Why Simon Power was wrong to trust Labour

November 12th, 2011 at 5:03 pm by David Farrar

Readers will recall ’s Electoral Finance Act, and how they rammed it through Parliament despite massive opposition. This shattered decades of rough bipartisan consensus that significant electoral law changes should be decided by either the public, or with support from (at least) both major parties. The is not meant to be the ultimate prize for the winner, where they get to rewrite the rules in their favour.

Hence gave Labour a veto over the changes to electoral finance laws. He allowed them to veto reform of the broadcasting restrictions. He went even further than that, and reintroduced third party spending limits, despite the opposition of his own party. He did this with the most noble of motives – to remove electoral law from partisan gerrymandering.

Today Phil Goff shattered that. Radio NZ reports:

“People see a system being rorted, but my advice is that if we vote for , then it will be reviewed.

“If there’s a Labour Government, we’ll take that rort out the system. You’ll have to get five percent to get more seats than simply the electorate seat that you win – that stops the rort.”

Simon Power set up a review of MMP, in case it wins. Phil Goff has just announced that Labour will remove the electorate threshold regardless of what the independent review by the Electoral Commission recommends.

There is a legitimate debate to be had about the threshold, and if MMP is retained the independent review is where that debate should occur. But let us not pretend, this is about any high minded principle. Labour want to legislate away their opponents. Their motivation is to change electoral law, so they will get to form Government more often.

By announcing unilaterally what would happen if Labour is in Government, Phil Goff has shattered the hard won agreement Simon Power achieved that significant electoral law changes should have bipartisan support. Goff has shown that if Labour forms Government, they will make partisan changes to the Electoral Act, to help Labour retain power. They have learnt nothing from the Electoral Finance Act.

This is not about ACT. This is not about whether or not the one seat threshold is or is not a good idea. This is about Phil Goff pledging to ignore the independent review and to use the Electoral Act to favour Labour electorally.

It was a Labour/Green/NZ First voting bloc that gave the Electoral Finance Act. God knows, what they will do if they get to form Government.

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37 Responses to “Why Simon Power was wrong to trust Labour”

  1. Vinick (217 comments) says:

    Funny that he didn’t say anything in 2002 when Jim Anderton was given a free ride in Wigram, and brought Matt Robson in on his coat-tails.

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  2. Manolo (14,030 comments) says:

    What else would you expect from a small town conveyance lawyer like Figjam Power?
    He’s now creaming it as head of Westpac Private Banking. Some buggers are born lucky, no doubt.

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  3. Pete George (23,680 comments) says:

    Not sure if this is an off the cuff blunder by Goff, or he wants to sound tough on “electorate rorting” expecting most people will only hear the headline and won’t know or care about the detail.

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  4. Nicholas O'Kane (168 comments) says:

    The BIG difference between Labour this time and Labour in 2005 is that this time they anounce their changes before the election, not after it.

    I don’t like Labour or their proposed amendment removing the one seat threshold, but atleast they anounce it before the election.

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  5. Mike D (9 comments) says:

    @Nicolas: It is all very well Labour announcing things before the election. They are only doing this as they have absolutely no hope of winning and will therefore not have to do any of it.

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  6. Nookin (3,455 comments) says:

    “God knows, what they will do if they get to form Government.”
    Come on DPF – you know, I know and everyone else knows what they will do. They will continue with the same corrupt, cancerous and corrosive approach to governance that they adopted in the Clark years.

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  7. rouppe (980 comments) says:

    In my view, you should be getting seats in parliament if you manage to get 0.833% of the vote, that being 1/120.

    I’m happy to keep MMP if:
    1) The Maori Seats are disestablished
    2) The threshold is one electorate seat or 0.833% of the vote

    But since neither of those things will happen, I am voting for change. Either STV or PV

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  8. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    Funny bunch New Zealanders. We vote in MMP to give a voice to minor parties. Then we kneecap them and whine about the tail wagging the dog. Unfettered power being the alternative.

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  9. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,914 comments) says:

    Monique Watson

    How very true.

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  10. CalebRalphRulz (1 comment) says:

    “But let us not pretend, this is about any high minded principle. Labour want to legislate away their opponents. Their motivation is to change electoral law, so they will get to form Government more often.”

    Pure speculation; a baseless attack really. How do you know this isn’t a principled move? I’m not a fan of either National or Labour but your pro-National bias in the last few weeks has been ridiculous Farrar. You aren’t just viewing events on the basis of your values, but clearly trying to attack opponents on anything. Stop emulating Whale and at least pretend this blog is semi-intellectual.

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  11. Nick R (508 comments) says:

    DPF – Get off your high horse. Why shouldn’t Labour have a policy on the electoral system. If you don’t like it don’t vote for them :-)

    [DPF: Because in the absence of a constitution, you do not want Governments unilaterally changing the Electoral Act.]

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  12. JamesS (352 comments) says:

    Simon Power (or anyone else for that matter) trusted the Labour party and got right royally screwed. What a surprise!

    The electoral finance act was brought in to shame rich people into not donating to National. Nothing more.

    The reason Labour did not do what they actually wanted – simply disenfranchising everybody living in an electorate with a National MP – is that it seemed unlikely the general public would have swallowed it, although presumably the Labour party is sorely regretting not doing so now! ha ha!

    I guess it is a bit late for anyone to express surprise at some of these things; Labour will soon be a minor party and irrelevant so perhaps National should just abolish MMP and return us to FPP and get on with things as the permanent party of government.

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  13. s.russell (1,646 comments) says:

    I’m not sure that you are correctly interpreting this, David.

    It is widely expected that the rieview will make exactly this recommendation: scrapping the one-seat let-out cluase on the threshold. The problem with the review is simply that the politicians may ignore it.

    The context – Goff saying this after mentioning the review – suggests the meaning is that Labour will vote to implement such a recommendation.

    If that interpretation is correct, Labour is entitled to say this and I support Goff for saying it. a) because I support that change and b) bercause he is actually – in effect – removing the politicians self-serving veto.

    I also point out that this has nearly equal potention to hurt Labour as National, by ensuring that Mana can never win a second seat.

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  14. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    Monique Watson (148) Says:
    November 12th, 2011 at 6:02 pm ………………

    The thing was how many people understood it in the first place, I know I paid no attention to it, and secondly how many people understood how it would be defiled by the politicians, its not the system its the people in it. The problem is is the list ,thats what people are spewing about, people voted out and then the next week they are in Parliament, thsi leads to massive disillusionment for people

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  15. Jimbob (641 comments) says:

    Goodbye Labour, goodbye MMP.

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  16. Nigel Ng (13 comments) says:

    MMP was here to help centre left / left bloc to form govt more often than center-right / right bloc. Hence, when it is not serving the purpose, Phil G. surely believes it’s time to change i.e. tweak it. :facepalm:

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  17. flipper (4,196 comments) says:

    Pauleastbay nails it!

    Improvements would be:
    1. Any MP standing in an electorate cannot be on the list
    2. Any MP defeated in an electorate must stand down for three years.
    3, No MP can be a Member for more than, say, 12 years without a three year stand down.

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  18. Crusader (321 comments) says:

    [DPF: Because in the absence of a constitution, you do not want Governments unilaterally changing the Electoral Act.]

    Exactly.
    The problem lies in the absence of the constitution and the associated unbridled power for governments to tinker with electoral law at whim, or to disband our NZAF fighter wing, or abolish appeal to the privy council, etc….

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  19. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,753 comments) says:

    Simon Power was always the kind of guy who would look more at home in Labour than National. The Country is better off with his retirement. Too bad about all the damage he has done in the mean time. That’s Natioanl for you, a party of wets.

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  20. Other_Andy (2,676 comments) says:

    I’ll go with rouppe apart from a few ‘minor’ details

    Change to the STV version of MMP
    But……..
    1. Get rid of the Maori seats
    2. Have 100 MPs
    3. No electoral MP’s
    3. The threshold is 1% of the vote
    4. People vote for people on the list with the one winning the most votes getting in.

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  21. eszett (2,426 comments) says:

    thats what people are spewing about, people voted out and then the next week they are in Parliament, thsi leads to massive disillusionment for people

    Just out of interest, how often has this actually happened?
    Was there a case where someone lost a seat and returned to Parliament and there was massive outrage about this.

    Improvements would be:
    1. Any MP standing in an electorate cannot be on the list

    Would also mean that you wouldn’t have serious members of small parties (e.g. ACT or Green) standing in electorates.

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  22. adamsmith1922 (890 comments) says:

    Finally you get it.
    Labour want power, democracy is irrelevant

    They are just not acceptable

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  23. Steve (4,587 comments) says:

    Bit like Americas Cup. The holder of the cup makes the rules. When it goes pear shaped you use retrospective legistration.
    Two bites at the apple is not on. If you vote an Electorate Candidate out, they are gone. No sliding in on the List.
    The last Government’s Deputy Leader was from Liarbour’s List. Cullen never got voted in by the NZ voter, he got the position from the LIST.
    There will be quite a few from Labour who will grease back in after being voted out of the Electorate. That goes for the Greens as well. Mana? heaven forbid that we get Bradford and Minto

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  24. Matt (227 comments) says:

    The Electoral Act should be entrenched forthwith

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  25. niggly (831 comments) says:

    After Goofy’s extraordinary out-burst about Labour unilaterally reforming MMP ….. it’s time for the Greens to step-up to the plate and denounce Goofy’s undemocratic, partisan-politiking.

    After all the Greens are trying to appear more “centrist” and “respectible” (and wish to be seen as the natural mainstream Opposition Party).

    So Greens, are you going to step up …. or hide away and say nothing (or worse still, support Goof) demonstrating once again the Greens are nothing but watermellons in disguise still?

    (After all, in 1999 wasn’t the Greens in a similar position, with Jeanette winning their first seat and special votes & recounts taking them over the 5% threshold)?

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  26. Liberty (269 comments) says:

    One change to MMP that would raise the standard of MPs
    If an Electorate MP are given the DCM as happened to a large number of Labour MPs last election. And is likely to happen again this election.
    They should not be able to crawl back as list MPs

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  27. Archer (215 comments) says:

    Goff’s comments are completely reasonable, just like if National decided there would be a new party vote threshold of 15% (or whatever would see the Greens excluded). That would be fair, right?

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  28. Other_Andy (2,676 comments) says:

    @Archer

    You did read the article did you?

    I is not about the decision, it is the way in which the decision is made.

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  29. Mark (1,489 comments) says:

    MMP is a bloody awful system. For once I agree with Goff’s sentiments but probably for far different reasons than Goff. Act’s position in parliament is a straight abuse of the electoral system we have and hopefully the Ohariu position will be fixed in this election. ACT cannot even drum up 2% support in the polls and yet not only is National manipulating the position because they can but will in all probability give a ministerial position to a party that 98% of New Zealanders do not want.

    I think the 5% thresh-hold is a a start, along with reforms around list MP’s who leave the party being ejected from parliament.
    I do not disagree with DPF’s sentiment on a bipartisan approach to electoral reform but the way national is manipulating a broken system in both Epsom and Ohariu does make you wonder whether they would be keen on such a change. United Future will not get to 1/2% because they stand for nothing. It could be argued that ACT stand for a more conservative economic strategy but Brash has been awful in both strategy and presentation of it.

    As for attacking the greens here why? They have a healthy 12% in the polls, have a genuine constituency and have been the third party for a while. I do not agree with their politics but they do at least have more then 5% support. It was Goff that made this statement not Norman.

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  30. Graeme Edgeler (3,289 comments) says:

    You missed the worst bit of the quote, DPF: it begins as you’ve described:

    “If there’s a Labour Government, we’ll take that rort out the system. You’ll have to get five percent to get more seats than simply the electorate seat that you win – that stops the rort.”

    but then goes on to paraphrase Goff directly following:

    Mr Goff says people do not want ACT back in Parliament.

    The rort is Goff’s.

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  31. Manolo (14,030 comments) says:

    That’s National for you, a party of wets.

    Not only wets, but soaked and drenched too.

    The morally-bankrupt Labour lite is a party of spineless and unprincipled leadership.

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  32. thedavincimode (6,869 comments) says:

    Matt

    Entrenched? How? Parliament is sovereign – it could simply repeal it.

    That was the point of the deal that Power stupidly did. He should have just repealed the law, made the thieving pricks give the money back and put them in jail where they belong.

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  33. tvb (4,494 comments) says:

    Labour thinks the Electoral Act is their political plaything. What Power should have done is clamp down hard on trade union involvement in politics. Essentially chop off the funding for the Labour Party by request ion explicit consent from each member who want their contributions for political funding and that consent has to be in writing and witnessed by a JP.

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  34. stepheng (25 comments) says:

    Removing the electorate seat waiver from the 5% party vote threshold for list seats means that any electorate wins by sub-5% parties become overhangs. That’s an additional expense and increases the likelihood of more extensive overhang-based strategic play. Goff hasn’t thought his suggestion through on any level.

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  35. Weihana (4,583 comments) says:

    DPF,


    But let us not pretend, this is about any high minded principle. Labour want to legislate away their opponents. Their motivation is to change electoral law, so they will get to form Government more often.

    …in the absence of a constitution, you do not want Governments unilaterally changing the Electoral Act.

    Biased much David? :)

    Why wouldn’t National want to agree to Labour’s proposed solution (or at least offer up a reasonable alternative) other than the fact they are benefitting from the current arrangement?

    The reality is that this sort of tactical voting is a rort. I’m not criticizing National for exploiting the system, but it’s rather lame to criticize Labour for proposing unilateral action if National isn’t prepared to act in good faith to resolve what is an obvious abuse of what the system intends. Key is talking baloney when he says “this is MMP”. No, these are merely the current rules and they should change because they are being abused by the likes of John Key and John Banks.

    In my view a better solution than Goff’s would be to remove the 5% threshold as some have already suggested. The threshold should be one seat and that’s it. NZ First, as much as I disagree with their policies, deserves to be represented in Parliament. One thing Key was right about was that MMP was about having a variety of parties and removing the 5% threshold would make that even more true and remove the unfairness of denying Winston’s 4.something percent representation while giving a party like ACT representation on the basis of some of their voters living near one another despite the fact that overall they have less support than Winston.

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  36. deanknight (263 comments) says:

    Remind me, DPF?

    The National Party itself has adopted policy position on electoral matters in the past?

    A referendum on MMP was, I recall, an item in their manifesto in 2005 and 2008?

    And, of course, the repeal of the EFA was a key plank in their 2008 policies too?

    We can also, I guess, include their position to abolish Maori seats in that mix too?

    We can discuss and quibble about how those positions get taken forward through the parliamentary process. But it seems somewhat cute to criticise a party for adopting positions on the healthiness of our democracy and constitution.

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  37. adc (595 comments) says:

    @DPF I think you misinterpreted what he said.

    “You’ll have to get five percent to get more seats than simply the electorate seat that you win – that stops the rort.”

    that’s not a proposal to remove the threshold. That’s just saying until you hit that threshold, you only get the electoral seats you win.

    Act won 1 seat, and had less than 5% of the vote, yet ended up with 5 MPs. That’s the rort he’s referring to, and he’s proposing that only Rodney Hide would have become an MP.

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