Why Simon Power was wrong to trust Labour

Readers will recall Labour’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 Electoral Act is not meant to be the ultimate prize for the winner, where they get to rewrite the rules in their favour.

Hence Simon Power 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 MMP, 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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