Editorials 18 February 2010

The NZ Herald wants the MMP referenda held earlier:

There appears to be no reason the final referendum could not have been held a year or so after the 2011 general election if the first found a majority wanting change. A new system, if favoured in the decisive vote, could then be used in the 2014 election, rather than waiting as long as 2017.

I disagree. The first referendum is likely to have a low turnout, if not held in conjunction with an election. We found this out in 1992.

I do think there is an argument for the second referendum (if needed) to be held before 2014.  As that will be a simple referendum that will change the electoral system if change is voted for (the earlier referendum is only about if there is a second referendum, and what that is), I think that would achieve a very high turnout even if held separate to an election.

Also, without an election at the same time, the public would be more turned into the pros and cons of the two choices. A change of electoral system si so important, that it almost deserves to have its own debate, not cluttered up with a general election.

So my growing preference is the first referendum in 2011, with the election (to maximise turnout), but have the second referendum in 2012.

If the 2012 referendum votes for change, I am not sure one could implement it in time for the 2014 election, due to boundary changes. But one way you could deal with that is to have the Boundaries Commission (which should start work in late 2011) to prepare boundaries for both options, which would allow them to be finalised in 2013.

The Dominion Post compares Kiwirail to Fawlty Towers:

Kiwirail is to the transport industry what Basil Fawlty is to the hospitality trade.

It treats its customers as impediments to the smooth running of its business.

Current management can be excused responsibility for the creaking trains and dilapidated tracks in the Wellington region.

They are the consequence of 40 years of neglect by public and private owners of the rail system. But KiwiRail bosses cannot escape responsibility for the way customers are treated.

If they are not left waiting on the platform for services that have been cancelled, they are shut in trains that have mysteriously stopped part way into their journeys. Either way, they are kept in the dark.

Who would have thought a subsidised monopoly would give bad service?

The Press examines the electoral finance reforms:

The Government’s proposed new electoral finance system is a mixed bag.

Compared to the Labour’s now repealed Electoral Finance Act, which was a knee-jerk reaction to the covert 2005 Exclusive Brethren advertising, it gives greater freedom for lobby groups to conduct parallel campaigns.

But the new regime has swung too far towards a laissez-faire approach and does create the danger that money could play too great a role in New Zealand politics.

The most unwelcome feature of the new regime would be the absence of advertising spending limits for lobbyists, who are technically but confusingly known as third parties. The preceding legislation imposed a cap of $120,000.

Although few lobbyists came close to this limit in the 2008 election, the lack of a cap might tempt interest groups from across the political spectrum to spend up large in an effort to influence future campaigns. It is also inconsistent with the position of political parties which do have a spending limit. …

But it is also important for voters to know how much lobbyists have spent. In this respect the registration requirement provides only partial transparency, as lobby groups will not have to submit returns on their advertising expenditure.

I don’t have a problem with those who register, disclosing their total spend. That can be something the Select Committee looks at. I prefer transparency to restrictions.

But the Government decided not to amend the taxpayer funded broadcasting allocation system for political parties. Worth further thought is allowing parties to spend their allocations on advertising in newspapers, not just in the broadcast media.

Sadly Labour and the Greens opposed reform of the broadcasting allocation.

The ODT reflects on Michael Swann:

Last week, the people of Otago were served a timely reminder of white collar crime with the sentencing on additional charges of convicted fraud Michael Swann in the High Court at Dunedin.

It will be recalled that Swann was sentenced last year to a nine-and-a-half-year prison term for defrauding the Otago District Health Board of almost $17 million between 2000 and 2006.

On Friday, he was sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment – concurrent with his present term, meaning that he will in fact serve no extra time behind bars – for accepting $755,000 in bribes from long-time friend and business associate Robin Sew Hoy.

Makes you wonder the point of the additional prosecution!

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