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Vote for Change Changes Pamphlet

By Steven | November 14, 2011

I complained to the Advertising Standards Authority last week about Vote For Change’s pamphlet advocating SM. I thought it was badly misleading in several respects. Graeme Edgeler explains one problem with it here (where he also has a copy of the one side of the original pamphlet).

Another was that it tried to cash in on voters’ antipathy to 120-MP Parliaments by proclaiming that the other systems “could work with 99 MPs”. But they didn’t tell us that under the referendum legislation, all the systems are based on 120 MPs. They were trying to entice voters with an advantage that wasn’t on the table for the referendum.

Vote For Change has now addressed both of these problems (scroll down here), though there has not yet been any ruling from the Advertising Standards Authority.

I still think it’s misleading to say that under MMP, “Minor parties decide who is PM”. First, it’s not necessarily the case: National and Labour could form a coalition. Second, it’s not really true: if minor parties could decide, why wouldn’t they pick their own leader? It’s really the voters who decide who has the bargaining strength in coalition negotiations.

At the top of Vote for Change’s website, they set out the disadvantages of MMP, including:

MMP allows List MPs who have been voted out by their local electorates to sneak back into Parliament on party lists.

and

We want an electoral system that provides certainty for voters, rather than forcing Kiwis to wait for post-election negotiations.

The pamphlets strongly imply that the system they’re recommending, SM, doesn’t suffer from these flaws. Of course, that’s misleading too, especially with respect to the “sneaking back in” point. Let’s be clear: SM allows people we’ve voted out to “sneak back in” on the list, just (probably) not so many. It’s a difference in degree, not in kind. But because the “sneak back in” argument is such a trump card, the Vote For Change folks seem loathe to admit that their pick suffers from the same problem.

Those are the arguments I’ve put to the Advertising Standards Authority, anyway. It will be interesting to see what they do. But if, as looks likely, the complaint has prompted the changes they’ve already made, I regard it as a success for the ASA system already.

Topics: Advertising Standards | 14 Comments »

14 Responses to “Vote for Change Changes Pamphlet”

  1. Mark Bennett Says:
    November 14th, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    The whole ‘sneak back thing’ makes no sense to me. It suggests that electorates vote MPs out on the basis of their personal characteristics, rather than based primarily on their party affiliation. NZ is about party politics, since 1909 at latest. That is what is most important for most people – what Party will be the government and dominate the legislature. So decisions under FPP would have been almost always motivated by what party you prefer, not whether you like the candidate.

    The elephant in the room is that MMP is the best system for allowing people to vote people they don’t like out as their electorate representative. Someone may correct me, but MMP seems to me to be the only system in which you can (in most situations) vote for your electorate MP based on whether they are a good individual MP, without jeopardising the party you want to win the election’s chances of being the government. Under FPP or SM or STV, you just don’t get the option to do this, because the ultimate proportionality is not determined by the party vote. (again bar overhang). SM does not really improve things in this respect, and FPP is completely useless at letting you kick out a bad MP in a party politics environment.

    So the ‘sneak back in’ claim makes no sense.

    Finally, because of the party politics dynamics I describe above, it makes little sense to say that an electorate candidate was ‘kicked out’ under any system except MMP, because under eg FPP or SM or STV we don’t know whether people voted one way or another because they like or don’t like the candidate, or because they are focussing on their chosen party winning.

  2. Steven Says:
    November 15th, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Excellent point, Mark.
    But VFC has figured that this argument has rhetorical (if not logical) appeal, and are pushing it all they can.

  3. ross Says:
    November 15th, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Mark,

    Your point is a valid one. However, I think it would be useful if candidates were either on a party list or stood in an electorate seat, but not both. I think there’s a degree of cynicism with the current system allowing a defeated electorate candidate to enter parliament. The current system could be changed so that no defeated candidate enters parliament. Would that be such a bad thing?

  4. FelixGeiringer Says:
    November 16th, 2011 at 12:05 am

    I don’t see that the 120 MP point has even been address. It is still misleading.

    Mark’s point is good too. I can think of one case ever under FPP when an NZ MP was voted out due to his unpopularity, against the party swing.

  5. Graeme Edgeler Says:
    November 16th, 2011 at 11:59 am

    I can think of one case ever under FPP when an NZ MP was voted out due to his unpopularity, against the party swing.

    Rodney Hide won an Epsom FPP race in 2005 despite a nationwide swing against his party, and a nationwide swing in favour of the party of his principal opponent.

  6. Mark Bennett Says:
    November 16th, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Hi Ross,

    I don’t think your proposal makes sense.

    First, how can we tell who was ‘defeated’ in an electorate seat *because* the voters think they will be a bad MP? If Charles Chauvel doesn’t beat Peter Dunne in my electorate, by say 2% as the current polling suggests, does that mean Ohariu voters have rejected Chauvel or that he was ‘defeated’? Does the same go for Katrina Shanks, who National voters forgo voting for because that would split the centre right vote and hand Ohariu to Chauvel?

    In other words, even under MMP we sometimes don’t know if a candidate was thoroughly disliked by the electorate independent of party affiliation – even though it is the system that best allows us to do this. And it seems odd to say that a person who loses the electorate seat should be somehow disqualified from sitting in Parliament. Should Chris Finlayson not be there because he ‘lost’ Rongotai. Why is this a cynical event?

    All in all, I just don’t see the reason for this. What is the example that gets people so brassed off?

    This leads on to the second point. If you have your dual system, that rational thing for political parties to do is put their good people on the party list, which will guarantee they are in Parliament. Would Labour put Chauvel in Ohariu if they knew he might not be in their team for the next 3 years.

    Re Rodney, this seems to be a collective action situation under FPP where the right coordinates to not split the vote to allow Labour to win. But this just shows why FPP does not allow voters to show their true views. Epson remains an anomaly because of the threshold rules.

  7. Steven Says:
    November 16th, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Felix said:
    I don’t see that the 120 MP point has even been addressed. It is still misleading.

    >Take a look at the small print at the bottom.

  8. Justin Says:
    November 16th, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Isn’t it just fundamentally misleading to say MMP requires 120 MPs whereas the others “could” work with 99?

    I fail to see how it wouldn’t be possible for MMP to work with 99 MPs or less as well (albeit maybe not as well). In fact I’d argue of all the systems SM really needs 120 MPs or the electorates just become too large.

  9. FelixGeiringer Says:
    November 16th, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Graeme, 2005 was under MMP not FPP. MMP has certainly increased tactical voting which has resulted in a number of electorates going against the swing.

    I also qualified my statement by saying in NZ. The last UK election, also FPP of course, was all over the show with wide-spread tactical voting across the country. Even before that, there was a much stronger record of angry electorates ditching the MP’s they didn’t like in that country.

    Steven, I saw the small print. I don’t see that it cures the problem. If anything, it almost acts as an admission that the graph is misleading. Plus, I had to blow the graph up on a 24″ monitor in order to be able to read it.

  10. Graeme Edgeler Says:
    November 16th, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    MMP needs at least 120 MPs if:

    1. we consider there should be enough list MPs to have a pretty good chance of ensuring proportionality; and
    2. we consider that electorates should have approximately equal election populations; and
    3. we consider that rural electorates shouldn’t be so geographically large as the preclude some level of proper community engagement.

    Given some complaints about the size of current electorates in the South Island, it may be that MMP in New Zealand, if it is to meet the three factors above, needs more than 120 MPs.

  11. FelixGeiringer Says:
    November 16th, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Graeme, you could make a similar list of desiderata for each of the systems. They all “work” with any number of MPs (>3?).

  12. Justin Says:
    November 17th, 2011 at 8:49 am

    @Graeme. I agree fully. However my point is that those same arguments (to a greater or lesser degree) can be applied to all systems. There is no technical reason I can see why MMP couldnt work with 99 MPs – it just couldnt work as well.

    I also think those same arguments would apply to SM – how could that system work with 99 MPs without undesirably large electorates?

    Taking it a step further you could argue FPP would work better with 120 MPs than it does with 99. It could allow for smaller electorates and people to have a better chance of getting to know their MP and voting for them, as opposed to just voting for the MP who represents their preferred party.

    Anyway, IMHO, the point is VFC is being intentionally misleading – even with their fine print – in claiming only MMP requires 120 MPs.

  13. Graeme Edgeler Says:
    November 17th, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    I also think those same arguments would apply to SM – how could that system work with 99 MPs without undesirably large electorates?

    Same number of electorates as we have now (70) + 30 (or 29) supplementary members. Simple

  14. Ewan Says:
    November 17th, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Congratulations, Steven – you are now “the political establishment”: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1111/S00452/political-establishment-target-vote-for-change.htm

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