Divvying up the dosh

by frog

The Electoral Commission has just announced the allocation of money for this year’s election broadcasting. The parties in Parliament got the following:

  • Labour: $1.1 million
  • National: $900,000
  • NZF, Greens, Act, UF: $200,000
  • Maori: $125,000
  • Progressives: $75,000

The whole process for dividing up the money is whack, given that Labour and National both have representatives on the Electoral Commission for the purposes of deciding how much each party gets. Also, one can quibble with whether the criteria the Electoral Commission has to use to divide up the money are the right ones. (For example, should the criteria really be set up to entrench the biggest parties as the biggest parties?)

However, it is still worth asking whether the Electoral Commission has applied fairly the criteria it has to use under the Broadcasting Act. In its letter to political parties announcing its decision, it says the four main criteria for making its decisions are as follows:

  • How many MPs a party has.
  • How many votes a party got at the last election.
  • How well a party is polling.
  • How many members a party has.

So, how well has each party done according to each of these criteria? We have to leave aside membership numbers, because some parties are too scared to release them publicly. Nevertheless, we can do comparisons on the other three. So, I’ve had my pads going furiously on to my calculator.

1. Number of MPs
$3 million was allocated to 120 MPs, so there’s an average of $25,000 per MP. Under this criterion, National, the Maori Party, and the Progressives get much too much and NZ First much too little.

Full allocation (dollars per MP):

  • Maori Party: $125,000
  • Progressives: $37,500
  • National: $33,333
  • Average: $25,000
  • United: $25,000
  • Act: $22,222
  • Greens: $22,222
  • Labour: $21,569
  • NZ First: $15,384

2. Number of votes in 2002
About 2 million votes were cast at the 2002 election for the parties now in Parliament. If the $2.875 million available (excluding that given to the Maori Party, as it didn’t contest the last election) were allocated equally under this critereon, there would be $1.49 per vote. Under this criterion, National and the Progressives get far too much. NZ First gets far too little.

Full allocation (dollars per vote in 2002):

  • Progressives: $2.17
  • National: $2.12
  • Average: $1.49
  • United: $1.47
  • Greens: $1.41
  • Act: $1.39
  • Labour: $1.31
  • NZ First: $0.95

3. Polling
There were nine public political polls in 2005 before the Electoral Commission held its hearings into the broadcasting allocation on March 21 and 22. I’ve worked out an average of these polls for each party, and then worked out how many dollars each party got per polling percentage point. Under this criterion, the Progressives, Act, United, and the Maori Party get much too much.

Full allocation (dollars per percentage point):

  • Progressives: $750,000
  • United: $90,909
  • Act: $86,957
  • Maori: $62,500
  • Greens: $34,904
  • NZ First: $32,258
  • Average: $30,769
  • National: $25,568
  • Labour: $24,887

So, what does this all mean? Well, if we pull these three criteria together, and give each of them equal weighting, you can come up with a figure that tells you how much each party got as a percentage of what they should have got. (That is, a party that got exactly the average on all of the three criteria would have got 100% of what they’re due; a party that got double the average on all the three criteria would have got 200%) It seems that NZ First is the big loser in the allocation, and National, Act, United, the Maori Party, and the Progressives are the big winners:

  • Progressives: 911% of what they were due
  • Maori: 352%
  • United: 165%
  • Act: 155%
  • National: 120%
  • Greens: 99%
  • Labour: 85%
  • NZ First 77%

How could these disparities have been ironed out? Well, NZ First and the Greens could have been accorded status as the “major third parties” and been given more than United and Act, and National, the Maori Party and the Progressives could have been given less. Alas, it didn’t happen.

UPDATE: David Farrar notes that criteria one and two above are essentially the same thing. If you drop the second of them, you get the following final result:

  • Progressives: 1294% of what they were due
  • Maori: 352%
  • United: 198%
  • Act: 186%
  • National: 108%
  • Greens: 101%
  • Labour: 84%
  • NZ First 83%

frog says

Published in Campaign by frog on Mon, April 18th, 2005   


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