Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: On Consensus

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  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Steven Peters,

    Well, isn't the point of democracy that we aren't ruled by appointed experts in a statutory commission? Such commissions can recommend things, but if a majority in parliament doesn't want them (let alone a supermajority) they don't happen.

    Of course, it would be more honest for National (and possibly Labour) to state that they don't see the changes as in their interests and won't support them, rather than weaseling out.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    For Greens like Holly Walker, consensus probably describes a process rather than an outcome; for Judith Collins and co it may well seem like just a synonym for everyone agreeing.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    if a majority in parliament doesn't want them (let alone a supermajority) they don't happen

    without leadership, that's true.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I'm glad to see that the questions around the definition of "consensus" got raised. It seems to mean anything from bare majoritarianism to unanimity, depending what outcome the user desires. I don't much like it as a word, would probably only use it in the case of a small number of people, and usually meaning unanimity in that case. It's a quick question, like asking for a show of hands, to ascertain a ball park. "Do we have a consensus?" is something I'd ask if I just wanted to know if there was anyone who disagreed. If it's unanimous, then we certainly have a consensus. If not, it's not so clear, so the question gets more specific, typically "Do we have a majority". Having thus bisected the possibilities, usually that would involve a count if it wasn't glaringly obvious, so no further questions are needed about the level of support.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    does this help?
    Mr Key ...when on a mandate, ensure any dicking around with people is consensual...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7886 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Peters, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Why do you support 'no party vote threshold', Graeme, given the prevailing arguments, as advanced by the Electoral Commission, that this will/might lead to a multiplicity of parties in the Parliament, 'fragmenting' it, making government 'less effective' and allegedly making coalitions more tenuous.

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Logically majority <= consensus <= unanimity

    I'd suggest that Banks and Dunne obviously don't support the suggested change, and if National doesn't either, we don't get to 'majority' so the issue of 'consensus' doesn't arise.

    National are of course being disingenuous in suggesting that they aren't progressing the measure because of lack of consensus. But would it be any worse if they introduced a bill, supported it to second reading and then voted it down? (A Labour or Green member could introduce a private members bill to put this to the test..)

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steven Peters,

    I can tell you why I don't agree with them.

    Fragmentation: Yes, "no party vote threshold" is by definition more fragmented. However, you have to believe that fragmentation is bad to consider this a problem.

    Less effective: It will be harder for parliament to ignore the opinions of such small groups as might gain representation under a no-threshold change. This will mean that decision making will more slowly. If this is how you define "less effective" then yes, it will be less effective. But you would still need to show that "less effective" is "less good". Ignoring minority opinion, or even majority opinion (if the minority that is excluded actually supports the "real" majority, and the power holders are thus themselves really in the minority) is not necessarily a good thing.

    Tenuous coalitions Yes, it will be easier to break ranks, as the threshold for independent entry to parliament will be lower. But it will only destroy a coalition in the case that enough people are actually dissenting within that coalition that it no longer has the numbers. In that case, the dissenters have moved toward the majority opinion, again. Again, I don't see how the high threshold stopping people from being able to move with majority opinion is a good thing.

    In short all of these arguments suffer from essentially saying "the current system is better because it is better". They define better as the current system, and are thus circular.

    The positive arguments for a lower threshold are not less circular, unfortunately. I personally think that majoritarianism is the soul of democracy, and party power has cast a long shadow over it for far, far too long, and any moves that bring us closer to majoritarianism are better.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Peters, in reply to BenWilson,

    Thanks for this Ben, will reply more fully later (still waiting for Graeme's comment).
    Meanwhile, can anyone confirm for me that any changes proposed by the Electoral Commission review, would require a 75% (absolute) majority to pass in the House to be enacted, and not merely an overall majority of Government over opposition.

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Steven Peters,

    No

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    As in, the detail of MMP is not entrenched.

    If NACT were smart and evil, as opposed to just evil, they could have dealt with this more cleverly by proposing a referendum on the recommended changes, plus an increase in the parliamentary term to four years. That would be accepted by MPs, who want the extra year, but roundly rejected by voters, who don't trust them with it.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    if National doesn’t either

    That's the weasel escaping from Collin's lips, without her ever actually saying it :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Too much 'urgency' in this govt; not enough solid well-thought-out legislation.
    Wondering what Graeme makes of this Geddis column on legislation regarding payment for looking after disabled relatives? It may effect a lot of us, and it seems just- shoddy.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    Not just shoddy. The word vindictive has been going around Facebook by those who have been watching this case over many years. This is how you do the minimum to meet the requirements of a court case which dragged on for many years and which the Ministry finally lost, and then how you destroy the constitutional right for anyone who contemplates complaining about such injustice ever again. Which is highly likely as this new provision of payment for family carers has such a tight little ring fence around it that only a very few people will be eligible. And the maximum claimable (after a very stringent assessment process) will be the minimum wage for 40 hours. Unfortunately, there are more than 40 hours in a week. And the fact that there is no opportunity for input via a select committee process is infuriating and frustrating for the sector. What's more the Minister for Disability Issues voted for it - showing she can no longer be considered an ally of the sector.

    However, there is an upside in that a significant and long standing disability injustice has now crossed over into a space (constitutional law) where it was not noticed before. So the sector now has a new ally.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3196 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    And the penny-pinching is despicable. Ryall repeats his mantra that the only human rights that count are ones we can 'afford' to pay for.

    Mr Ryall stressed that the costs of the law change had to be manageable in tough economic times.
    ...

    Officials reported that if all carers for adults with high or very high needs were paid - including spouses and parents of disabled children - the cost to Government would increase to $40 million. Payments were also limited to adults who were assessed as having high or very high needs.

    There were estimated to be around 5,600 disabled adults being cared for by family members, 1,600 of whom were assessed as having high needs.

    If payments were extended to all carers and all disabled adults - not just high needs - the cost to the Government would jump to $65 million.

    Recall the Minister bleating about this costing half a billion dollars when he was rebuffed in court for the third time. After over a year of negotiation, he delivers this insult. Says a lot about his character, and those who support him.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • tussock, in reply to Steven Peters,

    Why do you support ‘no party vote threshold’

    Hi, I'm not Graeme, but I do support the very low party vote threshold (of about 0.8 seats, or a 1.4 first divisor, as you will). Anyhoo, to me it's a pretty damned simple case now of the majority stealing votes from the minority to give themselves more power to push through legislation without popular support. Like selling state assets or sea-floor drilling and mining.

    The current system also gives more power to the small parties who do happen to get into power. It's much easier to run a minority government when there's more of them to choose between to find each majority, play them off against each other, and minority government is what kiwis keep voting for (and have done basically forever).

    More parties would leaves the little ones free to vote for their own policies, rather than get tied up in coalition compulsions.

    When a party grabs 3% of the vote now, those seats instead go two to National and one each to Labour and Green. That's not right. At all. What happens is that people who want to vote for those parties (Alliance, ALCP, Christian flavour of the month, Hunting and Fishing, whatever) end up mostly staying home because the polls say it's hopeless, giving us these low turnouts. We had 10% of the electorate not turn up specifically because they thought their vote wouldn't count. That's 12 seats. That should count, even if they're split between five or six parties. Even if half of them still vote for Labour and National.

    You can't just ignore those people's will because you disagree with them or are worried it'll be harder for the majority to bulldoze policy through anyway. Or obviously you can, because you're the majority and that's what happens now. You shouldn't ignore them though. It's rude and presumptuous.

    Bla, bla, bla.

    Since Nov 2006 • 607 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Peters, in reply to tussock,

    Well said tussock. I agree with your the basic analysis for a better democracy. However as I see it, the problem is that the current MMP settings favour the continued National AND Labour centrist oligarchy. Both sought to stop MMP and hence a better democracy. I expect they, as well as the Greens and NZ First (the significant players next coalition government negotiations), will resist more meaningful reductions to the party vote threshold than 4% (or even 3%), as it undermines their own vote. If my take on this is correct, what is your solution?

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Flight mode or Roman?
    In lieu of less people's unions, more binding tribunes perhaps?

    (ps: I'll work for salt!)

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7886 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Sacha,

    But a pretty consistent approach to anything related to disability rights - the benign state has never given anything willingly. Every legal advance in disability rights has required a huge battle by disability activists such as the 1989 Education Act, the inclusion of disability in the 1993 Human Rights Act etc. Even though the last government was relatively friendly to disability it was a minority government and things like the closure of the last institution Kimberley, the end of sheltered workshops and NZSL as third NZ language required years of collective effort.
    This latest act is also not the first time families acting in good faith have been undermined by the state.
    The 1953 Aitken report was a result of a government inquiry established after lobbying by families wanting education and community support for their family members with intellectual disability, but instead they got the huge 'mental deficiency colonies' policy and their children taken off them.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3196 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    years of collective effort

    always

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • tussock, in reply to Steven Peters,

    If my take on this is correct, what is your solution?

    I'm not sure. Let's see if I can essay one up.

    The low turnout we're getting should scare the crap out them, but they trust their PR spending to keep any populist upstart from grabbing all the stay-homes and taking over. I wouldn't put it past an extremely rich person to out-PR them still, but at the moment they all get a better ROI buying policy from National.

    NZF and Greens benefit as the third and fourth parties (with a Christian group to replace NZF eventually, maybe). They'd be weakened by more small parties existing, have to be. Four parties is what 5% gives us, and with 3 or 4% we should stabilise at five parties with a swinger in the center. At least, that's the international trend long term.

    If we do fall back to four parties permanently, two left and two right, it's much the same as the old FPP deal. You either get Nats+1 or Labs+1.


    Where was I? Right. How do you get the politicians who think they're sneaking unpopular policies through via the old 2-party system in drag to vote for a system that would deliver a more representative government and may fragment their old power blocks?

    I guess you try to start a movement which can get the non-voters off their ass. Not for yourself, but for one of the big two. Deliver an extra 100k(?) votes to the first party who'll fix the system and let everyone get representation, and none to either if they refuse. A carrot for the one who'd lose otherwise. Get the no-seat minor parties onboard, that should give you a few tens of thousands to start with, not that they'd all agree.

    You'd need some real money though, because the PR battle would be legend, and it's hard to fight for giving small minorities a voice, because they are small minorities and thus have no voice.

    And realistically, it won't get much better for them even with a seat or three in parliament. Small groups have less choice of people to front, and are never going to look as good on anything they talk about as a result (imagine one random Labour MP having to front everything), and they'd be highly unlikely to get much policy through (unless it's widely popular stuff the big two or four can't sponsor for fear of their extreme wings, like not hitting your kids).

    Since Nov 2006 • 607 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    To summarise, you target the big two. Threaten an arbitrary swing against the due winner and hope to get both of them to commit before the election so you don't even have to deliver. There's benefit for them in it by weakening the smaller parties, giving them more options after our usual tight elections.

    Wouldn't be any of this urgency nonsense though, so I guess the ascendant fascist trend in National may not bite. They still dream of 51% after all.

    Since Nov 2006 • 607 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Peters, in reply to tussock,

    The evidence from last election shows that vastly Increased expenditure per vote does not translate into significantly more votes (i.e. Conservatives and Act). I agreet that we will end up with four parties, so its FPP lite, which is a continuation of our long history of two dominant parties, unfortunately. If you think we will get to five, who is the fifth?
    You suggest an organised 'movement' (I agree), but what you propose comprises four difficult challenges 1. Increase participation (good luck - decreasing participation is a world wide trend, is inevitable given our high threshold, and arguably, non participation is a legitimate expression of the electorate). 2.Deliver 100k votes to one of the two major parties (an onerous undertaking) . 4. Get one of the two main parties to ''promise' to fix the system (yeah right). 5. Get the 'no seat' parties on board (once ejected from parliament - small parties tend to dissolve).

    You also argue that you would like to support 'giving small minorities a voice', but then say that they would be ineffective in parliament. So you think it is a waste of time?. I could never agree with the 'small parties are ineffective'' argument because they provide representation to their voters, a political voice of their own, which to me is a basic democratic right.NZ has a history of small parties that have had significant, sometimes crucial, political roles, not withstanding the fact that they provide representation for voters. Every vote in the house is an effective vote, sometimes one vote is crucially important in what is, after all, a numbers game. Furthermore, every voice in the house contributes to the 'sui generis' nature of parliament, and as such, is a more accurate reflection of our society.

    Your intuition is spot on regarding what we are going to end up with in the house, with Winston Peters enjoying a powerful role between the two dominant parties. But is this a true reflection of our diverse society, and its values?

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to tussock,

    To summarise, you target the big two.

    I like the way you're thinking but there's a factor you haven't considered. The votes lost by supporting such a system. It's no use to a party to gain 100,000 disaffected unvoters if they lose 50,001 voters to the other party, who won't hold truck with this minority pandering business. Not to mention that the prospect of more parties in Parliament does not appeal to any existing party in Parliament. It can only mean less pie for them. The loss of pie would be bigger than any gratitude vote, if such a thing could even be guaranteed from the pool of people who routinely don't vote anyway.

    There's an iron law of oligarchy at work here. I'm still amazed that we ever got MMP in the first place.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to BenWilson,

    I’m still amazed that we ever got MMP in the first place.

    Hard to remember now, but NZers were seriously pissed off at what was done to the country by politicians who, erm, said they'd do something else, or just never bothered to mention they were planning to sell off everything that wasn't nailed down. Checks and balances... even now, without the Greens in parliament, how much outrage would we have at the constitutional, um bending we're seeing right now?

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

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