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Saturday, October 18, 2008

MMP, National - Maori Party compromise on republic

Can we have an electoral system like MMP with no overhangs, that guarantees Maori representation?

Dunne and Hide have come in for a welcome roasting from Idiot/Savant over the reasons for their stance against the Maori roll and seats:

...it has to be asked: why is he only talking about the Maori seats? Under MMP, any electorate can lead to an overhang. And yet the only time anyone ever mentions the word is when it relates to Maori representation.

Obviously, a big reason for that is that they currently enjoy a one-seat overhang in the House, and that that overhang looks set to continue. But they're not the only ones. It's a delicious irony that on current polling, Peter Dunne - the man complaining about other people's overhangs - would in fact be occupying an overhang seat himself (as would Jim Anderton). This is as much a distortion of democracy as the Maori Party's predicted overhang - but strangely, I don't see anyone complaining about it. Is it because they're white?

If there was a South Island Party that took electorates in the South Island, but gained few party votes you would have the same situation as the overhang from the Maori Party. I/S suggests a radical solution:

I agree with the goal of eliminating overhangs to ensure proportionality. But the way to do this is by eliminating electorates entirely, and moving to a list-only proportional system with no threshold

Overhangs are undesirable and untidy. Some form of electorates should be kept - the local element in representation is crucial to ensuring proximity between voters and their representatives. Geographic representation is a legitimate concern - although mandating that party lists have geographical balance might ensure the same overall outcome without having any electorates.

Here are some initial ideas that could be accorded further investigation if National does press for some type of referendum on the MMP/FPP issue and if the Maori Party want Maori interests recognised in an appropriate constitutional setting:



The New Zealand Parliament consists of the Sovereign (HM Queen Elizabeth)/Governor-General (appointed by Cabinet) and the House of Representatives:

120 seat +"overhangs" (currently 1) House of Representatives consisting of:
  • 63 from General electorates (single-member first-past-the-post)
  • 7 from Maori electorates (single-member first-past-the-post)
  • 50 (+overhangs) from party lists
    Proportionality delivered via the party lists applies to total parliamentary seats.

    NB: Before 1950 we had a Legislative Council whose members were appointed by the government.


    The Aotearoa Parliament consists of the House of Representatives and the Legislative Council/upper house:

    Lower House/House of Representatives

    99 seat House of Representatives consisting of:
  • 50 from party lists - no threshold (ie. 2% will get 1 MP in)
  • 49 from electorates (single and multi-member preference/ranked/STV vote)
    * Region under 1.5% pop. (60k) must join another region to form electorate over 1.5%.
    † Region with more than 7 members divided into electorates of approximately equal size. (ie. Auckland split into three electorates)
    ¶ South Island exceptionalism/basis-setting tradition maintained - SI must always be rounded up one member (SI pop. 964k÷82k=11.75, rounded up to 12)
    Party list vote/proportionality not applied to total parliamentary seats.

    2 NORTHLAND 148k (÷82k=1.80)
    5 AUCKLAND-TAMAKI 434k (÷82k=5.29)†
    5 AUCKLAND-MANUKAU 434k (÷82k=5.29)†
    5 WAIKATO 382k (÷82k=4.65)
    3 BAY OF PLENTY 257k (÷82k=3.13)
    (GISBORNE 44k*
    2 (HAWKES BAY 147k (191k÷82k=2.32)
    1 TARANAKI 104k
    3 MANAWATU-WHANGANUI 222k (÷82k=2.71)
    6 WELLINGTON 449k (÷82k=5.47)
    37 NI

    (NELSON 43k*
    1 (MALBOROUGH 42k
    (TASMAN 44k*
    1 (WEST COAST 31k
    7 CANTERBURY 521k (÷82k=6.35)
    2 OTAGO 193k (÷82k=2.35)
    1 SOUTHLAND 90k
    12 SI ¶

    TOTALS: 49 electorate seats (÷ pop 4,027k = 82k average)
    (from 2006 census stats)

    The lower house will have the same sort of functions it does at present.

    Upper House/Legislative Council

    Now to the upper house/Legislative Council. It is a body that is the standing committee of the hui-a-motu (national convention of community delegates) that retains its power when the hui-a-motu is not in session. For the period that the hui-a-motu is in session it becomes the upper house with all of its powers (it will meet at different venues like the Maori Parliaments used to between 1892-1902). When officially stated however it will be described in the reverse order: the hui-a-motu is the upper house that delegates its power to the Legislative Council when not in session. To encourage consensus both have a 2/3 majority needed to win any vote.

    21 seat Legislative Council/upper house consists of:
  • Delegates elected for terms of one year at hui-a-motu.

    Maori communities to recognise each other, then recognise the Crown/non-Maori communities, then all elect delegates to the hui-a-motu on the same basis - with each community an electorate that returns one delegate each plus (to keep it population proportional) one extra delegate for every 100% over the community:total population average.

    The size and number of communities is unknown, perhaps:
    80-300 Maori (pre-1840) communities
    300-1200 Crown/Other (post-1840) communities
    TOTAL 380-1500 communities.

    To ensure balance of representation on a relatively small board of 21 a series of quotas in outcome - or in initial voting (ie. each delegate must vote for 21 people that conform to the quotas for that vote to be accepted) should be set. Perhaps:
    min. 5 North Island/South Island
    min. 5 male/female
    min. 5 Maori (speakers of Maori/delegates from Maori communites/Maori whakapapa)/Non-Maori
    min. 5 +50 years old/-50 years old
    min. 5 urban/rural
    min. 5 independent/party
    min. 2 independent lawyers (The consititution should stipulate that the office of Attorney-General must be held by an independent MP who is a lawyer or has a legal qualification/experience - if available. Given that a lower house MP is unlikely to meet that description it will almost certainly have to go to one of the upper house MPs.)

    "Independent" in relation to MPs and office-holders (eg. Presidency) means they have not been a member, candidate, official, employee, contractor or donor to a registered political party (or organisation fielding candidates in a national election) for more than three years prior to their candidacy/appointment.

    Upper house functions primarily to assist lower house with legislation creation/review/revision in addition to governmental and executive, eg. members may become ministers. As with the function of the Senate in the US system some appointment and review capacity of high public officials may be suitable.

    3 upper house members to have full membership and voting rights on every lower house select committee (but not other non-legislative committees)

    No sub-committees - all committees must consist of all 21 members - to encourage consensus, unity, transparency and participation.

    All upper house members are MPs and paid back-bench MP salaries and treated as independent lower house MPs in terms of parliamentary services.

    Speaker of lower house (and ex officio Vice-President) to be non-MP/independent chosen by 2/3.
    Speaker of upper house (and ex officio Vice-President) to be non-MP/independent chosen by 2/3.

    Upper house should be able to initiate legislation and send it to a select committee. It should be able to suggest amendments and must be given a 30 day period to consider any bill from the lower house - but should not be able to veto a third reading from the lower house unless it is unanimous.

    Head of State/Presidency

    Presidency (this supercedes the "Sovereign"/Governor-General) consists of:
  • President/Tumuaki is the Head of State and sits officially outside the Aotearoa Parliament and served by an independent office and staff (independent of Cabinet office and PM), headed by person appointed by President.
  • Vice President - Speaker of lower house
  • Vice President - Speaker of hui-a-motu/Speaker of upper house
    2/3 to make decision/authorisation.
    President at least to be an independent - possibly also the V-P's, but given they are voted in by 2/3 or more of the relevant body it probably is not necessary.

    Presidency responsible for some state concerns including honours list nominations and appointments process - not just ceremonial aspects of the investitures.

    President appointed by 2/3 vote in both houses of parliament - to be ratified at the hui-a-motu by a 2/3 vote. If no nomination gains the requisite majority then it will be put to a national vote and nominations will be opened up.


    I would keep three year terms for the lower house and have it for the community delegates too, but they will be elected in the community elections that occur in the vacant year between current local authority and general elections.

    The electorates will be larger than present and it will be more difficult and expensive to service, but there are less MPs and the community delegates are an alternative local outlet for constituent complaints and requests.

    So a party under the new system would have to cross 2% to get an MP in. The lack of overall proportionality due to the list seats being limited to 50 means third parties would be relatively disadvantaged to what their current position is. This is a concern for me, but the upper house offers the possibility to rectify the balance.

    Minor parties could realistically expect to be competitive in the big multi-member electorates, especially the urban ones. The Greens might pick up one or two in the Auckland electorates and one in Wellington. Enough people in Canterbury would put 1 or 2 next to Anderton to get him back in I suspect (under the STV scenario).

    To keep the government members on the upper house compliant it might become a convention that the leading government party member in the upper house is made the Minister for community development.

    These are some early thoughts on how to move to a republican system that recognises Maori as tangata whenua and reforms MMP. This will be the challenge for National and the Maori Party if they are serious about a governing relationship.


    At 19/10/08 2:11 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    One person, one vote, of equal importance of any other vote.

    If the Maori Party don't like that they can go to hell.

    At 19/10/08 8:41 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Why does Tim have such a hard-on for Maoris?

    He makes Willie Jackson look like a redneck.

    At 20/10/08 10:32 am, Blogger homepaddock said...

    The southern provincial electorates are already too big.

    More than doubling the area they cover as you suggest would make it impossible for an MP to serve them effectively.

    Maori electorates are also too big.

    We need a system which recognises people are more concerned about access to an MP than the party s/he represents.

    At 20/10/08 4:54 pm, Blogger Rich said...

    I have thought about a system that maintains local MPs, Maori seats and ensures proportionality.

    It works roughly like this:
    - people have one vote in an electorate about 5 times the current size (e.g. most of Auckland City)

    - votes are for a party, with the option to rerank a party list

    - electorates can be general regions, Maori regions, or other community groups (like students or farmers). Any group could choose to coalesce and form an electorate.

    Counting works like this:
    - adjust party lists for voters rankings (if voters did not rank a list they are assumed to agree with the party's choice)

    - elect members in regional electorates in proportion

    - calculate national rankings for each party

    - adjust the regional allocations to give proportionality


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