An MPs workload

July 26th, 2009 at 1:17 pm by David Farrar

Harbour News did an interview with Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye. One extract:

She’s been contacted by more than 1500 locals in the last six months, asking for help with anything from funding for a particular drug or help with a government agency.

Trying to fit in as many people as possible means working six-and-a-half days a week and she says it’s frustrating not to be able to help everyone.

“I’m always trying to fit more people in and I find that hard.”

But it’s also the most rewarding part of the work for Miss Kaye.

“I have been moved by the people I’ve met in terms of their stories.”

And dealing with the community face-to-face makes a nice change from the bureaucracy of Parliament, she says.

Some people think being an MP is just about getting up in the House and slagging off the other side. For constituency MPs especially they spend a huge amount of time assisting constituents and dealing with local issues. Many good are dealing with similiar workloads.

It has been interesting observing MPs under MMP. The common assumption before MMP came in was that most MPs would prefer to be List MPs. They would be freed up from all the constituency work, and have more time to concentrate on Parliament, policy etc.

However the vast majority of MPs I know far far prefer being an electorate MP, even though it does mean they are much busier. I think it is the warm feeling they get from being able to help people on an individual level, as a contrast to passing laws and policies that you have relatively little say in anyway (unless the PM or senior Minister).

To some degree this is reflected back by what the public thinks of MPs as a group, as oppossed to their local MP.

Numerous polls have put MPs as a group as ranking around the level of used car salesmen – about as low as one can go.

Interestingly though, if you poll voters in an electorate about what they think of their local MP, most MPs will get a good rating – and some will get hugely positive ratings.

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22 Responses to “An MPs workload”

  1. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,810 comments) says:

    Green MP’s would get a stink rating either way as not one of their MP’s can win an electorate these days.

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  2. Michael E (274 comments) says:

    I think the low repect poll rating for MPs is an automatic response that has been drummed into us – and the way the media focus on the exciting antics of question time in the house doesn’t help. For the other 15 hours each week that the house sits MPs behave exactly as the public want, debating laws and issues. Plus all the work that select committees do.

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  3. Ross Miller (1,661 comments) says:

    How many locals ever contacted Judith Tizard?

    Mores the point what did she ever do to earn their loyalty?

    Far too busy in Wellington as Minister for Auckland and handbag holding duties (not to mention knitting)

    And right now she is facing her mid life crisis as a nobody.

    Tizard for Mayor perhaps.

    Nah … Labour isn’t that stupid … are they?

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  4. MyNameIsJack (2,415 comments) says:

    One more excellent reason to dump MMP.

    Who is my local MMP member?

    Oh FUCK! That useless tart from the Notional Party. Yes, I guess its no wonder my electorate MP gets such high rankings.

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  5. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,790 comments) says:

    Funnily enough, you’ll find the same phenomenon applies to life insurance brokers/advisers/salesmen. We are held in low esteem generically but you will struggle to find a client who does not think his or her (you can stick your stupid modern day ‘their’ up your arse) particular advisor is not a first class and highly valued citizen.

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  6. Gooner (995 comments) says:

    I suspect 98% of those who visit Nikki Kaye are single males aged 25 – 30 yrs. :)

    But seriously, isn’t this in some way indicative of how people view MP’s – that they think they can solve all of their problems instead of people being innovative, smart and helping each other? I have never seen my local MP and don’t think I ever will because I think I can solve most problems that can come my way. I’d like to see a breakdown of the problems people visit their MP over as I reckon most could be solved without the intervention of politicians.

    [DPF: I won't comment on Nikki's constituent profile :-) but in my experience many of the problems are caused by officials being bureaucratic, and an MPs interest in a case can lead to an outbreak of common sense. I've never needed to see an MP as a constituent, but earlier this year almost was at the point of seeing Grant Robertson on behalf of someone whose family was awaiting an immigration decision. The deadlines for decision making had been ignored and it was becoming a potential issue.]

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  7. Viking2 (11,125 comments) says:

    Well I tend to agree with Gooner. Too much of this is because Mp’s have decided by tradition to be mothers little helpers to anyone. The fact that most problems stem from the beauracasy continues the tale of woe for its politicians that have decided that they must control and legislate for everything including what we eat, wear, do ,think and so one.
    Makes a damm good case for thinning out the numbers and restricting the amount of law and removing all the restrictions paced an everything at a whimm.

    By coincidence this has been posted today on NZcpd.com

    Death to Democracy!
    Lindsay Perigo

    Several years ago, newly returned from America, I had occasion to say the following on my then-radio show:

    “Actually, I have returned more convinced than ever that freedom’s greatest modern-day enemy is democracy;

    http://www.nzcpr.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=18&p=23225#p23225

    A worthy read well aligned to this subject.

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  8. hubris (213 comments) says:

    Just because she’s busy doesn’t make her effective. Some of the busiest people I know are totally useless (making them even busier).

    What is her list of achievements in the past year (apart from the obvious kicking out of Judith, and asking patsy questions in parliament)?

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  9. chrishipkins (10 comments) says:

    I find the electorate work incredibly satisfying, although it does create time management challenges. I could easily spend all day in the electorate office meeting people one-on-one but that wouldn’t necessarily make me a good MP. I’m keeping a tally of cases we deal with and will release end of year stats. So far the biggies have been Immigration and ACC, with quite a few Housing NZ and Work and Income ones too. We get the odd local govt issues (roads, bus stops etc) and some IRD ones (mostly child support).

    If I were to generalise, I would say that most cases stem from officials strictly adhering to the rules, which can sometimes lead to unjust outcomes. Most government processes have some right of appeal to the Minister (eg. Immigration), which is about the only way to do it. No set of rules will ever adequately cover every possible scenario, so at some point someone needs to exercise an individual judgement. Getting constituents to that stage of the process can be tricky, which is why they often need an MP’s help.

    I would also point out that in dealing with individual constituent cases, governments of both colours generally take a non-partisan approach. Ministers generally deal with constituent cases on their merits, regardless of the political stripe of the MP that draws it to their attention. There are a few notable exceptions of course where wider politics comes into play, but generally I have found the constituent cases are the area where we work together the best.

    I’ve also found constituent work incredibly grounding. Parliament can be a bit of a bubble so it’s good to get out into the electorate each week and hear what people are really concerned about. Individual cases can also sometimes highlight wider policy issues that need to be dealt with, so that can also be useful.

    [DPF: I agree that generally Ministers and Departments will not be partisan when dealing with MPs on behalf of constituents. And that is a very good thing.]

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  10. hubris (213 comments) says:

    Yes, some sort of tally would be nice.

    Let’s have MP league tables:
    1. Number of wrongs righted;
    2. Number of baby photo opportunities successfully converted;
    3. Number of free lunches refused;
    4. Number of cushy post-politics job offers in the arms/motor/finance industry turned down.

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  11. chrishipkins (10 comments) says:

    Hubris – not a league table at all. I think it will be useful to see which areas people are having the most trouble with. It might also highlight which depts or agencies need to sharpen up their act a bit. Although in some cases (eg. immigration) I have already said that a lot of the time it is the criteria, not the officials, that result in the injustices.

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  12. Rex Widerstrom (5,254 comments) says:

    chrishipkins notes:

    I find the electorate work incredibly satisfying, although it does create time management challenges.

    Then here’s a chance for Labour to set a precedent and challenge National to follow. Assign those indolent layabouts known as “List MPs” to a specific electorate (or electorates, if there’s not enough to go round) and make them share the workload.

    They presently spend most of their time being loyal footsoldiers to the Leader and the Party machine in pursuit of their List ranking, so until John Key gives us our promised review of MMP we could at least make sure we get value for our money, and that Nikki Kaye’s and Chris Hipkins’ constituents aren’t reliant upon an over-worked and time-poor representative.

    [DPF: Most List MPs do try to be shadow electorate MPs. Not all, but most I would say. However most members of the public seem to liek dealing with the actual Electorate MP. However I have heard of some situations where a List MP who is a former Electorate MP still had more constituents coming to see him, than the new Electorate MP]

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  13. hubris (213 comments) says:

    chrishipkins (5) 1 0 Says:
    July 26th, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Hubris – not a league table at all.

    Yes, I know that’s not what you meant.

    I would just like to see some more data in front of me to help make a decision on the value for money I am getting out of my local MP, and out of the duly-elected government. Otherwise all I have is what I see of MPs, as DPF puts it, is “getting up in the House and slagging off the other side.” And quite frankly, I don’t like what I see most of the time.

    When reports are given, they tend to be negatively-spun – “look how much travel this MP did!” – and all that sort of shit. It’s not about cost. It’s about cost/benefit. If you expect me to pay your wages by electing you, shouldn’t you have a duty to report on your performance in a transparent, consistent manner? You expect it from your government departments. Why shouldn’t we expect it from you? Otherwise we’re fobbed off with “Nikki Kaye is a very busy lady but she finds it very rewarding.” Brilliant, I’ll vote for her again.

    I know that for most, the only thing that matters is the colour of your rosette, but for those of us who would actually like to make an informed (or less ill-informed) decision, there seems to be a dearth of non-partisan information. And should I have to make an OIA request for this info?

    One challenge would, of course, be to find someone without an agenda to do the reporting. I don’t want the associated ‘analysis’ and ‘punditry’, because most of it is too biased to be useful. Some hope eh?

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  14. Viking2 (11,125 comments) says:

    Chrishipkins; Thankyou for that information and it would be interesting to see year end results from all MP’s offices.
    Based on your comment so far its quite clear that most of this work originates because govt. interferes in area’s that it should not. Housing,ACC, Social Welfare etc.
    Clearly these area’s need to be disposed of from Govt.
    But then we wouldn’t need 120+ of you lot so our productivity might just rise to better Australia.
    Now that I like and look forward to your very determined efforts in that direction.

    I guess hubris that’s the last we will ever see of that information.

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  15. hubris (213 comments) says:

    Yes, off into the Memory Hole it goes :)

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  16. petal (704 comments) says:

    Onya chrishipkins. Onya.

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  17. Seán (396 comments) says:

    I am not so sure all electorate MP’s are so busy. Take Trevor Mallard for example, the electorate MP for Hutt South. He seems to spend most of his time blogging and grandstanding on TV or in Parliament.

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  18. Ben Wilson (523 comments) says:

    Kaye is an exceptionally hardworking person. That’s how she stole Auckland Central in the first place.

    I don’t agree with Gooner and Viking. Being available to locals is pretty much the point of electorate MPs. She’s destined to go a long way, I think. She’s doing the hard yards now and all of this pressing-the-flesh is going to pay off in the long run – every person an MP personally meets is another person they can impress with their willingness to listen, their human face, and that cascades outwards from that person to others they tell about her. I don’t usually vote National, but if I still lived in Auckland Central I might, just might, have voted for her.

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  19. KiwiGreg (3,169 comments) says:

    I’m just depressed that 1500 people thought “the government” should sort out their problems.

    You can see how this type of system leads to corruption and nepotism.

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  20. Ben Wilson (523 comments) says:

    I can’t see it. So people wanted to talk to their MP, what’s corrupt and nepotistic about that?

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  21. KiwiGreg (3,169 comments) says:

    @ Ben If only your MP (or friendly local bureaucrat) can “get things done” that’s how.

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  22. Ben Wilson (523 comments) says:

    You need to fill in the blanks on that one. Nepotism is looking after your family or friends, not random constituents coming in off the street. Corruption is abusing your position for financial or other gain. I can’t see anything of either of those in what Kaye is doing. She’s doing what she was elected to do, representing her electorate, and she’s doing it in a good way, by being available to her electorate to hear what they need.

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