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Radio NZ supports SM?

By Steven | October 31, 2011

I’ve just listened to all four of Radio NZ’s primers on the various options for the referendum and noticed an interesting thing. (I found them on the Morning Report segments: the Supplementary Member on is here, for example. I couldn’t get the relevant links on the special RNZ election page to work).

They are generally admirably well done: succint, accurate, balanced, and authoritatively sourced. At about 3 minutes long each, they don’t go into all the arguments, but they make a fair fist of the important ones.

But there’s one exception. The item on the Supplementary Member option stands out as surprisingly supportive. SM is introduced as “shaping up as a main contender”. RNZ describes it as “somewhere in between” the proportional systems and the FPP-type ones. Two sources – Jordan Williams and Michael Bassett speak glowingly of its advantages. There’s a good explanation of how the system operates. One source – Teresa Arsenau describes it, not in a derogatory way, as three quarters FPP and one quarter proportional.

Nobody speaks against it. Where’s the bite from someone saying something like, “SM was rejected by the Royal Commission, is basically FPP in drag with most of its attendant disadvantages, and is being used as a stalking horse by the anti-MMP crowd”?

[I’ve changed that from “roundly rejected by the Royal Commission” in response to Graeme’s point below that it’s an overstatement.]

Topics: Media ethics | 1 Comment »

One Response to “Radio NZ supports SM?”

  1. Graeme Edgeler Says:
    November 1st, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Where’s the bite from someone saying something like, “SM was roundly rejected by the Royal Commission…”

    Where is the lie? Well, I’m quite glad it wasn’t there 🙂

    SM was rejected by the Royal Commission, but to describe it as ’roundly rejected” is an overstatement. It was an option they considered merited consideration and had “considerable appeal”.

    Report of the Royal Commission on the Electoral System:

    2.81 There is, however, a more promising scheme which we have called the Supplementary Member (SM) system…
    2.83 SM is a serious and considered attempt to improve our present system…
    2.114 The Commission recognises that SM has considerable appeal…
    2.115 Neverthelss, the Commission is of the view that SM does not go far enough in meeting the fundamental objection to the plurality system in respect of the relationship between seats and votes. Those objections would still be powerful under SM, even though the minor parties might be somewhat better off. We are reluctant to rule out SM altogether, however, until we have seen whether MMP or STV can overcome the objection to both plurality and to SM without introducing too many disadvantages of their own.

    2.179 … With regard to SM, we are conscious that a complete move away from plurality represents a major change and that there might be attractions in making lesser modifications to our system aimed at remedying som of it defects in a more gradual and incremental manner. However, we do not consider SM sufficiently overcomes the key deficiencies o plurality. In terms of fair representation of the supporters of political parties and other groups and interest, it is a palliative rather than a true prescription for improvement.


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