Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search


It’s time for another referendum on MMP

Time for MMP referendum

By Peter Dunne
Leader, UnitedFuture
Thursday, 13 March 2008

It’s time for another referendum on MMP.

Even though there was no provision for another referendum following the change to the electoral system in 1996, most people still think there was, and are aggrieved it has never happened.

When MMP was reviewed in 2001 I was one of the minority of MPs on the review committee who voted for another referendum. As the system was established by the people by referendum in 1993, its confirmation or otherwise should similarly be determined by the people in another referendum, and not by the politicians.

Recent events have thrust the issue into prominence once again.

We have seen MPs defeated in their electorates returning to Parliament via the party list. There has been the list MP, elected solely on the basis of his party crossing the threshold by virtue of winning an electorate seat, claiming to remain in Parliament after deserting his party.

Then there was Richard Long’s column (10 March) arguing that Labour stood to gain most from any abolition of the Maori seats. This followed on from National’s apparent unwillingness to confirm its 2005 policy of abolishing those seats by 2014 and the extraordinary threats to civil order from the Maori Party should any government even consider doing so.

Yet the question of the future of the Maori seats has been on the table ever since the Royal Commission on the electoral system recommended their abolition way back in 1986. Instead, we have almost doubled the number since then.

Issues like these are examples of MMP working out in practice to be a little different from what was intended. But there is another issue looming that has the potential to be the greatest manipulation of MMP yet.

The premise behind MMP is that parties get representation in Parliament in proportion to the party votes they receive – 10% of the party vote means 10% of the seats in Parliament. If a party wins more electorate seats than its party vote entitles it to, then it keeps those electorate seats, creating what is called the “overhang.” (At the last election the Maori Party won four electorate seats, but its party vote was equivalent to three seats, so the size of Parliament increased by one.)

If all the current polls are right, at this year’s election, the Maori Party could win all seven Maori seats, but its party vote is running at about the level of three seats, thus Parliament’s overhang might increase to four.

In that event, the number of seats required to form a government would jump from 61 at present to 63, thus manipulating the election outcome. To take the current polls at their word, National could end up as the largest party, with possibly more than 50% of the party vote.

With support partners it may well be able to cross the 61 seat barrier, but could fall short of crossing the higher barrier 63 seat the substantial overhang causes, because it cannot come to a deal with the Maori Party.

Therefore it is unable to govern.

That bizarre outcome would be both contrary to the expressed will of the public and completely undemocratic.

I do not criticise Maori for their astuteness in adapting well to MMP but I do question whether those who voted for MMP really expected the Maori seats to end up being used this way, as a potential permanent veto on who governs, regardless of the public will.

Surely, it is another reason for a fresh referendum on MMP, including the future of the Maori seats? Such a referendum could occur as early as 2010, with its results implemented for the 2014 General Election.

It’s time.

Words: 610


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Climate Strike: At UN, Youth Activists Press For Bold Action

Students and young activists on Saturday threw down the gauntlet to world leaders heading to United Nations Headquarters next week for high-level climate talks, demanding that they “stop wasting time” and work harder to curb carbon emissions...

This first-ever UN Youth Climate Summit follows Friday’s global ‘climate strike’, which saw millions of young people from across the globe walk out of school and jam streets in major cities, from New York to New Delhi and Santiago to San Francisco. More>>


PM In Japan: Jacinda Ardern’s Remarks Following Abe Summit

Today we discussed a wide range of topics. Broadly the themes were: a deeper, high-value trade and investment relationship, greater cooperation in the Pacific; and strengthening our security partnership. More>>


Replacing All But Chair: Twyford Appoints Five NZTA Board Members

Transport Minister Phil Twyford today announced the appointment of five new members to the NZ Transport Agency Board... There remain two vacancies on the NZTA Board which will be filled in due course. More>>


Climate Change: Adaptation And Risk Assessment Framework Released

“We are already experiencing the effects of a changing climate such as coastal inundation and increasingly frequent and severe droughts, floods, fires and storms. This framework is an acknowledgement that we must start adapting”, James Shaw said today. More>>


Ihumātao: Mana Whenua Reach Decision On Land

Māori King Tūheitia says mana whenua have finally reached consensus over what to do with Ihumātao - they want it back. More>>


PM To Japan, New York: Ardern To Meet Trump During UN Trip

“I’m looking forward to discussing a wide range of international and regional issues with President Trump, including our cooperation in the Pacific and the trade relationship between our countries." More>>

PM's Post-Cab: "A Way Forward"

At Monday's post-cabinet press conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a number of actions in response to the Labour Party's mishandling of sexual assault complaints. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Allegations Of Left Wing Media Bias

“Left wing bias” accusations date back at least to the mid 1990s... The charge of left wing bias was ridiculous then, and is ridiculous now. More>>

Next Wave Of Reforms: Gun Registration And Licensing Changes Announced

“The Bill includes a register to track firearms and new offences and penalties that can be applied extraterritorially for illegal manufacture, trafficking, and for falsifying, removing, or altering markings – which are a new requirement under the Firearms Protocol.” More>>





InfoPages News Channels