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Shirtcliffe Endorses Campaign For MMP Referendum

Peter Shirtcliffe Endorses Campaign For Referendum On MMP

Statement to Media Conference held
9am, Friday, 24 August 2001
Turnbull House
Wellington


I am endorsing Stuart’s campaign for a binding referendum. Parliament has a moral obligation to ignore the largely self-serving Select Committee and put the electoral machinery in place for a binding referendum on MMP at the next general election.

I reiterate this campaign is not a rerun of the FPP vs MMP arguments of 1993. The country has moved on since then. The issue today is that the people, not the politicians should decide the future of MMP.

There are compelling arguments for this course.

In 1993 New Zealanders voted for MMP believing there would be another opportunity to vote for or against it. Back then Parliament saw fit to stand aside from the issue, other than to legislate the mechanics of the system. Now of course 53 politicians are list MPs who have a vested interest in maintaining the system – if they didn’t they would be like turkeys voting for an early Christmas! That’s a good reason why they should stand aside.

Polling commissioned by the select committee shows a strong public wish for voters to decide the outcome of their electoral system.

In commercial life, the MMP Review Committee would be seen to have engaged in something akin to a restrictive trade practice. The degree of conflict of interest is simply appalling. The actions of the select committee are akin to a group of panel beaters endorsing the design of an intersection! The system keeps them in business and that’s all that matters!

If Parliament is so supremely confident that in the words of the Prime Minister ‘the heat has gone out of the issue’ why doesn’t it arrange a referendum, based of course on a Parliament of 99 MPs.

Leading members of the current government have historically had strong views against the present system yet now deny their electors a chance to express their views.

If Parliament follows the select committee’s advice, it is breeding voter apathy and that is very unhealthy. I urge the MPs who believe in democracy to express their views loud and clear in their party caucuses.

On the related matter of their ‘party hopping’ legislation this will further entrench party and parliamentary control over voters’ rights because caucuses will have the sanctioned power of electoral law to remove ‘independent minded MPs’.

It is interesting to reflect that over a year ago, prior to the select committee’s report, Parliament’s Speaker, Rt Hon. Jonathan Hunt expressed the view publicly – that there was unlikely to be much change. He must have known something because back I 1993 I made a similar prediction noting the MMP system’s penchant for party control.

I am pleased to be endorsing Stuart Marshall’s petition, although I will not be an active campaigner. It’s time other people stood up and be counted.

If New Zealanders don’t support this petition for a referendum there is no chance whatsoever you will ever get another vote on the MMP voting system. That is simply because 53 of the 120 MPs are list MPs. They derive their livelihood from the system. Even if you support MMP you should support holding a binding referendum because on such an important constitutional matter as this, the public not Parliament should be in charge, and have the final say.


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