Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: A matter of conscience

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  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    An MP has every right to make a personal decision not to drink, not to have an abortion and not to shop on a Sunday. What we are talking about isn’t them exercising that right, it’s them forcing others (using the state’s monopoly of violence) to adhere to their personal moral views.

    From the perspective of an MP who opposes abortion, I'm pretty sure they view there opposition as ensuring that people can't force their views on others (being the view that another person should die).

    </q>He’s the MP for Helensville, with 74% of the votes. I can’t think of any electoral system that would change this.</q>

    I can think of several. E.g. Proportional voting with open lists, in which people can cross off the names of people they don't like, and they then go down the list.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to tussock,

    Also, yeh, this idea that morality comes from religion is a lie. It never did, each new religion just claimed long-existing morality as their own, and changed along with society if they wished to survive.

    That wasn't what I was claiming. Even if morality precedes religion, that doesn't mean that a particular person's morality can't come from religion.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Ewan Morris,

    This may be of interest – the Law Commission on alcohol legislation and the conscience vote

    I did think about including it, but decided my point was made well enough and long enough already :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell,

    Graeme, aren't personal votes and conscience votes technically the same thing? I recall last time the alcohol purchase age was debate the Speaker called for personal votes.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 93 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie, in reply to Matthew Smith,

    Tim, under MMP (and most electoral systems aside from STV), we don’t get to vote against anyone, only for someone.

    Yes, under most systems (including STV) a "No confidence" option would add at least a little to the legitimacy of winners.

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    He’s the MP for Helensville, with 74% of the votes. I can’t think of any electoral system that would change this.

    John Howard was preferred to his closest opponent by at least 60% of his electorate in 1975, 1977, 1987, 1990, and 1996, but he lost the seat in 2007, long before 90% of the Australian populace wanted him out of Parliament.

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    you may feel that every MP should ignore their personal judgement and cast a representative vote (what their constituents would want)

    I have a problem with this concept. There is a reason that people vote for a particular candidate, because they like what they stand for. So, their personal judgement should be representative of their electorate. You could argue that the electorate votes for the party member rather than the candidate themselves but those are very rarely mutually exclusive.
    In the case of list MPs I think they should always vote along party lines as it is the party they are representing and to do otherwise would be completely non-democratic.
    As for legislation regarding alcohol being a conscience vote, humbug. There is too much money at stake for morals to be involved. </cynical despondency>

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4869 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie, in reply to tussock,

    @Tim, etc. Under FPP people just get put in safe seats.

    Consider a candidate that 90% of the New Zealand public want out of Parliament. It would be extremely difficult for any party to find an electorate safe enough to put that candidate in (although with Māori electorates having self-selected voters, it becomes slightly more plausible).

    Under MMP, on the other hand, at least two or three parties could offer that candidate a safe seat sufficiently high on their list, as long as they kept quiet about it. Even if the media made a big deal about it, National or Labour could still probably get the candidate in, because most voters would base their party vote either on who they wanted as Prime Minister or on the candidates their party vote was likely to have a marginal effect on, lower down the list.

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Ross Bell,

    Graeme, aren’t personal votes and conscience votes technically the same thing? I recall last time the alcohol purchase age was debate the Speaker called for personal votes.

    No. For most purposes, they're interchangeable, but no.

    A personal vote is a vote cast by a member of Parliament by themselves, and not through a (parliamentary) party vote.

    In the United Kingdom parliament, all votes are personal votes, but not all votes are free votes/conscience votes.

    In the New Zealand Parliament, the vote on who should be Speaker is always a personal vote (if there is a vote, there is often only one nominee), but you better believe it's not a conscience vote (in the UK and Canada it's a secret ballot).

    A conscience vote is any matter on which MPs are free to take a position without repercussion by their party.

    A personal vote is any vote cast personally.

    The latter is the usual mechanism by which the former is done.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    From the perspective of an MP who opposes abortion, I’m pretty sure they view there opposition as ensuring that people can’t force their views on others

    Wasn't the legalisation of homosexuality put to a conscience vote?
    Isn't the common thread human rights (as someone else said above)?

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3466 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Lilith __,

    Wasn’t the legalisation of homosexuality put to a conscience vote?
    Isn’t the common thread human rights (as someone else said above)?

    Not really. I say moral issues are the common thread.

    Alcohol, gambling, Sunday trading, and the like aren't really human rights in the sense of slavery, and discrimination against sexual orientation.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie, in reply to tussock,

    It’s how Christian doctrine came to disagree with slavery, because the mass working class already did.

    [citation needed]. I tried to find some discussion of this on Wikipedia, but it gave the opposite impression. E.g.,

    At the behest of Dominican priest Bartolomé de las Casas who was shocked at the treatment of natives in the New World, Spain enacted the first European law abolishing colonial slavery in 1542, but weakened these laws by 1545. In the 17th century Quakers and evangelical religious groups condemned slavery as un-Christian; in the 18th century, rationalist thinkers of the Enlightenment criticized it for violating the rights of man. Though anti-slavery sentiments were widespread by the late 18th century...

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie, in reply to tussock,

    each new religion just claimed long-existing morality as their own

    On this topic, C. S. Lewis argues in the first few chapters of Mere Christianity that the (almost) universal belief that there is a universal moral standard is evidence for the existence of a creator.

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Tim McKenzie,

    (although with Māori electorates having self-selected voters, it becomes slightly more plausible).

    I'm not sure what you are implying here: it is a fact that you choose whether or not to apply to go on the Maori roll. In my electorate, Te Tai Toka, there is some fairly assiduous checking that goes on, to be certain that voters are indeed of Maori descent. (There was an unusual period where quite a few wannabe Maori , some with genuine empathy,decided that joining Te Tai Tonga roll was the way to do it...a very large number of the tribe look fairly Pakeha...the wannabees have been weeded out over the past 30 years.))

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Tim McKenzie,

    he (almost) universal belief that there is a universal moral standard is evidence for the existence of a creator.

    Somewhere around - upstairs in the fanatic & fringe section* of my library I think- is a copy of "Mere Christianity." I'll reread it before commenting on your quote - because it would be my contention that there is no such thing as 'a universal moral standard' and I'd be surprised if Lewis had ignored a whole mountain of anthropological evidence to argue so-

    *This is not being beastly to believers - that section is so labelled because it contains a large amount of works by apologists, New Age & Christian & others, and it is easy for me to remember where they are.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Islander,

    I’m not sure what you are implying here: it is a fact that you choose whether or not to apply to go on the Maori roll.

    I thought he was suggesting that there was some commonality in the type of person of Maori descent who is on the Maori roll and also some in the type of person of Maori descent who chooses to go on the general roll. For example, someone particularly in favour of tino rangatiratanga for Maori may be more likely to choose to go on the Maori roll. And that this type of commonility, over and above geographic commonality, may allow such voters a greater chance than in general seats of electing someone whom the general population may be particularly disagreeable to.

    For example, Hone Harawira is not popular with a large number of people. He may even be unpopular with a large number of people of Maori descent, but the type of person or Maori descent who does not like Harawira may be more likely to choose to vote on the general roll.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Interesting , Graeme, and thanks for the explication.
    I would suggest, from my & whanau experience, the exact opposite is true in the South- witness a Tirikatene getting Te Tai Toka back. And, from discussions internet & otherwise, I think your last postulation is waaay wrong.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Hone Harawira is not popular with a large number of people. He may even be unpopular with a large number of people of Maori descent,

    Why assume that Maori because of their race are left or leftish?

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2608 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Wasn’t the legalisation of homosexuality put to a conscience vote?
    Isn’t the common thread human rights (as someone else said above)?

    Not really. I say moral issues are the common thread.

    Alcohol, gambling, Sunday trading, and the like aren’t really human rights in the sense of slavery, and discrimination against sexual orientation.

    Yes…but isn’t your original point about how not all of the things that go to a conscience vote should go to a conscience vote? As society becomes more secular, we start thinking that issues like Sunday trading are fairly trivial, and that alcohol and gambling are matters for regulating rather than taking an absolute stance over.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3466 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    I'm trying to draw a distinction between personal votes, and conscience votes. I think there is a place for conscience votes, being votes on which MPs are only accountable to themselves/God, and other votes, on which their parties, supporters, and voters generally can and should hold them to account.

    I don't think the two are different. MPs should always vote on their consciences, indeed, they should always act on them in every way, as all moral people should. And they should always be held accountable for their votes and their actions. This does not mean compromise is impossible - it's every bit as much on your conscience if your failure to compromise led to bad outcomes as if you violated a heartfelt principle.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8589 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Islander,

    I think your last postulation is waaay wrong.

    Not mine. I've just describing one way that the theory that was posited could make sense.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Lilith __,

    Yes…but isn’t your original point about how not all of the things that go to a conscience vote should go to a conscience vote? As society becomes more secular, we start thinking that issues like Sunday trading are fairly trivial, and that alcohol and gambling are matters for regulating rather than taking an absolute stance over.

    Yes. I'm not sure how that is inconsistent with my view that the the common feature of things that are subject to conscience votes was not human rights, but morality.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    I’m not sure how that is inconsistent with my view that the the common feature of things that are subject to conscience votes was not human rights, but morality.

    I guess the word "morality" makes me uncomfortable because of its overuse by religious fundamentalists, where it means whatever they happen to believe. So I'm trying to find secular words and concepts that will do instead.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3466 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie, in reply to Islander,

    I’m not sure what you are implying here

    Graeme pretty much explained what I was suggesting (thanks Graeme). I'd add, though, that even if there isn't currently any significant political skew caused by the Māori electoral option, it creates the possibility that in future, a group might deliberately try to cause political skew through a kind of political migration that doesn't require anyone to move house.

    I'm not saying that the Māori electoral option makes it easy to elect a candidate who's opposed by 90% of the general public; I'm just saying it makes it slightly easier than it would otherwise be.

    But of course, no-one is likely to try coordinated stationary political migration while we have MMP, because the party list system makes it so much easier to elect candidates who are very unpopular among the general public.

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie, in reply to Islander,

    it would be my contention that there is no such thing as ‘a universal moral standard’

    If you claim that there is no universal moral standard against which to measure the morals of a particular person or society --- if you claim that morals all depend on where and when you live ---, then you cannot claim (for example) that there was a moral improvement between pre-abolition acceptance of slavery and post-abolition rejection of it; after all, it was a different time, when there was a different society with different morals, just as valid (or invalid) as your own morals and those of the society you live in.

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 107 posts Report Reply

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