Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: On Consensus

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  • David Hood,

    As someone supportive of MMP, I am feeling this morning that National has acted in very poor faith over the whole referendum saying this will be the process then ditching it when they did not get the outcome they wanted.
    I also felt, from listening to Morning Report today, that Judith Collins was basing "Unable to reach consesus" on each party's wish list of ideal MMP being different.

    I guess I am disgruntled that some that was claimed through the process to be about finding out what the people want is revealed to be so nakedly about politcal interest. I will also be reacting very negatively to National describing Labour and the Greens as engaging in political stunts for the next while, after this whole "referendum process".

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1443 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    Where was the consensus when Labour passed a law electing Harry Duynhoven to Parliament?

    Actually, that was one case where opposition support was sought and obtained.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1887 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Connelly,

    A really excellent article. Thanks

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2012 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to linger,

    Actually, that was one case where opposition support was sought and obtained.

    The following is copied directly from Hansard (.pdf):

    A party vote was called for on the question, That the Electoral (Vacancies) Amendment Bill be now read a third time.

    Ayes 61
    Labour 50; Green Party 9; Progressive 2.

    Noes 56
    New Zealand National 27; New Zealand First 13; ACT New Zealand 8; United Future 8.

    Abstentions 1
    Hunt.

    Bill read a third time.

    I'm not in a position to dispute "sought", but you're going to need to offer a heck of an argument to convince me that this constitutes "obtained".

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

  • George Darroch, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Hey, the Greens were opposition at the time :)

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    My error. I thought Labour had reached out further than just to the Greens, both in the use of urgency, and for the content of the bill.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1887 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to linger,

    My error. I think Labour got support for the use of urgency?

    Slightly more support, but still not really:

    Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House) : I move, That urgency be accorded the introduction and passing of the Electoral (Vacancies) Amendment Bill. Urgency is sought because, for the bill to be effective, it has to be passed before the next sitting day.

    A party vote was called for on the question, That urgency be accorded.

    Ayes 69 Labour 50; Green Party 9; United Future 8; Progressive 2.

    Noes 48 New Zealand National 27; New Zealand First 13; ACT New Zealand 8.

    Abstentions 1 Hunt.

    Motion agreed to.

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

  • Sacha,

    Courage is a useful word. Not seeing it much these days in our 'leaders'.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19683 posts Report Reply

  • tony j ricketts,

    An interesting point about 'for the next-election-but-one'. I believe one of the last changes to the US Constitution was to make any changes to pay of politicians apply only after the next election.

    wellington • Since Aug 2012 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I think National's real position is:

    - we have done the numbers and feel that the (admittedly miniscule) chances of ACT or Dunne getting a second MP outweigh the increased likelihood of having Winston in the next parliament, and that we might be able to buy him anyway should that be a problem. The prospects for Colin Craig have not really been considered.

    That sounds kinda unprincipled, so the "no consensus" concept provides a convenient figleaf.

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

  • Steven Peters,

    I am pleased to note that you now seem more comfortable with the abolition of the OST - even 'in isolation', although I am unsure how this is practical?
    You labour (excuse pun) the 'consensus' issue somewhat, in my view. National is perfectly entitled to ignore the Electoral Commissions report. The basic fact is that it was their initiative (made to further their own interests), and thus their prerogative to ignore. How the Minister spins this basic truth is up to her, and 'consensus' should do the requisite work. That's politics.
    Personally, i am delighted at this impasse, even though meaningful changes to MMP are desperately needed for a more equitable democracy, without which we could not hope for a more equitable society. The EC's proposal to reduce the Party vote by such a small margin, impoverished their entire report, in my view. Had this recommendation been focused on the interests of voters, rather than parties, we would not have seen Labour et al agreeing to the recommendation in such unseemly haste.

    When you suggest that 'The best we can hope for is for them to set up a process by which we get to make the decisions' - how do you think this may come about? It is unlikely the main parties would allow an electoral 'accident' (like MMP) to get past them again, which would further undermine their hegemony.
    There is only one way it would happen, if one party sees it in their short term electoral interests to have the process taken out of MP's hands more substantively, such as another Royal Commission, to settle the issue of changes to MMP.

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Anyways, I suspect a referendum on tweaks to MMP might risk a record low turnout, and would also be putting quite a lot of influence with the unelected Electoral Commission in choosing the 4%/no coat-taiing option vs the status quo.

    I'd actually favour a new constitutional settlement on a basis that:
    - fair voting is a human right, and any system adopted, however popular, must meet this requirement
    - the core of the electoral system should be entrenched in the constitution and only changeable with difficulty

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

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Steven Peters,

    There is only one way it would happen, if one party sees it in their short term electoral interests to have the process taken out of MP’s hands more substantively, such as another Royal Commission, to settle the issue of changes to MMP.

    I am reasonably confident we'd get the same answers we got from the Electoral Commission.

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

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to tony j ricketts,

    That's the 27th Amendment, which I believe holds the record for the longest ever time taken to pass a legislative measure - 203 years.

    The US also has a (legislative) rule that sets the presidential salary above the vice-president's, and mandates the VP's renumeration as the cap on all other public employees. No seven-figure government salaries for them.

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

  • Allan Moyle,

    Major electoral law changes should all take effect effect one term distant to (if only slightly) minimise the incentive for self-interest to trump principle.

    Have to ask why don't they do this - make the changes but apply them from 2017 onward - it is not as if there is a shortage of time in the current parliamentary term to put this onto the legislative agenda. Further it would allow time for existing and potential new parties to put in place the strategies and tactics to work with the change - esp. the 4% threshold, a tantalisingly achievable target.
    The cynic in me says that National understand they lack any coherent base of right leaning support parties both for now and in the near future. Colin Craig is to much of a loose cannon, and while the rotting corpse of ACT must have reached nose holding status by now, its all they have. Both NZ First and Maori Party over next couple of election cycles will probably need to deal with and survive leadership changes meaning their respective policy stances and support is unknown.
    This situation looks a bit like a gerrymander by other means.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    It's not a very effective gerrymander though, given that there are no coat-tailed MPs in the current parliament and there might be none in the next (nor did any parties get 4-5% support).

    What might happen after the next election could be this - where NZF and Craig just miss threshold leaving a Labour/Green government elected on a record low Labour vote, to predictable if misplaced outrage from the right.

    Maybe the tea-party tendency in NACT actually favour this sort of outcome?

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

  • Steven Peters, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    I more faith in the possibility that a Royal Commission would have the substance and authority to produce a much less timid document than the EC has produced, as I am sure it would wish to investigate how a revised MMP system might address the chronic political and growing economic inequality in NZ. After all, the 1986 Wallace Commission produced a ‘radical document’ – there is every reason to expect another might do the same, which the EC could hardly be expected to do. Its not in its nature, which is to serve, not to lead.
    Maybe our disagreement is more fundamental. You are happy with what the EC has produced, whereas I feel it is mere tinkering, and does not alter the status quo. In fact, it worsens it.

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Steven Peters,

    You are happy with what the EC has produced, whereas I feel it is mere tinkering, and does not alter the status quo. In fact, it make worsens it.

    I am not happy with the EC's recommendations. I think we shouldn't have a threshold at all, and that if we do, it should be much lower than 4%.

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

  • Steven Peters, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    A kindred spirit! However, even if desirable, it is highly improbable a public body would endorse 'no threshold' , let alone the electorate (but you never know, if the issues are aired sufficiently well).
    How might a re-consideration of the (current and recommended) MMP system come about, notably the level of the party vote threshold, because this is the variable that is the most significant, and malleable. The Party vote threshold needs to be lower, and I think a Royal Commission would see this too - I mean, what other hope is there? That is why the impasse has a kernel of possibility within it. The Green Labour 'coalition' might promise to adopt the EC's recommendations if they are the gov. in 2014. This policy certainly wont help, as it has no real substance. My hope is that Labour/Green might put some substance to any proposed review of MMP, particularly if they lose the next election (which is highly probable IMHO). They might adopt a policy of having a Royal Commission re-examine the issues, in particular the sticking point of the PVT - followed by, you guessed it, a referendum.

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    The problem is that the unwashed masses of NZ don't particularly want 'no threshold', and it's a bit problemy to force that onto them.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Greg Dawson,

    Well, isn't the general opposition to no threshold based on fear of madmen and time wasters sneaking into the house?

    I think that the ongoing efforts by the current government and opposition will eventually make that a much less unusual, and hence less frightening scenario.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 294 posts Report Reply

  • Bob Williams,

    I recall facilitating a "consensus" process once and being reminded by the participants that "consensus" isn't the same as "agreement" or "unanimous"

    Wellington • Since Apr 2007 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Peters, in reply to Greg Dawson,

    I think it is the 'washed' among the electorate that have the most to fear from no threshold, not the 'great unwashed', Keir.
    'No threshold' is a red herring. The issue is - What happens now that a statutory body has suggested changes be made to our MMP system before the next election, yet these suggested changes do not accord with party political interests?
    Was the whole thing political theater, and all those who made public submissions on the changes, and the electoral Commission, mere bit players in a farce?

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Bob Williams,

    I recall facilitating a “consensus” process once and being reminded by the participants that “consensus” isn’t the same as “agreement” or “unanimous”

    Merriam-Webster gives unanimity as one of the definitions of consensus.

    The consensus definition in wikipedia of consensus decision-making is Consensus may be defined professionally as an acceptable resolution, one that can be supported, even if not the "favourite" of each individual.

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

  • Steven Peters,

    'There does not have to be consensus about the meaning of consensus, especially in politics. Besides, its a c word, like 'consultation'.

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

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