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Getting the facts straight

Written By: - Date published: 11:57 am, May 19th, 2008 - 27 comments
Categories: john key, same old national - Tags: , ,

When asked on Morning Report (MP3 link) today why National was bringing up the issue of MMP now, Key remarked:

“[the public] were promised a referendum on MMP”.

He’s wrong.

Nigel Robert, Professor of Political Science at Victoria University points out:

“A referendum wasn’t promised previously. The role of Parliament after MMP was introduced was to decide whether another referendum should be held and the select committee set up for that task decided not to.”

Roberts goes on to point out that the result of MMP has been to raise the proportions of Maori and women in Parliament, while giving us more parties in Parliament and stopping single party majority governments – “MMP has delivered”.

The offer of an MMP referendum is nothing more than National playing politics while bending over backwards for the same old business elite who have always opposed broader political representation.

27 comments on “Getting the facts straight”

  1. Phil 1

    “… that the result of MMP has been to raise the proportions of Maori and women in Parliament…”

    Well, that’s just bullshit. Changing the way you count your apples and oranges doesn’t give you more apples and oranges. Increased Maori/Women representation has been a result of their own empowerment and strength of character in the mindset of the electorate, not the way we count votes.

  2. Lew 2

    Actually, AYB, you’ve misquoted Key:

    Key: “… the overwhelming feedback we get, not just from National Party members, I mean from people, um, you know, the general public at large is that they believe that there was, that they were promised a referendum on MMP …”

    They key bit of his statement is that people *believe* they were promised an election. I believed this also until yesterday. But they weren’t, which Roberts made clear a few minutes later.

    Key never said they were, just that people believed they were, and that that was the basis for a referendum.

    However, key does fall into the `this has always been National policy’ trap, when this time last year English actually said there wouldn’t be a referendum on this matter.


  3. Tane 3

    Phil, it’s much easier to ensure a representative party list than it is to get minorities elected in electorate seats.

    MMP has allowed for groups that are too small and geographically scattered to get a candidate into an electorate seat to gain representation.

    The party list is also an effective way of ensuring a balance between men and women in a way that candidate selections can’t.

  4. mike 4

    Whats the problem with a referendum?
    The NZ people own the electoral process not one party.
    After 15 years I think it is right that the we get a say on wether its working or not.

  5. r0b 5

    Changing the way you count your apples and oranges doesn’t give you more apples and oranges.

    Think before you post Phil. There are a limited number of people in parliament, changing the way you elect them changes who gets in. Or to stick with your fruit motif, changing the way you chose your apples and oranges changes the fruit in your shopping trolley.

  6. r0b 6

    Whats the problem with a referendum?

    I actually wouldn’t have much of an issue with a referendum myself, so long as all lobbying on the issue was constrained by rules similar to those governing election spending to make sure that both sides of the argument were presented equally. In such a situation I have no doubt that MMP would be well endorsed.

    But a referendum in the context where one side of the debate can try to buy public opinion by massively dominating the advertising, well that I will oppose most vigourously.

  7. Daveski 7

    Unless of course the massive domination of the advertising is by the EPMU 🙂

  8. James Kearney 8

    hahaha… oh, hang on. Big business spends upwards of $3 million backing National last election. EPMU donates $40,000 to Labour.

    Obviously it’s working people who are corrupting our electoral system Daveski.

  9. randal 9

    well keys would say anything rather than what new dynamic course the party of business is planning for business. all he can do is fiddle with the tax code and the employment acts and provoke unrest…not much of man in my opinion

  10. Phil 10


    We need to make a distinction here about what we’re arguing for/against. I agree completely that MMP has increased (as defined distinctly separate to improved) the representation of alternative political views in parliament – ACT, UF, NZF and the Greens have all, at times, recieved more seats in the house than FPP would have provided them, but they aren’t what I was talking about.

    My specific challenge is to the ‘minority’ groups of Maori and Women. I cannot see compelling evidence that they would not have the representation they have today (or will have at the end of the year) under the old FPP system, or any other non-MMP derivation.

    “The party list is also an effective way of ensuring a balance between men and women in a way that candidate selections can’t.”

    I’m not so sure. To believe the gender of a candidate, or the colour of their skin, impacts on the extent to which voters choose to listen to their party message, is a disturbing acceptance of public bigotry that, I hope, we have moved well past.

  11. Scribe 11


    Thanks for correcting ayb’s selective — and one might say dishonest — quoting of John Key. Is that what intelligent political discussion is going to become? Selective quoting and ellipses to misrepresent someone’s position, as has happened in the US?

    Nothing would change for years, even if the public decided they did want to vote on which electoral system to use (after the initial referendum in 2011). And notice who would be making the decision: The public.

    To suggest people would be brainwashed into voting a certain way is interesting. I have more faith in the media than most, I guess.

  12. Draco TB 12

    I’m actually wondering where this belief that we were going to have another referendum on MMP came from because it certainly wasn’t part of the process that brought about the first referendum.

  13. r0b 13

    Thanks for correcting ayb’s selective — and one might say dishonest — quoting of John Key.

    Quick Scribe – better call The Herald, because they have it wrong too: “Mr Key said people had been promised a referendum and they should get one.”

    Or in other words, a_y_b has accurately presented the line that Key is pushing.

    If you want to see true examples of shameless misquoting then take a look here: http://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=643

  14. Scribe 14


    Nice try.

    We have to assume John Key told the Herald the people had been promised a referendum, so they’re right to report that as what he said. Whether he’s right or not is another matter.

    What ayb did, though, was quote a source and leave out incredibly important information to try make a political point.

    It wasn’t even taking a sentence out of context; it was taking a phrase out of a sentence out of context.

    If I said “I enjoy coming to The Standard even though I find it irritating at times and I often disagree with the posters”, would it be fair to quote me as saying Scribe “finds [the Standard] irritating”?

  15. Lew 15

    I don’t think it was dishonest, it’s a reasonable error to make. Nigel Roberts made it, and he deals with this sort of thing as a matter of course. It’s only because my wife and I heard and discussed the phrasing this morning that I noticed that’s not strictly what he said. The Herald, also.

    I think AYB’s interpretation is what most listeners will take from the statement, and certainly it’s the point Key was trying to make – that National is giving the electorate what they [believe they] deserve.

    Ambiguous statements tends to get interpreted in the manner which best suits the interpreter, but there’s no need to cry plot every time they do.


  16. r0b 16

    We have to assume John Key told the Herald the people had been promised a referendum, so they’re right to report that as what he said.


    Whether he’s right or not is another matter.

    We already know that he isn’t.

    What ayb did, though, was quote a source and leave out incredibly important information to try make a political point.

    Get a grip Scribe, ayb simplified Key to the same point he is making via the main stream media.

    So where’s your outrage over this actual and blatant misquoting? Anything to say on this Scribe?: http://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=643

    (Captcha “invisible hand” – cute if this was an economics thread!)

  17. higherstandard 17


    If there is a referendum I would be prepared to take a very sizeable bet that MMP would be returned with an extremely healthy margin regardless of whether there was a concerted campaign to get rid of it – which I’m very doubtful there would be.

    In relation to National latching on to this – it’s nothing more than political opportunism very easy to promise it as it’s something that the populace is attracted to, it would cost sod all and the worst that they’re looking at (the likely outcome) in the referendum is the status quo.

  18. higherstandard 18


    Nice editing upgrade !

    captcha 30 paces ….. now there’s an idea for a new type of electoral system !

  19. Scribe 19


    So where’s your outrage over this actual and blatant misquoting? Anything to say on this Scribe?

    Yes. I dislike that too. I’m an equal-opportunity opposer of selective quoting for political gain. I’m all for robust debate, and John Key is wrong to say Kiwis were promised a referendum. And it’s right to point that out, as AYB sought to do. It’s that last step of selective quoting that bothers me.

    I’m all for The Standard opposing John Key’s weaknesses and flip-flops etc. That’s legitimate discussion. I think instances like this, though, and there have been others I’ve pointed out, diminish the case being made.

  20. Aj 20

    A red herring. Key is using this issue to paper over his lack of policy in any of the important areas.

  21. The Double Standard 21

    So, in fact what Key said on Morning Report was technically correct. I was listening and noted that he correctly described the situation re the referendum.

    It is hardly Key’s fault if the talking head commentators cannot listen correctly.

    I wonder if AYB will have the guts to correct his post now?

  22. The Double Standard 22

    How about taking me off moderation, or are you still stifling dissent here?

    [We put you on moderation because you were trolling. This was explained at the time. If you want to engage constructively we’ll take you off moderation in due course. In the meantime you may want to read our comments policy.]

  23. TDS! You’re back! Were you on a sabbatical or did they remove you from posting duties for a while after I busted your National Party research unit arse???

    [Sod, behave.]

  24. Michael

    Research unit? Hardly. Do try to keep your lies in check old boy.

    Anyway, I generally find I have better things to spend my time than sitting on my butt and posting to left-wing blogs. Fighting with pigs in mud and all that. However it would be nice to occasionally be able to “engage constructively” when you are not around.

    Lynn – I don’t see much point in re-litigating the past, but perhaps you could check how long ago this happened, and my posting history since then.

    I think I have a valid email address now if you want to contact me directly.

    [lprent: hashed out of the moderation. I run a enhanced definition – if I can write a eliza style program as an emulator, then it is probably a machine….. People like dealing with people.]

  25. AncientGeek 25

    If people (as opposed to a party) want a referendum, then all they have to do is to raise the required signatures. The people wanting to kill MMP can just get off their lazy arses and do the leg-work. Personally I don’t think that they could even raise the less than 300k signatures for it under normal circumstances.

    What Key is talking about is a binding referendum – although he hasn’t bothered to mention that little detail when I’ve heard it. It reduces the risk if you want to throw a lot of money at a marketing campaign.

    That is a whole different kettle of fish. To do it you have to pass the legislation to make it binding. Then that takes a lot of risk away from the proponents, because you can run a FUD marketing campaign to drown out all of the voices pointing out the alternatives. If you win it, then you bypass our representatives who are there to get informed about issues and are less susceptible to FUD campaigns.

    I’d say that it is up to the proponents to prove that they have a mandate. Do a citizen referendum first. Show that you have a constituency. If they started now, who knows, they might even get it in for this election?

  26. Hoolian 26

    The offer of an MMP referendum is nothing more than National playing politics while bending over backwards for the same old business elite who have always opposed broader political representation.

    Then let the people decide and lets hold a referendum. I respect Nigel Roberts but he’s only one man. What are you all so afraid of that you won’t let MMP go to the people?

    Heck, we’ll all probably just vote for MMP again and that will be that…but we won’t know unless we get the chance to.

  27. Pascal's bookie 27

    I agree, Hoolian, that MMP will probably win. I think many people fear though, that these sorts of decisions can be caught up in political tides that they are not related to, and I understand that fear.

    As an example think about that referendum on Winston’s retirement funding scheme. It got absolutely pounded beyond any reasonable measure simply because people were upset at Winston. So they smacked him via his poll.

    -Marginal tax rates for those earning over 150 000

    -The tax status of organised religions

    Let the people decide! 😉

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