Cracker by Damian Christie

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Cracker: Mix Your Members

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  • Damian Christie,

    The show was pre-recorded and they did a retake. The clip only turned up on TV later as a blooper.

    Andrew - Yeah, I saw Jase at the Qantas awards and he said he'd seen it, and told me the same story, although he said he wasn't completely sure whether it had aired originally... I love the fact that even though it was pre-recorded, rather than cut it just kept on going for as long as it did. Which probably added to the urban legend "do you remember the day when..." - Nice to have someone who was there commenting too, thanks!

    I finally realise, nearly 30 years after the fact, that they're doing a car-rental variant of The Pointer Sisters' 'Fire'.

    Danielle - I know... isn't it great!?

    RB - do you know who the singers are and just teasing us, or wondering who's out there?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    if 0.8% of the population wish to be represented by a crazy, then fair do's to 'em.

    it's amazing how many of the arguments boil down to simply But People We Don't Like Will Be in Parliament and Form Governments!

    However, there is an argument for some kind of threshold, as Israel demonstrates. There, very small parties do wag the dog and hold the majority of the population to ransom. The large number of 1-2% parties can all put through their favoured policies, often despite popular objection.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    The large number of 1-2% parties can all put through their favoured policies, often despite popular objection.

    So maybe we could try around 3-4%? Enough to knock out the crazies, but would have got rid of, e.g., the NZ First/ACT imbalance last election.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie,

    so it wouldn't be ACT, United Future, and the Progressives so much as Rodney Hide, Peter Dunne, and Jim Anderton, all on their not-very-powerful lonesomes.

    Um, Dunne and Anderton are already, aren't they? Which really just makes this is an argument to get rid of the Act party... and I realise how appealing that will be to most PA readers - just confirming your point George!

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    I'll match Stephen's opinion that we should keep the five percent threshold, and raise him the idea that we should get rid of the exception for parties that win a seat. The threshold keeps out extremists, and fuck me I'm so completely in favour of that.

    I'm considering writing on a post on this, but I'm interested in this debate. I can see the argument that a threshold is needed to keep out extremists, but why is a 5% threshold needed? If 120,000 people want a party represented in Parliament, they get it, but if 115,000 voters want a different party they're extremists?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    If 120,000 people want a party represented in Parliament, they get it, but if 115,000 voters want a different party they're extremists?

    Yes.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie,

    If 120,000 people want a party represented in Parliament, they get it, but if 115,000 voters want a different party they're extremists?

    Any threshold is arbitrary. Actually, the whole thing is pretty arbitrary really isn't it? You know... life.

    Isn't the only reason the tail gets to wag the dog so much, whether here or in Israel, is because the major parties are so power hungry that they'll sacrifice any proportionate negotiating power rather than say "fuck it, go to t he other party then, see if I care" and risk not holding the reins.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    If 120,000 people want a party represented in Parliament, they get it, but if 115,000 voters want a different party they're extremists?

    And therein lies the problem with any line in the sand.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Or to be slightly less flippant in answering that fallacious appeal to slippery slopes and how many hairs make a beard and shit: if you accept the idea of a threshold at all, then having chosen a number n there will be a number n-1 where the group comprising it is not appreciably different to a group of size n.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    And it's not ARBITRARY, in the sense that it has a point.

    Eg, the speed limit is an arbitrary number -- 104, or 95 kph would do about as well as the current value -- but the purpose is not arbitrary.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    if 0.8% of the population wish to be represented by a crazy, then fair do's to 'em.

    Started to respond to this -- but George makes my point (and with far more brevity).

    It's worth noting that you always have a threshold in a representative democracy that's dictated by the number of seats available in parliament. The only way around this is to give everyone a seat in parliament. Cue singing: "We're all a minoriteeeee!"

    Setting the threshold is a balancing act. You've got to attempt to prevent the minority unduly influencing the majority (as in George's Israel example); while at the same time preventing the majority from voting away the rights of minorities.

    And incidentally, to cue the singing again: "That's why I'm also in favour of Bills of Riiiiiiiights...."

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Re: extremist groups getting in on less than 5%, seriously, if 0.8% of the population wish to be represented by a crazy, then fair do's to 'em.

    Ditto to the idea of Indians being represented by an Indian. I think the word "extreme" is an emotive word for "minority". I don't especially like christian fundamentalists, but I don't see that denying them a voice is worth it, when the cost is denying any number of other not-whack minorities a voice too.

    You could argue that everyone can get their voice by being in a bigger party. Please note this goes for whackjobs too. So it's kind of irrelevant, and an argument for not just FPP, but also a one-party-system. It's an argument people have to eat in China.

    What I think is really at stake is "party power". Which, IIRC, was never really the intended use of representative democracy at all. It was something that took on its own life by virtue of the simple fact that a group working together is always more powerful than isolated individuals of the same number each fighting their own battle. That does not make it a good thing at all - ganging up to seize power is definitely time honored, but it's most often highly unjust.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    My main point wasn't the n-1 argument. Although it probably seemed that it was.

    My point was that 115,000 voters was an awfully big number (generally entitled to 6 seats in Parliament) to be telling their views shouldn't be heard in Parliament.

    Why does a threshold need to be in percentage terms anyway? We could set it 60,000 votes, and let that number mean whatever it means in any election, or set it at a number of MPs. Do the divvying up of seats as though there was no threshold, and all those the parties that get enough votes for 3 MPs get to keep them.

    I guess my question is not "why should be a threshold?", but "why should there be a threshold as high a 5%?"

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    I think the word "extreme" is an emotive word for "minority".

    Heh! I think that "ganging up to seize power" might be an emotive word for 'democracy' (in that the majority calls the shots).

    I take your points... it's a complicated issue.

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I also don't buy the whole "small parties hold the whole thing to ransom" argument, period. If power is only held by a very small majority, and minor parties can take advantage by saying they will break off, then what is actually so unjust about that? The larger party must by definition not have a big enough majority to hold power. If the requests are too extreme then the larger party can usually count on the more moderate opposition party for support. To think that they should not do this, or cannot do this is to already have your head in the 2-party space. I don't see any problem at all with deals between the major parties and have long thought that a "grand coalition" would be an excellent wake up call for NZ about how MMP can work for moderation. The idea of government is "governance", not "power", after all.

    This has been seen many times in our own MMP. When the Greens started making demands that Labour could not stomach, they were just ignored. They also lost some of their base. All of this worked towards making the Greens a somewhat more moderate and careful party. In the last government, Labour only held on by the skin of their teeth and were mostly unable to ram stuff through. So the Greens got their smacking bill, despite a very high chance of unpopularity. I disagreed with the final implementation of the bill, but I totally respect that the Greens had the right to do this, at that time. Does the bill get to survive? That's for this government to work out.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Heh! I think that "ganging up to seize power" might be an emotive word for 'democracy' (in that the majority calls the shots).

    Yes, but it's an even better word for tyranny. Of the minority. Which is much worse than the (still bad) tyranny of the majority .

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    Okay, to take the argument a bit further, the main reason that parties developed is as a way of ensuring stability -- to make sure that an executive has a decent stab at implementing its policies and a decent chance of making them work. Remember how many prime ministers we had in NZ before the party system developed?

    Too many parties , and you start to (effectively) revert to a non-party system.

    You may not agree that stability is important (or that the current degree of stability is appropriate), but it's another one of those practical things that you've got to balance.

    Or, to put it another way, and to return to Graeme's question: the job of the 5 per cent threshold is to ensure an absolute maximum of 20 parties in parliament (and an actual maximum of a much lower number).

    P.S. I'm using extremist in the technical sense (of being a long way from the middle of the political spectrum, i.e. at the extremes of the normal distribution), not the emotional sense of saying that they must therefore be wrong or crazy. Mind you, they usually are, I've found.

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Ben, I don't think the threshold is there to keep minorities or weirdos out. A bunch of them get in anyway. As David pointed out, it's a stability question.

    The experience of some European countries with low thresholds (Italy comes to mind, though Giovanni would know 10 times as much as I do - I think we discussed this some months ago and he said that it was stable in terms of not having frequent elections, but the makeup of the government frequently shifted as parties ended up in or out of governance agreements, I studied it a little in 1993 but not since) is that government arrangements tend to chop and change a lot because they might be holding together ten different parties. The more you reduce the threshold the more attractive it becomes for parties to fracture and we end up with more parties contesting the vote and sitting in parliament.

    That's not an unworkable situation, but there has to be a balance somewhere on the continuum of 1. threshold is one MP, ie no threshold, to 2. threshold is some high number like 10 MPs, which would shut just about all the minor parties out.

    I think 5% is too high, I'd be happy for it to drop, but not below 2.5%. That would give three MPs, maybe four. Dropping the threshold would give rise to less anomalies like ACT MPs getting in on the back of an electorate win. They'd get in on their list vote and I think campaigning for elections would be better if there was less focus on winning 1/60th of the country rather than working all of it.

    I think the reason it's a percentage and not an absolute number is that would result in creep down. If our voting population doubles then you'd only need half as much support proportionately than you did previously.

    The reason it's not a number of MPs is that the number of MPs you get isn't figured out by the total votes. X% of list votes don't determine the makeup in parliament because the party that they voted for didn't make the threshold. That will always be the case even if we remove the threshold, because a bunch of parties will never get to the minimum of 1MP threshold which will always be there.

    eg, for a party to get 50% of the house they need to only get about 47% of the total list vote. 100% of the votes are received, but then 6% are taken out of consideration because those parties don't qualify for MPs (eg, NZ First).

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    I think 5% is too high, I'd be happy for it to drop, but not below 2.5%. That would give three MPs, maybe four.

    Which strikes me as a good number because it basically rules out, in very tight votes, one MP - representing 0.8% of the population - being the difference between a bill passing and failing. Maybe it's academic, but I'd be much happier with a group of three or four being that difference. (Which doesn't matter at all for conscience votes, but in the general scheme of things.)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Rik,

    I finally realise, nearly 30 years after the fact, that they're doing a car-rental variant of The Pointer Sisters' 'Fire'. Which is an oddly hot-n-sexy song to use.

    It's actually a Springsteen song...I don't usually associate his music with "hot-n-sexy"...but maybe that's because I'm a guy?

    Since Jun 2007 • 130 posts Report Reply

  • Gabor Toth,

    That Avis ad in turn reminds me of the awful sexist Hertz ad from the '80s. It used "To know him is to love him", but with "To know Hertz is to love Hertz" and ghastly soft-focus footage of female counter staff pouting at the camera.

    To Hertz's credit, they did stick with the same brunette in their ads for the best part of a decade rather than upgrading her for a new model every year. Of course being a lad at the time when ten years seemed like an eternity, this probably meant she was probably about 19 when she started and in her mid-late 20's when they ended her contract (like..you know... really old....

    Wellington • Since Dec 2006 • 136 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    I think we discussed this some months ago and he said that it was stable in terms of not having frequent elections

    Really? I was under the impression that they'd had, on average, about one p.a. since the war.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    It's actually a Springsteen song

    So true! I forgot that. But they're doing The Pointer Sisters' rendition in that Avis ad, definitely.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • James Edwards,

    Why does a threshold need to be in percentage terms anyway? We could set it 60,000 votes, and let that number mean whatever it means in any election, or set it at a number of MPs. Do the divvying up of seats as though there was no threshold, and all those the parties that get enough votes for 3 MPs get to keep them.

    I guess my question is not "why should be a threshold?", but "why should there be a threshold as high a 5%?"

    Or indeed, why do the various roles of MPs have to be defined as they currently are?

    There might be useful role for non-voting representatives. They would speak in Parliament, and contribute to Select Committee research and discussion.

    Such a role could split the difference between completely proportional representation and stability of government.

    On my rough first model, a further 10 seats would be added to Parliament for non-voting representatives. These would be allocated proportionally to the top 10 parties below 5%.

    This would give minorities a Parliamentary voice, without jeopardising stable government. If the non-voting members make sense, good luck to them. If not, they can be safely ignored.

    Auckland • Since Sep 2009 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • jeremy gray,

    In the interests of empiricism, I wrote the NZ MMP system in mathematica and had a play around.

    With no cut off, Bill and Ben would have had one seat in 2008, as would the Kiwi party.

    The Destiny party would have had one seat in 2005.

    We would have had 2 christian heritage, 2 alliance, 2 outdoor recreation and one legalise cannabis representative in 2002!

    I am beginning to see the benefits of a cutoff....

    point chev • Since Apr 2008 • 44 posts Report Reply

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