Pagani on MMP

John Pagani blogs at Stuff:

The biggest change people are talking about is to remove the electorate winners’ bonus that allows a party winning one electorate seat to bring in other MPs. The loophole created the shoddy deals in Epsom and Ohariu by evading the rule that requires a party to get 5 per cent to get into Parliament.

As it happens no MP qualified for Parliament this way. The only List MPs are from parties that exceeded 5% party vote.

And why is it shoddy for National voters to vote for Peter Dunne but quite okay for Green voters to vote for Labour MPs in marginal seats?

The single worst feature of MMP is the quality of party lists and the frequency of MPs getting into Parliament with too little democratic mandate.

Lists must be compiled “democratically” but what does that mean? In practice, the people who put together lists are unaccountable. I’ve been involved in list selection in three different parties – small, medium and large – and I’m convinced that the missing ingredient is public input capable of vetoing backroom deals.

The best model is the Greens’ one, where the party’s high priests emit a draft that goes to members, who can rearrange it. This  resulted in Steffan Browning coming to Parliament this year, when the draft list had him unelectably low.

We need the public to have an opportunity for rearrangement of every party list. I am not a fan of so-called “open lists”, where voters can rearrange the list as they vote – they make  the ballot paper too long.

Why not have independently run primary list elections six months before the election? Individuals could get an independent mandate for their place on the list.

I can’t see open lists working, but requiring a party to let all members vote on the final list is a possibility.

Another improvement MMP needs is an increase in the proportion of electorate seats. We could easily have 85 electorate seats – 15 more than today, and consequently 15 fewer list seats –  without disturbing proportionality. That would give more local MPs, with the small parties still tending to keep their status intact. Eighty-five would leave room for about another five or 10 seats to be created with population growth, without needing to increase the size of the House.

John is wrong here on the numbers. If the House in 2002 had 85 seats (and assuming National and Labour won the same proportion), then Labour would have had a three seat over-hang. Also at 95 seats, Labour would have had a 10 seat over-hang and National a two seat over-hang.

Also the Maori Party has had an over-hang in 2008 and 2011, and an increase in electorate seats would possibly increase their over-hang also.

Ministries are big simply because party leaders need to hand out rewards. Now they’re getting even larger because the prime minister is struggling to cram in all his support partners. This is an abuse that we don’t need.

Repeating a lie told by Trevor doesn’t make it true. The Ministry is the same size as under Helen Clark. And in fact the 2011 Ministry has one fewer Minister from support partners than in 2008.

Ministers ranked below about 9 or 10 in Cabinet are not part of the real Cabinet anyway.

This is basically correct. Any group which has more than 10 or so members will inevitably form an inner circle.

Ten MPs would be enough to run super-portfolios, with another dozen as ministers outside Cabinet. That would help create pressure from new talent knocking at the door, and improve the quality of ministers. Most MPs would never make Cabinet – but voters don’t need them to.

This is basically what I have long proposed.

I would reduce the pay gap between MPs and ministers. If there were no financial penalty for losing their jobs, ministers could be fired and resign on a point of principle more easily. Support parties would see policy gains as more important than salary gains.

A highly attractive feature of MMP is it helps make Parliament more powerful relative to the government. If chairs of select committees were to enjoy as much responsibility and reward as, say, ministers outside Cabinet, then that would be an alternative career path for MPs.

I think this is just stupid. Is John saying Jim Anderton stayed a Minister because of the salary, rather than his ability to contribute?

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