Malone on MMP

Ryan Malone blogs on the MMP referendum:

Is the referendum shaping up to be a big fat non-event?

Electoral reform was a big deal back in the early 90s when the two referenda were held. The protagonists argued their case in the media and waged extensive advertising campaigns. It was an old school fight, with threats and personal insults. Those were the days.

With the indicative 2011 referendum fast approaching, we’re yet to see anything remotely close to those lofty heights. Why?

One explanation is that people just don’t care. For some, this is no doubt true. They couldn’t give a toss one way or the other. But this is too simple (and boring) an explanation.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that the anti- campaign just hasn’t turned up to the fight. As an objective observer with no connection to either camp, in my view the pro-MMP group (fronted by Sandra Grey) has made all the running in terms of media and advertising, while the anti-MMP group (fronted by Jordan Williams) is badly lagging. To give but one example, in the Wairarapa (where I live), the pro- group has been running a weekly column in the local newspapers for some time. There is a prominent sign on State Highway 2 urging people to retain MMP. And from the anti-MMP group? Nothing as far as I can see. Not a peep.

There is a significant mismatch of resources, combined with a near total lack of coverage by the media.

The Vote for Change group is the only group I know of advocating for change. Those lined up to advocate for are:

  1. Greens
  2. CTU
  3. NZDWU
  4. NZEI
  5. NDU
  6. Campaign for
  7. NZ Aged Care Assn
  8. Labour
  9. RMTU

No business group has lined up to register, and no political party that supports change. So the only voice for change is a one small incorporated society against eight unions, two political parties, one lobby group and the dedicated Campaign for MMP.

Now this wouldn’t be so much of an issue, if the media were doing full or half page stories on the five electoral systems, and the pros and cons of each. But they are not. And the broadcasters have done nothing much to date as far as I can see.

This referendum is probably the last one for 50+ years on the  basic electoral system. It will be a shame if it is a decision by default, rather than informed choice.

Why has National decided to keep to the sidelines in the referendum? Probably for the same reason, business groups have. They know that opponents of change will often play the man, not the ball, and call them undemocratic and power mad etc.

My hope is that coverage of the referendum will improve in the days ahead. But I suspect it is too late. After the RWC, most attention in the next five weeks will be on the election rather than the referendum. I think the debates and the media coverage should have started around January of this year.

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