New Zealand heads to the polls

It probably won’t register on most Aussies radar in the way that the US elections have but I personally think the New Zealand election is well worth watching. If the polls are right then Helen Clarkes Labour government is finished. National will however still most likely need to form a coalition to form government.The ACT Party, one of the logical coalition partners, is very strident in it’s free market rhetoric and has had a last minute surge in the polls. As part of the ACT ticket it looks likely that Roger Douglas, the Margaret Thatcher of New Zealand, will make a comeback to parliament after 18 years out of the game. If elected he has promised to cause trouble.

Got your popcorn? Here is one of the ACT parties webads. Very professional, very strong, very positive.

66 thoughts on “New Zealand heads to the polls

  1. Just over 30% counted, National 48%; Lab 32%; Grn 6.4%; ACT 3.5%; Looks like NZ are giving Labour a flogging, but if the trend continues National will probably have a majority in its own right.

  2. New Zealand First (the Kiwi’s One Nation) are on 4.3% but as they’ve failed to get a member elected for a particular electorate they won’t get any list members unless they can beat 5%.

    Unlikely to happen at this stage. Great news for ACT as it means they will be the main coalition partner with the Nats. I might move to New Zealand, eh bro? That’d be choice…

  3. Of course with 60 seats out of 122, the Nats could just ignore ACT and work with the other minors on particular pieces of legislation.

    But at this stage the only other minors either only have a single member, or it’s the Greens. Meaning the ACT party is still the best coalition candidate for the Nats.

  4. Yay! Nationals lost a seat to Labour. Which means Nationals rely even more on support from the ACT. If the results now (with 88.4% counted) stick to the end it’s almost the perfect result for those of us in favour of liberty!

  5. I just realised that my optimism is perhaps slightly premature. The National government is also on good terms with the Maori Party, who also elected 5 members. It is possible that the Nationals could form a coalition with the Maori Party instead.

  6. Shem, I heard some commentators saying that they could even form a coalition with both ACT and the Maori Party (although this was before all the results were in) as the Maori Party’s policies would strike a “balance” with ACT’s policies. I hope they look to ACT as their first option, though.

  7. This is a fantastic result. National got a load of seats, but not enough to govern in their own right which is good. ACT did better than I expected picking up 5 seats including Roger Douglas of Rogernomics fame, enough to make the perfect coalition partner for National. New Zealand First has been wiped out entirely. Well done New Zealand!!

  8. Old Parliament:-

    Labour 50
    National 48
    NZ First 7
    Green 6
    Māori 4
    United Future 3
    ACT 2
    Progressive 1
    other parties 0
    TOTAL 121

    New Parliament:-

    National 59
    Labour 43
    Green 8
    ACT 5
    Māori 5
    Progressive 1
    United Future 1
    other parties 0
    TOTAL 122

  9. As a side note, what do you think of the MMP voting system used in New Zealand (and elsewhere). It seems a bit confusing at first (to me at least, as I was unfamiliar until looking into it tonight), but obviously provides a greater opportunity for minor parties and seems to have a very high degree of proportionality.

  10. Does this mean that the way ACT has won seats has been through the individual electorate votes, seeing as they didn’t cross this 5% threshold?

  11. The 5% thing confused me… I assume it doesn’t apply if you already have a member, because the ads on their site boasted that, “A Vote for ACT isn’t wasted – we don’t need to reach 5% threshold”

  12. Yeah. That’s exactly it Fleeced.

    There’s 2 ways to qualify for list (proportional) seats:
    1) Reach 5% of the vote
    2) Win a single electorate (no preferential, so it’s outright plurality voting, great job by Rodney to win Epsom)

    I’m glad to hear that the Nationals are working with the ACT party rather than the Maori Party. The Maori Party is actually quite sensible on economics and welfare traps, but they are no ACT.

    Personally, though, I actually like Australia’s bicameral system. I think it is good for the government to have an outright majority in the lower house and for the Senate to be the house of review (with a high degree of proportionality).

    I think the Senate should be changed into a fully proportional house across the entire country, however. And the Lower House should move to Condorcet voting, rather than IRV.

    I agree that 5% is too high a threshold in MMP. I think 1% is too low. But then again with voluntary voting it might be alright. With compulsory voting you need at least a 2% threshold to outweigh the effects of a donkey vote.

  13. G’day,

    Don’t forget we have multi member seats in Australia too – at the local government level. Council wards in NSW are multi member. It various from council to council but in Parramatta and Holroyd getting over 25% gets you in.



  14. Don’t start me on electoral systems and constitutions. I have a well developed, very boring point of view.

    Ideally I would have a strongly Federal, Presidential system (preferential vote), with a unicameral Parliament elected by Hare Clark MM PR. Elected judiciaries voted in by what is called approval voting. A strong CIR system and bill of rights as well. Executive positions like Attorneys General get voted in as well.

  15. I prefer a bicameral system. It better allows the elected government to act on electoral mandates. Sure it is worse for minor parties like ours, but I think it is best for democracy.

    The politicking that occurs in unicameral PR systems is, I believe, a weakness, not a strength.

    And I definitely love Condorcet. It’s like “true preferential” where tactical voting and preference deals are useless. Again something that weakens a minor party, but something that strengthens consensus building and co-operation between major parties. The only weakness with Condorcet is that it doesn’t work as well as a proportional system, unless each candidate is listed separately. There’s no chance of group voting and there’s also a chance that a single ticket gets overloaded… Optional preferential above the line Hare Clark is best for the Senate. Condorcet for the House of Reps.

  16. Shem – I am aware of the fractious Governance in Italy etc. But I want a Presidential system anyway. There is no need for confidence in Parliament.

    The mandate of the President is independent of the make-up of Parliament, in my model system.

    If I were cynical, I’d say now the House is a proxy electoral College and the Senate is the “real” Parliament, but it neither represents people locally or by votes, due to historical mistakes. (Perhaps a national list with State weighted votes would work better).

    How would your system eliminate politicking given the right to Govern might be given out by the GG or House confidence in the viability of a collateral workable Senate majority or pluralistic minority?

  17. Mark, I’ve agreed with that view for some time… on a state level, we’d elect the governor/premier directly with a preferential vote for a fixed term (with recall mecahnism), but with a PR parliament.

    Such a reform on a state-level could be aslo be a step toward becoming a republic… ie, rather than change to a republic on federal and state-level all in one go, allow the states to come up with their own – possibly different – models first. It seems a more natural way for us to “evolve” into a republic than to risk changing everything at once.

  18. On a state level, I don’t believe a house of review is needed once the lower house uses PR. On the federal level, you’d need to retain the senate as a states’ house (IMO).

  19. I don’t see what the US bicameral system has to offer over a unicameral parliament with PR.

    The Senate made sense at Federation, but what about now? Federal-State relations need to be re-examined. Tasminia hasn’t exactly been treated to well by the Commonwealth. I’m suggesting a better deal in return for getting rid of the “States” house. Uniform laws (credit code, maybe criminal code) can be agreed to by way of interstate treaty like in Switzerland.

  20. I think bicameral is good, as it allows regions to feel safe. WA would never have joined without that safeguard, and I think they still want it, as would Tasmania.
    As for the Prez., I think we should have an elected position called the Regent

  21. I meant to add, that the Regent would assume all Crown powers of Monarch and Governor-General. However, we should make it clear that the Regent would not be able to make policy, but would be a combination of ombudsman and umpire. The Regent would have to accept all recommendations of Parliament as reflecting the will of the people, unless one could prove otherwise. Perhaps seven Federal detectives could be assigned to the Regent, to randomly investigate anyone, anytime, who is in Parliament. I think an elected constitutional Monarch would be different enough to be interesting.

  22. I still think it is good to have a bicameral system, Mark. Even in a US style system, even if the Upper House no longer represents the states.

    Within the legislature there are two roles- proposals and review. The lower house could continue to be responsible for identifying, proposing and discussing new legislation broadly and the upper house would continue to act as a house of review. Looking at particular pieces of legislation in finer detail. The president, as executive, would sign the new legislation into law.

  23. What do you mean safe?

    The Commonwealth imposed it’s will on Tasmania several times on environmental issues. Many of the campaigners were out of towners!

    Regent? I’ve had other anachronists say we should keep “Governor General”…

  24. Shem – I only support unicameralism with certain conditions – PR and an elected executive. I would still keep the US requirement of a 2/3 vote to overrule veto. Such a requirment is unlikely to be passed in a PR system. Of course there is always CIR to strike down patently bad laws. To my mind, the Senate and Reps in the US neither looked adequetely enough at the PATRIOT Act. Their Federal Government needs CIR as well. But with some Greens and LP Representatives in a unicameral, PR Congress, there would have been genuine review of the Act.

    Why two houses? Why not three or four?

    What do you think of cumulative voting for judicial benches?

  25. Mark, having a President (or Regent) is the same as having another house! In one person. And the Courts add to the house list, since they interpret things.

  26. I’d like five houses. One elected only by old men. Another elected only by lesbian university students. Another elected only by rugby league players. And another elected only by left-handed immigrants. And the final house elected only from ALS members.

    Have a sunset clause on all policies.

    Hopefully the four houses will agree on almost nothing, and then in 10 years we’ll have a libertarian country. 🙂

  27. A quintacameral system? It would be interesting, John 😛

    Mark- I think two houses is all that is needed. More is overkill. But I see two distinct roles that the houses can play and I think that having two electoral methods is most consistent with that. I think that the government needs to enact its majority given mandate. But it needs pay heed to minority opinions. A bicameral system, with an electorate driven lower house to create legislation and PR upper house to amend it. MMP could work, but then the one house has all roles… I’m not as fond of that.

    As for cumulative voting I don’t like it as much as the Condorcet method. With condorcet as it uses pairwise matrices you can have an optional preferential system that allows you to even rank candidates as being equal. If there were 7 candidates you might vote 1, 2, 2, 3, 4. And this vote would be valid. You could just tick or number a single candidate (all others are hence assumed to be equally disliked), too. Voting is easy and there is no chance of tactical voting (unlike with cumulative/ approval). I prefer the Schulze method for removing ambiguity.

  28. Shem,

    Can you explain a little further one house having both roles irks you? It seems a little arbitrary to me. Do they need to be separate for the review practice to work?

  29. Maybe it’s just that it’s what I’m used to?

    But I also see the Senate in Australia as being far more impartial than the House of Reps and less prone to politicking. Even the major party Senators do a better job than most of the “honorable” members…

  30. My point was quite serious. Having multiple houses elected in different ways increases the checks and balances on government policy making.

    One house with seats (HoR), one house with PR (Senate) and one directly elected (Pres) provides more ways for bad policy to be vetoed. Good!

  31. We might like more, if you could find a way to justify it. The HoR represents everyone, The PR House gives States an equal voice, and a President could embody the will of the nation. If you can think up good reasons for more houses, then tell them to us! We might go for it. The current two houses have simply developed from experience, after all, not because of some divine mandate.

  32. Lords were ‘appointed’ by their parents. I think John was talking about the US system.
    And I still say two houses seems sufficient, unless you can prove we need more.

  33. But I don’t think we need two. My rejection of a Senate comes from the fact I am dissatisfied with the States we have.

    John seems to think the solution to Governments making mistakes is more Government 🙂

    The point before Nicholas was that is Lords were ultimately appointed by the Crown. Which claimed a divine right to rule.

    I like the original intent of the US system, in particular how they used bicameralism to make Federalism strong and put “common” and “educated” constraint on spending requests and administration and foreign affairs.

    I don’t see how it is relevant to Australia now. Why are our States based on old colonial borders? If we had a reorganisation of States, why would we need a Senate? We can still keep Federalism. But we don’t need to be a Federation so to speak.

    Why would a State of New England need equal representation with a State of Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong (NSW)? It is not as if we need to bribe New Englanders into being Australian. The constitution implictly recognises this, in that New States would be admitted with representation as set out by the Commonwealth.

  34. The amount of politicians we have is irrelevant. If we tripled the amount of politicians and took away all of their power we would have much smaller government.

    Politicians earn not much over $0.0001 billion per year. The government budget is about $300 billion per year. If you remove half the programs and added 1000 politicians then the budget would be $150.1 billion. That’s an improvement in my book.

    The virtue of multiple parliaments is that it slows down the creation of policy. If somebody (like Mark apparently) thinks that you can generally trust government to do good instead of bad, then you should be happy with unicameral parliaments. If somebody (like myself) thinks that the government generally does more bad than good, then you should be happy with more houses of parliament and more checks and balances.

    The fact that our States aren’t very relevant to our lives now is not important. All that matters is that our two houses are elected in different ways, so that they don’t always agree, so that it’s harder to pass policy.

    Keep our current system plus add an elected Pres with power of veto, plus add CIRs with power of veto.

  35. I don’t like the Senate as a states house. It’s not. I think the Senate should be a PR house, though. A “minority” house to oppose the will of the majority elected government.

  36. “If we tripled the amount of politicians and took away all of their power we would have much smaller government.”

    Well that’s actually what I want John – i.e more States, less Federal power, a bill of rights etc. Bicameralism with an elected President and a PR upper house just seems redundant. The House usually just reflects the Presidential vote. I think I’m right but maybe I’m wrong. Unless you make lawmaking sequential in the constitution, there is no guarantee that multiple houses makes policy creation slower.

    I never said you can trust the Government to do good John. That’s why I want them to have less power, and compete for low tax status.

    “The fact that our States aren’t very relevant to our lives now is not important.”

    I don’t know about that. Plenty of resource rich areas in QLD and WA subsidise the state capitals. These areas a are quite capable of self Government. The reverse is probably true in NSW.

  37. I don’t like the Senate as a states house. It’s not. I think the Senate should be a PR house, though. A “minority” house to oppose the will of the majority elected government.

    I disagree… it may not act as a states’ house in practice, but as a house of review it can work pretty well.

    I’d rather the lower house be PR, the upper house as it is now, and a president elected directly (a real president – not the symbolic bs, and he should have line-item veto).

    That way, it’s unlikely that either house would have a party with an absolute majority, but each house would also have a different enough makeup that they wouldn’t always agree with each other (add to that, the two terms for the senate to avoid rushing into current whims)

    Also, this way, legislation effectively needs to be supported by a majority of electorates (through the lower house), a majority of states (through the senate), and a majority of people (through the president). Add to that CIR (for removing laws, not creating them), and it should be pretty hard to push through any nasties.

    The problem with this, is that it might be hard to get some positive changes as well… the above would be good for people who like the status quo. We need to get all our reforms in place, and then implement the above system 🙂

    Incidentally, a unicameral PR system doesn’t work so well… instead of having parties disagree, and have legislation blocked, they negotiate to have their own policies implemented in exchange for support – and we end up with more crap pushed through than if one party had a majority to itself.

    As for the senate being a states’ house… maybe the senate elections should be held at the same time as state elections for each state. This would do three things:

    1) shift their (the candiadate’s) focus to state issues;
    2) stop the senate makeup being a carbon copy of the lower house; and
    3) It would also mean that the senate make-up changes every time there’s a state election, making it difficult for lower house to rely on it to rubber stamp its policies.

  38. The problem with this, is that it might be hard to get some positive changes as well…

    That’s why I like having a majoritarian lower house… I think it counter-balances a representative Senate with appropriate levels of push and pull.

    With a condorcet voting system, however, it wouldn’t just be the major parties that would be elected, unless they work together. That’s the great thing about condorcet- it reveals overall preference. Rather than only looking at first preference. You can win without getting a single first preference vote if all the other candidates are polarising.

    I think that PR across Australia would help the Senate work as a much better house of review. The voting threshold would only be 1.3% Allowing for a wider range of views.

    I think majority rules is an important aspect of democracy. But we need to ensure the majority is held in check.

  39. Personally, I would prefer individual towns to run themselves, with every citizen having an equal vote at town hall meetings. Larger groupings could just be like conferences, without legislative power, but where towns might take back ideas to consider (e.g., a uniform speed limit, etc.). Like Humphrey’s idea of a gated community, except I’d turn existing towns and suburbs into self-ruling communities. Then we wouldn’t need a second chamber.
    We WOULD need to limit town rules to public property, and keeping themselves off private properties, and then we could trust local majorities in our democratic assemblies.
    And another benefit of small domains is- it would be a lot easier to get out of one that turned bad!

  40. I think that PR across Australia would help the Senate work as a much better house of review. The voting threshold would only be 1.3% Allowing for a wider range of views.

    I think that if you support federalism, that it’s a good idea for the states to have their representation. I’m also not sure what you suggest is practical… we already have tablecloth polling forms in some cases – if we had one electorate with with 76 senate positions it would be ridiculous.

  41. Imagine the loonies that would get in with 1.3% thresholds!

    If we didn’t have states we probably would still have death duties. Now, argue for them all you want, the point is that a bit of competitive federalism got rid of a tax. I bet that the tax system would be way better if the states still had their own income taxes. imagine if the Feds had to make do with company tax and import duties, or perhaps just a sales tax and the states raised all their own money. Then you’d see some policy competition.

  42. Fleeced- I don’t think the Senate does a very good job of representing states rights. It turns into just another house for the major parties to squabble over.

    I think a strong constitution with division of powers and a strong court system provides more freedom for the states. When a federal government is faced with hostile states they want to centralise, the state governments on the other hand want to decentralise. The Senate does precious little for the states.

    Also, I don’t think nationwide PR would be that bad. If you had above the line optional preferential I think, if anything, the size of the ballot paper would shrink. There would be more independents, but instead of 40 candidates across the nation Labor and Liberal would each only have a single box to tick.

    And pedro- the LDP are considered loonies. I’d be happy to see a few more loonies elected. (Note that the LDP would not have elected even a single member, even with a 1.3% threshold). I actually think you could drop the Senate size to 51 and the HoR size to 101 under this system, though. And due to the constitutional rules regarding the division of electorates, this would actually work out in favour of the smaller states, assuming some of the purpose of the Senate.

  43. “The President and the House disagree with each other all the time in America. Same could easily happen in Australia.”

    That again is why I think two houses are redundant with a PR unicameral Parliament.

    If you want States to have more independence (not “power”), then reduce the scope of Federal legislation, create more States and have uniformity of laws agreed to by interstate treaty, not referral (only by referral by treaty). Create strong CIR laws as well.

    I think Federalism should be based on how people want to Govern themselves. Some people want regions and cities, some people want States. Each State sized region should have a choice between a State and a series of shires or simply a regional Government. Each local area should have its choice to join or not – big cities could have the powers of a local council and State – like a very small region.

    The point of all this would be to create competition, limit Federal power and to better ensure fiscal independence and solvency. I believe this is more democratic and encourages less Government interference in our lives.

    As for a national ballot, if you are concerned about State votes for the Senate, have a national list and weight votes from each State accordingly, as to equate with equal Senate representation. This is more democratic and would lessen ballot sizes. It is more of a check on power as the makeup of the Senate would reflect the national tallies. A more diverse and lively Senate is going to review the executive more.

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