Guest Post: One Electorate MP Threshold

This is a guest post submitted by Bruce Tulloch. It also happens to be his submission to the MMP Review. 

I believe that the one MP threshold which allows a “Tail” of extra MPS in despite less than 5% overall support should be withdrawn.

Figures of donations to parties and their election expenses are now available.  The attached tables are illuminating.

The Winston Peters phenomenon shows the impact of personality over policy.  Charisma plus publicity (very largely free in Winston’s case) can have a huge effect on the electoral outcome.

ACT, with neither personalities nor policies with more than marginal appeal, did very poorly in this election.  Despite getting donations ten times those of the Greens they got less than 1/10 of the Green vote, however with this sort of money a party with a more telegenic candidate plus saturation advertising and manipulated coverage could well swing one electoral seat and an increased party vote.

84.3% of ACT’s donations were were of $5,001 or more, only 5.4% were under $1,500. ACT received a very significantly higher proportion of large donations than National, Labour or the Greens.

The Conservative Party apparently did not release its donation figures to the Electoral Commission by the deadline but its election costs were the second highest at $1,878,000, some 80% of National’s total.  It appears the bulk of the funding came from the party’s leader.  They achieved 2.65% of the party votes.

The dominance of support for ACT and the Conservatives by a relatively small number of big donors and the lack of widespread voter support would indicate that their best tactic is concentration of force, to focus on a single electorate (as in Epsom) and thereby drag in extra MPs, despite less than 5% support.

This distorts proportionality and is also wide open to collusion with other parties hoping for inflated support from ideological allies or manipulable opportunists.

Therefore the one-electorate threshold should be dropped.

Economy continues to stall

More bad news on the economic front.

The economy grew a weaker than expected 0.3 per cent in the December quarter, with a boost from the Rugby World Cup and a good season for farmers offset by a fall in manufacturing.

Economists had expected economic growth of about 0.6 per cent in the December quarter.

GDP was up a modest 1.4 per cent for the year ended December 2011, lower than the 1.6 per cent forecast by economists.

I’m not an optimist – but even I’m surprised how bad this is. Despite the RWC we are still stuck in a rut. Not good at all.

How’s that cycle way looking?

We still don’t want to flog our farms off overseas…

Unsurprisingly, most New Zealanders still don’t want to sell our farms off overseas

A survey by pollsters UMR shows 70 per cent of Kiwis opposed the sale of the nearly 8000 hectare farming estate to overseas investors – regardless of nationality.

Good to hear that it’s not anti-Chinese sentiment.

…almost 90 per cent of those polled were aware of the Crafar farms sale and 70 per cent did not want a sale to foreigners.

That’s pretty conclusive!

Unemployment and austerity

Everyone should read this piece by Mehdi Hasan in the Guardian. Gripping stuff…

…Europe’s crisis isn’t just about economics. Unlike GDP or inflation, unemployment is the only major economic indicator that measures real human beings, rather than growth or prices.

Having a job isn’t just about earning a living or paying taxes; it’s about human dignity and self-worth. The human and social costs of unemployment are well-documented: financial hardship, emotional stress, depression, lethargy, loss of morale and status, shame, sickness and premature death. Then there is the hopelessness that often leads to rising crime, disorder and social unrest. We can probably expect a new wave of riots and violence in the continent’s city centres.

Joyce has it backwards

When I saw the headline ‘Collaboration helping recruit health ICT workers‘ I was cautiously optimistic – did the Government actually have a plan to create some jobs?!

But alas, nope. Steven Joyce hasn’t come up with a great scheme to get Kiwi IT grads into jobs, he’s instead trying to get more skilled workers from overseas to fill bums on seats.

A new project designed to attract highly skilled workers to New Zealand is a great example of collaboration between the Government and the private sector, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says.

Speaking at the Medical Technology conference in Auckland today, Mr Joyce said 12 New Zealand health technology companies – including Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and Orion Health – have been working with government agencies such as New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and Immigration New Zealand to recruit hundreds of skilled employees for roles in the New Zealand health technology sector.

My first “proper job” after graduating was with a large fortune-500 company from Texas, with a sizeable presence in New Zealand.

In our induction into the company they told us how proud they were to be part of a scheme setup by Jim Anderton as Minister of Economic Development which used government incentives to bring work from overseas to New Zealand, and got Kiwis to do it with decent pay and conditions. This Beehive press release from the time goes into a little bit more detail.

The Labour government invested money in bringing work to New Zealand which led to us having the lowest unemployment rates in the world. The National government is now investing money to bring more skilled workers from overseas.

Two different approaches. I know which I prefer.

Missing Ministers

Yet another wheel coming off the government.

Last week the National foreign minister, Murry McCully announced a very controversial change proposal for his minisitry, which involved the cutting of 305 staff.

You wont find McCully defending the decision however, he has totally gone to ground. As this remarkable report on Stuff reveals…

Prime Minister John Key has defended his Foreign Affairs Minister, saying although Murray McCully is not missing in action, he has “absolutely no clue” where he is.

I’m no expert of the mechanics of the functioning of Cabinet, but I’m pretty sure Key would have had to signed off international travel.

Has he hired a helicopter and fled with Kim Dotcom? Would that make him Murry Dotcom?

Christchurch – Making Progress

I’ve sat down a number of times to write about what I saw, felt and thought on 22 February 2011.

I was in town having lunch…I crossed it to get back to work and check on staff … then trekked out again on foot to get home and deal with flooding and liquefaction.

I saw things I’ll never forget.

I can’t or won’t watch a great deal of footage – it’s still way too raw. But really I think I’m just sick of the damn day, and I’m especially sick of the media treatment of it, as though that’s the bit that matters. So I’m not going to inflict another overwrought account of that day on you. It’s not 22 February that truly matters – as a progressive, it’s what comes after that matters.

Following the quake “munted” quickly became the word of the moment; hell it became the word of the last year. But as a friend reminded me when he visited from Melbourne, “munted” just doesn’t cut it.

There is no other way to say it: Christchurch is fucked.

We need Christchurch to work. Calls to abandon it, move it, or supplant it are idiotic and ill informed. The nation needs an effective alternative to Auckland and for all sorts of reasons that place is and will remain Christchurch.

But I’ve spent much of the last year angry, upset, and generally frustrated with what I see as the failure of many, and especially our leaders (local and national), to engage with what’s actually happened in Christchurch. That goes double for those who ought to know better – those on the left.

Plenty of people have been working hard – I don’t accuse anyone of laziness. But way too many continue to confuse heat with light, energy with results – just because you’re busy, doesn’t mean you’re doing any good.

What I’ve found particularly frustrating is that Christchurch is a city full of need and opportunity. It’s a city full of fear and anger – crying out for those of us on the left to turn that into hope and action.

Certainly, I have my own views about a large number of policy issues including Transport, Environment, Housing, Health, Small Business, Arts, and Local Government to name but a few. I’m sure I’ll write about them over the next year.

But, on this the anniversary of the quake that broke my city, I want to issue a challenge:

To the Labour Caucus – every one of you.

You have a year – a year to understand how rebuilding Christchurch presents a challenge to our nation and an opportunity, in your portfolio, for our party and our country to advance our progressive agenda.

In a year’s time I expect all of you to be able to articulate and advance policy that will help rebuild Christchurch, and build a stronger more progressive nation.

You will need to come to Christchurch regularly. It is quite clear to me that one cannot understand what is happening here without seeing it in person.

You must not accept the government’s notion that this can and should be managed through one Ministerial portfolio. Lianne is doing an excellent job of holding the Minister to account, but she alone cannot fix the problems or seize the opportunities before us. You must come to see your portfolio through the lens of Christchurch.

Ours is a city of new horizons, it could be the most progressive city in the most progressive country in the world. We can build it back green, and progressive. We can throw away old models and ways of doing things. It’s simply up to you to grasp this opportunity – every one of you.

I look forward to hearing from you in a year.