPP and SM the tail still wags the dog, it’s just bigger. We’ve had “majority” government when the opposition received more votes under FPP, and SM is essentially FPP in drag trying to pretend it’s representative.

    I’d rather have Winston wagging the dog than go back to elected dictatorships. At least with Winston the news makes some money and seniors got something out of the deal, lol.

    Most of the problems with MMP are comparatively minor and can actually be addressed with further small reforms, or a move to OLP.

  8. And you really think it’s appropriate for him to make policy announcements in private because a constituent asks him a question? At the very least you should be questioning whether he’s making up policy on the fly for interest groups based on that behaviour.

    Are you a journalist or not? o_O If you report on the actions of government, it explicitly becomes your job to bully it into following proper process.

    This sort of thing is exactly why we have this whole “bloggers criticise the media demeans the bloggers” circular fight. If you do your part of the civic duty, we can leave you alone and get back to posting amusing pictures of cats.

  9. “The simple message to these Nimbys is – hundreds of thousands of hectares of windswept tussock won’t lift our living standards – the minerals buried beneath it will.”

    See I’d find much more ‘comfort’ sitting amongst ‘wind swept tussock’ than in a old mine..
    – interesting they would describe our diverse conservation land as ‘wind swept tussock’ unless they were attepmting to evoke images of nothingness.

    Finally, since when were ‘standards of living’ intertwined with being able to sell more coal? Happiness indexes (and human nature) seem to indicate quality of living is more about the relationships with other citizens and the environment than exclusively tied to our quest for the dollar.

  10. If nukefacts’ rage was pent up, you’d not get to see it panda. He let it all out and hit the target square-on.

  11. What this guy says!
    “anything which is not a proportional system of representation (i.e. relies on electorates) I am opposed to”

  12. Hehe sorry Toad, that wasn’t meant to sound serious! I was just having a dig at this quote from Fran…
    “in my own google search to find out what was being said”
    so twisted my interpretation a little to imply she was googling what was said about ‘her’..
    Meh, it wasn’t that funny anyways 🙂

  13. People from all over the political spectrum get hot under the collar. Have you been over to kiwiblog much?

    But yeah I was asking about this part of your comment

    “it is time for some balance to be bought back to the NZ electoral system “

  14. Comments like

    You and your right wing cronies totally disgust me
    Crawl back under your rock – your time has passed dinosaur,

    such pent up rage cant be good for your health

  15. What exactly do you mean by ‘balance’, panda? Is that the balance where there is only Labour and National in government, and where a party can govern even if it got less votes than the other party?

  16. Gosh Panda

    Do you really understand how proportional a scheme is, that allows for 2 MPs out of 120, for a party that pulls 10% of the overall vote.

    Even combined with STV for the electorates, it is still not proportional.

    We COULD modify the MMP system, though it is working pretty well. I can think of a couple of modifications that people would like to see.


  17. WOW
    good to see such a balanced comment

    I cant wait for this referendum and the chance to dump the nonsensical MMP

    I have had enough of the tail wagging the dog it is time for some balance to be bought back to the NZ electoral system

    I am proud to say I voted for the Supplementary Member system and will do so again
    I don’t think NZ will dump a proportional system but I do think MMP will be history

  18. Fran, I’m not sure even where to start.

    You and your right wing cronies totally disgust me. Having lived high on the hog ripping NZ off during the late 80’s and 90’s in one of the worst examples of crony capitalism anywhere (except perhaps Russia) you have the audacity to try again by gaming the electoral system to again get your way.

    And you have the audacity to talk about catching up with Australia through revisiting privatisation – because our previous history of privatisation was sooooo successful, you just can’t wait to repeat it. Get this – Aus was successful precisely because they didn’t make the screw ups our righties did. Unlike your business mates they seem to understand about investing in more than their fat salaries and not screwing workers at any opportunity, and they kept labour laws and didn’t sell off the family silver.

    Crawl back under your rock – your time has passed dinosaur, the world has moved on and you can’t screw the country in the name of ‘business’ again.

  19. Why the scaremongering?

    Russel’s position was that he welcomed people getting a say on the issue but that they should remember all the “good” things that MMP has given them.

    Perfectly sensible.

    And now three days after the story broke it’s become a National Party-big business conspiracy?

  20. You totally right. Under FPP no green party members would be in parliament despite having the support of 5-10% of the population. You have pointed out exactly why FPP is inferior to MMP!

  21. Referendums are a bugaboo. In this apathetic town, anyone could collect a few thousand votes outa mailboxes and go with it. No one would notice.
    I’m still waiting for the Referendum that asks if we want to join a war as a nation…..consultation process = 0.
    Remember – all Taxpayers are funding it!

  22. I don’t think Sue Bradford would get back in under FPP with her 1969 votes (or Catherine Delahunty with her 1800 +).

    I just thought I’d mention it.

  23. I much prefer MMP. Though the biggest two/three problems with MMP as it stands are the absence of a transferable vote in electorates, the minimum seat requirement, and the presence of dedicated Maori seats.
    Ideally, we should have no minimum seat requirement, a transferable vote in electorates, no Maori electoral seats, and if we want to get really complicated, a second-option transferable vote for the party vote if your party falls too far under the vote needed to obtain one seat.
    This would encourage people to vote for whom they want in, both in the electorate and in parliament, without having to worry that their vote will be wasted; if their vote is to person or party then the transferable vote will mean that their next preference will be chosen instead and thus they, such as those whom would like to vote for DSC, Libz, etc., etc., will not have to compromise and vote for a larger party just to ensure their opponents do not get in.

    As to the form of government, as mentioned by john-ston, I would like a second house of sorts but not following the american or australian models; if we became a republic we would certainly need a head of state with the power to veto legislation and thus avert the crisis of the blue-eyed babies. I would propose that this second house instead be made up of treaty signatories and a representitive of the crown (a treaty signatory after all). This house could be referred to as the kaitiaki and charged with ensuring that no legislation acts to discriminate between individuals based on ethnicity, sex, gender, religion, etc. and serve also to ensure the environment is protected: the power as head of state thus being limited but Maori being recognized as the guardians of the land and its people. There would of course need to be a constitutional court to ensure the constitution is protected and no legislation violates the constitution and rules regarding majorities and super majorities among the bodies as well as as an ability of any two of the three bodies being able to over-rule the ruling of the other in the case of mutual agreement if the need be.

  24. Personally, anything which is not a proportional system of representation (i.e. relies on electorates) I am opposed to. If one simply looks at the history of infrastructure in Australia, for instance, you see a massive gearing toward marginal seats and seats that are held by the Minister of Transport.

    Given that similar attitudes are already making their way to New Zealand (preferential treatment of Western Line commuters anyone?), I would not be keen to see crucial items such as infrastructure being used as carrots to bribe those in marginal electorates to vote for whichever party uses those carrots. At least with MMP, you either have to bribe a segment of the population, or in very limited circumstances, bribe an electorate.

    I do also think that it might be time for us to reconsider our entire electoral framework. Personally, I would look at an Upper House, and a shift to four year terms with fixed election dates (that would also allow for an Upper House with six year terms, with 13 members being re-elected every two years, like what we see in the US and Australia).

  25. Crikey Toad! Email alerts for political news! You need to get out into your garden, munch on some lettuce and gulp down a few slugs – I’m getting a picture of a wired Toad; glazed look and twitching limbs!

  26. Hey, TheDrop, you don’t have to google yourself. There is technology that will provide you with alerts thru your email.

    I’ve just started using it today, but Fran has probably been using similar for ages.

    Yeeha for the technology. Sometimes now I might have the first comemnt on a Kiwiblog or Standard thread.

  27. Yeah, Fran, in the first referendum int he 90s I voted for STV, and it is still the electoral system I most strongly support.

    But when the run-off was between MMP and FPP (even though STV was more popular in the first referendum than FPP) I acknowledged realpolitik and voted MMP.

    And I will defend MMP to the hilt against those who support FPP – the latter is a completely antidemocratic electoral system that has allowed governments to be formed with the vast majority of voters opposing them – the Muldoon governments arising from the 1978 and 1981 elections, for example.

    FPP then allowed Labour governments elected by the 1984 an 1987 elections to implement programmes (including privatisation) that had not been signalled at all to the electorate.

    FPP is the tyrrany of the minority. MMP and STV at least ensure that a government has some semblance of democratic legitimacy.

  28. Toad – my column did not state what you have quoted – that’s from a subsequent discussion with Larry Williams.
    To clarify – Personally I favour either FPP or STV – I do not like a system where the party vote delivers half the MPs. Would prefer to tick a candidate.
    But if FPP did come in it should with an Upper House.

  29. A1kmm says:
    September 8, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    > They will try to get people to vote to change the system by promising they will switch it to something better. But they won’t tell you what that system is.

    There would be a big backlash if they tried to do that.

    But what I wouldn’t put past them is for them to hint at something like that, so that people can complain about how dodgy it is, and what they actually do will look more benign by comparison.

  30. @A1kmm it’s unfair to play the prophet and scaremonger over an issue as important as this. “Most likely”? What is that based on? Previous moves from MMP? 😉

  31. I wonder how many realise that if we were to change to a First Past the Past electoral system, there would be at least 12 – and probably 13 – Maori seats in out 120 MP Parliament?

  32. said:Plain fact was Key mentioned Cabinet was discussing the referendum proposal in response to a direct question from a business person (or lawyer) at a Simpson Grierson Insight series breakfast in Auckland. There was no selective leak to me at all.

    Yep. fair enough.

    But your article said:

    But there are also some big things that aren’t happening – there are things from a business perspective. No-one can talk about privatisation.

    That is not true. Any political party can “talk about” privatisation. ACT regularly does. But the reality is that the vast majority of New Zealanders reject pivatisation. Anyone can put their case for it, but John Key (unlike Don Brash) realised it was unacceptable to most New Zealanders.

    A return to FPP would result in the undermining of democracy that occurred in 1978 and 1981 – when the National Party won the elections with less votes than the Labour Party and with arond only a third of the votes cast.

    That was a travesty of democracy, and a return to FPP, would potentially see it happen again.

    Further privatisation could potentially happen under FPP. But the reality is that the vast majority of New Zealanders don’t want it, and that FPP is a fundamentallyanti-democratic electoral system.

  33. What I’d like to know is why Fran O’Sullivan googles herself often enough to be the first response on this post.

    But in all seriousness, there are significant flaws in our current representation system. From what I’ve seen suggested, none of these electoral systems seem to address my concerns. Please correct me if I’m wrong!! (I know lots of you love correcting people) 😉

    My gripe lies with the ‘geographical nature’ of the representation. People from across the political spectrum share neighbourhoods, schools and shopping centres. Often, the only similarity with their fellow man is their electorate. So, when voting (in electorate), a minority voice is lost as the majority candidate gains the representative seat.

    Combined across a larger geographic space however, those ‘minorities’ become quite large (and here’s where I think the Greens have been very astute by requesting the ‘party vote’) and deserve representation.

    The geographic boundaries on a localised scale have proven to supply more power to certain electorates, (Wigram and Epsom spring to mind) which we must admit was not the intention upon instigating MMP.

    In short I think it is time to look at where we’ve come since 93, but to ‘revert’ is not the function of a progressive society.

    Let’s evolve without fear of change, but also without looking into the past for solutions for the future.

  34. Most likely they are going to go for a process which is stacked against MMP. They will try to get people to vote to change the system by promising they will switch it to something better. But they won’t tell you what that system is.

    Once the public have already committed to giving up MMP, the vote will be split and FPP will win (or maybe Supplementary Member, which is also not proportional). Even if STV wins, it will be a version stacked against democratic views, and in favour of the old grey parties (for example, it will have constituencies which aren’t large enough for minority views to be expressed, rather than being a single national STV election).

    This will mean we will go back to the bad old days of a two-party system, where the two big parties lie to voters to get absolute power, and then abuse it for their own gain. Our assets will be sold, our nuclear free status really will be gone by lunchtime, our conservation lands strip-mined even faster than they are now, our environment polluted faster due to even more big-business friendly policies, and our poor will get poorer.

  35. Welcome to our swamp Fran

    Frog, I saw this a while ago in a newspaper, but not Fran’s column. I remember thinking it looked like trouble.

    I don’t know how it is getting considered by National, but I thought you all knew all about it and would be posting on it in due course.

    As for the different methods of allowing minority voices, they are meaningless without minority power. This is of course, what you object to, isn’t it Fran?

    I think you should be really careful what you wish for, because if you get this concentrated power it WILL be abused and the backlash (when it comes) will be severe.


  36. and f.f.s..!..shirtcliffe..!..and the millionaire graeme hunt..and key..

    are going to try to muddy the waters..and do away with mmp..



  37. ms.o’sullivan..

    ..can i just note..(f.w.i.w..)

    that th’ you are an economic rightie..

    and i disagree with much of that aspect of yr writing..

    a lot of the rest of what you say..

    makes a fair bit of sense..

    which is why i often link to your work..

    how about doing a piece on the oecd-poverty-stats..?

    your ‘solutions’..?


  38. National and its minders are clearly going to try very hard to make it as much like FPP as possible. This will concentrate power so that it is easier for the people who seek to control it to figure out how to influence the outcomes.

    It is bad business for the nation. Good business for business.

    Better than in the USA at present. The ambition to emulate that sorry state is misguided.


  39. Frog – You should get out and get off your lily pad more often.
    Plain fact was Key mentioned Cabinet was discussing the referendum proposal in response to a direct question from a business person (or lawyer) at a Simpson Grierson Insight series breakfast in Auckland.
    There was no selective leak to me at all.
    Prob something journalists should have followed up by now given it was part of National’s pre-election comments.
    But I am kicking myself I did not write an accompanying news story.
    Re Shirtcliffe – haven’t spoken with him at all on this score – but was aware he and Graeme Hunt had teed up again sometime back and were doing some lobbying on this score – and of course found the website article you refer to in my own google search to find out what was being said.


Comments are closed.