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Judith Collins, MMP, “consensus” & democracy

Written By: - Date published: 6:33 pm, May 14th, 2013 - 68 comments
Categories: accountability, democracy under attack, electoral commission, greens, john key, Judith Collins, Metiria Turei, MMP, national/act government, referendum - Tags:

Today Green MP Holly Walker dragged out of Judith Collins that the NAct government will not be implementing the recommendations of the Electoral Commission on MMP.  Then Collins goes on to defend her position with reference to the lack of  “consensus”, clearly associating this with the need for  “unanimous” agreement on the changes by all political parties.

The Greens may be hair splitting when they say Collins is confusing 2 different terms.  However, they nail it when claiming that NAct don’t want to get rid of the Epsom coat tail effect because it may damage their chances of being re-elected.

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I believe that Dr Holly Walker was correct on this matter when she wrote: “There is a tradition of legislation making changes to the electoral system being passed unanimously in Parliament, and it would be great if all parties were able to put aside their own short-term political interests and build a consensus around the Electoral Commission’s report.” Dr Walker wrote that on 6 November last year in a little-read blog called Frogblog, and I agree with her.

Holly Walker: Thank you for the promotion—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the member like to start her question again.

Holly Walker: Thanks for the promotion, Minister. Which party or parties have blocked consensus in Parliament on the recommendations of the MMP review?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Actually, no party has been able to reach consensus, because consensus actually requires all parties to agree.

In a later press release, Holly Walker argues that the government did not live up to the promise of improving the MMP system following a review:

“The review was carried out in a timely manner with a robust public submission process, a high degree of engagement and a clear steer from the public on what they’d like to see changed.

“National has undermined this process by ignoring the wishes of the New Zealand public, in particular to abolish the one electorate seat threshold.

“It is weak of the Minister to hide behind the excuse of needing cross-party consensus.

“Consensus is always great to aim for but with the self-interest of the National, ACT and United Future parties always likely to derail this process, the responsible thing for the Government to do was to implement the recommendations of the Electoral Commission as a package in time for the next election.

“The Minister wants to gerrymander the system so that National don’t lose their coalition partners and can rely on ACT and United Future at the next election.

Tonight on Checkpoint on RNZ, Metiria Turei says that Collins is confusing “consensus” with “unanimous” support for all the changes.  Further she argues that there would never be a “unanimous” agreement on the recommended changes.  Turei said the Greens don’t agree with all the recommended changes, but will support them.  Key did promise a review, holding out the carrot of possible changes.


I did get the impression that many people voted to keep MMP, with the idea in mind that important changes could be made to some of the undemocratic elements, such as the Epsom fiddle.  It’s interesting that we learn that changes won’t happen soon after John Banks has said he will stand for Epsom again.


68 comments on “Judith Collins, MMP, “consensus” & democracy”

  1. Nordy 1

    Thanks Carol – yes, an issue that has been ‘flying under the radar’ of late, and the NACT govt are happy with that.

    Typical of Collins to confuse and distract by appearing to be principled and yet in reality to be pandering to the minority, as it suits her. As I said elsewhere, ‘the tail wagging the dog’.

    The difficulty with this and other important issues (e.g the constitutional conversation) is that in reality NACT don’t want to engage on the issues as they don’t really have a position or view based on principles or anything close to democracy. It suits them nicely to distract and divert on anything but the issues – the reason of course they have that ‘nice man Mr Key’ front and centre – just ‘smile and wave’…….

    • Anne 1.1

      Typical of Collins to confuse and distract by appearing to be principled and yet in reality to be pandering to the minority, as it suits her.

      Ms Collins is a dangerous woman. She would not hesitate to use her thugs Slater and Lusk et al… to ‘put down’ anyone who dared to stand up to her. God help us if she ever became prime minister. She would make Thatcher look like a harmless kitten.

      The numbers have been done. NAct can’t afford to lose Banks and Dunne, so to hell with principle and keeping their promise to the proletariat – you know, those pesky peasants (us) whom our forefathers were stupid enough to allow to have a vote.

      • Colonial Viper 1.1.1

        And Collins is a possible future PM.

      • Anne 1.1.2

        And here’s the video…


        Collins left her broomstick at the Chamber door.

      • veutoviper 1.1.3

        Well said, Anne.

        • IrishBill

          Collins is despised by many in the National party. She has her uses but she’ll never be leader. You only have to look at how close her henchmen came to seriously damaging National over the Gilmore affair, and Key’s subsequent dismissal of Lusk to see that.

          If Gilmore had decided to use his statement to open the can of worms that is the Nat’s dirty tricks machine (and I understand he came very close to doing so) then any opportunity for National to run a negative lead-in to the 2014 campaign would have been done and dusted. Put simply, Collins’ fools came very close to costing National a 2014 win.

      • Bearded Git 1.1.4

        In this scenario it’s actually best to keep Banks as head of ACT and standing and winning in Epsom, then they will go nowhere.

  2. Northshoreguynz 2

    Looking forward to the MSMs take on this.

  3. ianmac 3

    By the Collins standard that consensus = unanimous, it would be impossible to EVER get this through. John Banks would NEVER agree to lose his cup of tea.
    Consensus usually means a general informal acceptance of a plan. Usually a significant majority.
    Lucky this Government does not need a “Collins Consensus” to pass all its Bills!

  4. Pascal's bookie 4

    Andrew Geddis is going to have something to say about this:


    The third future, however, is the worst of all. In it, the Government lets the clock run out on being able to make changes for 2014, while announcing that the lack of consensus amongst the political parties in Parliament means that it intends taking no further action on the Commission’s recommendations.

    I really hope this isn’t a future that the Government plans to visit on us. But if it is, I already have planned a post of Old Testament fury that will make Samuel L. Jackson’s quotation from Ezekiel look like a lullaby to a sleepy child. So, let’s see what the future holds

    • QoT 4.1

      Is it “CALLED IT” following by a Z-snap of the fingers?

      • Is it “CALLED IT” following by a Z-snap of the fingers?

        What is this – 2006?

        Actually, I went down the restrained smouldering and sarcastic tweaking of the NZ Herald route. Sorry for over-promising and under-delivering.

  5. vto 5

    John Key

    John Banks

    John Key

    John Banks

    John Banks

    John Key

    John John Key John Banks John Banks Key

    Banks Key Banks Key Banks Key Banks Key Banks Key

    John Banks Key

    • toad 5.1

      I doubt that even the good voters of Epsom would elect someone so demonstrably corrupt at the next election.

      Goldsmith likely to be the next MP for Epsom, despite the Nats’ undemocratic machinations.

  6. Tamati 6

    To be fair, the voters of New Zealand didn’t get a chance to vote on whether they wished to remove the coattail provision and lower the threshold to 4%. The best thing to do would be have another referendum at the next election, where voters can decide on these two issues. I imagine they support removing “coat tailing” but would reject lowering the threshold.

    • karol 6.1

      All voters got the opportunity to make submissions to the review. Only a small proportion took it up as usual.

      • Tamati 6.1.1

        And all voters should have the opportunity to decide if changes should be made to the electoral system, in a referendum.

        • karol

          I can see the value in that, Tamati. I’m not sure how well it would go down right now. Also, the government would get to choose the wording of the questions, compared with a Citizen initiated referendum, which would require a petition.

          My feeling is that most kiwis would choose to end the coat tail requirement.

          • Tamati


            Having said that, I imagine a majority of New Zealanders would also vote to remove the Maori seats if given the option. The majority will of the Mob is often not always the best long term decision.

            A link for any classical scholars out there,

            • KJT

              The minority will of parliament is almost always not the best long term decision.

              Fixed it for you.

              If you do not trust in the will of the majority, why have voting at all!

              • Tamati

                Read my above post on the Mytilenian Debate.

                A simple majority of Parliament could of course change the electoral system, if it chose to.

        • gobsmacked

          Yes, there’s a case for having the 2014 election under the current rules and a simultaneous referendum (“Do you support the Electoral Commission’s proposed changes?” or whatever).

          That solves the whole “consensus” question, which is why Collins/Key don’t want to do it. They prefer an excuse (however hollow) to do nothing at all, until the system starts to go against National. It’s blatantly self-serving.

          Let’s hope Colin Craig gets 4% at the next election and National lose, and start whining “it’s not fair!!”. That would be so funny.

        • Arfamo

          Yes. Great idea. Which party will push it?

          • Colonial Viper

            Neither major party will. Not in their interests to have more small party competitors stealing what they see as votes belonging to them/

        • QoT

          Well … we did have the opportunity to decide if changes should be made, when we had a referendum on MMP vs other systems with the understanding that if MMP was triumphant its current implementation would be reviewed.

          I must say it’s going to be an eternal black mark against NZ First for popularizing the idea of screaming “BUT WE NEED A REFERENDUM” every time changes are happening that we don’t like. Representative democracy: learn you some.

          • Tamati

            Referendums and horrible things, just ask a Californian!

          • KJT

            Representative democracy is an oxymoron.

            Getting to change the seats in the dictatorship every three years, IS NOT DEMOCRACY!

            • Tamati

              So we should run our nation like New Zealand idol?

              Text into vote whether to amend the habeas corpus Act?

              • Colonial Viper

                Works for Switzerland

                • Tamati

                  Banning Minarets?

                  • Colonial Viper

                    A decision by the people, for the people.

                    • Tamati

                      The majority effectively legitimizing racial discrimination against a minority.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      yeah, that’s right. But Switzerland also voted to increase taxes on executive super salaries, and increased the minimum wage to around $50,000

                    • KJT

                      Why is banning minarets discrimination?
                      We effectively banned church bells early sunday morning long ago. Same thing.
                      Don’t think having amplified calls to prayer at 6 am would be too popular here either.

                      I havn’t noticed “representative democracy being too hot on minority rights.
                      Unless it is protecting the rights of the extremely wealthy to the detriment of all the rest of us, especially Maori.

                    • stargazer

                      “We effectively banned church bells early sunday morning long ago.”

                      but they haven’t banned church steeples. you can have minarets as a design feature without any noise coming out of them. just like we do in nz.

                      the swiss decision is straight discrimination.

      • KJT 6.1.2

        Not surprising. Most New Zealanders have given up on our political process.

        As we are all ignored by our dictators, who do whatever they choose, except for a few bones on election year.

  7. From National’s PoV, it was worthwhile going with the review because there was always the possibility it would recommend changing to Supplementary Member, or even scrapping proportional representation altogether. It hasn’t, so now it has to be ignored as quietly as possible. Good on the Greens for putting a stick in their spokes.

    • Lanthanide 7.1

      Er, the review was specifically set up to follow the first referendum. They can’t have recommended swapping to SM or ditching proportionality, because the public voted for MMP.

      If the public had voted for some other form, then the review would have scoped out how that was to be implemented.

      • Psycho Milt 7.1.1

        The review of MMP involves a referendum and a commission. The commission’s had no point ever since the referendum returned the “wrong” answer.

        • Andrew Geddis


          The Commission’s review ONLY kicked in if the voters decided to retain MMP … so (under this analysis) the Commission’s review had no point at all. Which turned out to be the case, but it would have been nice to hear this before everyone wasted their time taking part in it.

  8. gobsmacked 8

    The Greens score a major headline by asking a direct, simple, clear question.

    For the past 4 years many of us have been begging Labour MPs to do this. But of course they know better (and never read blogs, they tell us), so they persist with “Does he stand by his statements?”, which nearly always leads nowhere.

    They are either too stupid to learn from Winston and the Greens, or too complacent to care.

  9. ianmac 9

    1.Scrapping the provision that allows MPs who win electorate seats to bring others in on their party’s list even if they did not reach the 5 per cent threshold.
    2. Lowering that threshold to 4 or 3 per cent to compensate for any loss of proportionality from that.

    I would ask each party if they agree with 1. Yes or No
    I would ask each party if they agree with 2. Yes or No.
    Then it might become clear just who is denying Consensus.

  10. veutoviper 10

    Well done to the Greens – again – on asking the direct question. As Gobsmacked says at 8, when will Labour ever learn to do the same instead of the useless “Does the … stand by all his/her statements?” AND Supplementary Questions with two parts thereby allowing the Minister to answer only one part.

    We now know that National are going to do nothing – but that should not be surprising considering the consistent attempts by them and their spin doctors (eg Boag) over the last two weeks to blame the Gilmore situation on MMP. They want a return to FPP.

    Interestingly, I/S at NRT presents a different viewpoint on National’s decision/admission that the review recommendations will not be implemented.

    “As someone who thinks that the Electoral Commission’s recommendations are worse than what we have at present, I’m not exactly broken up about this.

    MMP needs to be tweaked, but those tweaks must enhance representation, not diminish it. The changes proposed by the Electoral Commission on their own assessment give us a less representative Parliament than we have at present, and thus it is better that they are dumped. National is acting out of pure venality, but I think its a better result for our democracy than if they’d implemented everything. But it is kindof spitting in the face on everyone who contributed to the review. And having done this, National is inviting future governments to make changes without consensus, which could be even worse.

    It also raises the question of what our political parties could reach consensus on, and why at least those changes are not going to be implemented. And if the answer is “none”, then it suggests that consensus is simply too high a bar, and that the government set up the review to fail all along.”


    • Tamati 10.1

      I think this whole issue reinforces the importance of the constitutional review. You simply can’t have politicians drawing up their own rules.

      I disagree with I/S about trying to make parliament more representative though. Already we have seven parties represented in parliaments, with a broad spectrum of ideologies and policies. TBH the only group who aren’t really represented are christian conservatives and I’m not really missing them! Israel has a highly representative system, and it’s safe to say comes up with pretty disastrous results. Extremists and single issue politicians rule the roost, moderation and consensus has long been abandoned.

  11. Alanz 11

    Wow! Sharp, intelligent interview responses from Meteria.
    I have never voted Greens but after hearing that, Meteria has my two ticks on the ballot paper.

    • vto 11.1

      clear as a bell and resonating

    • karol 11.2

      Yes, I’m glad she is fronting more for the party this year. I have long been impressed by Turei’s clear and sharp thinking and talking.

  12. mikesh 12

    It was perfectly reasonable for minor parties such as UF, ACT and Mana to oppose the commission’s recommendations. After all if any of them happened to score, say, 3% support, which would entitle them to 4 seats, then in a proportional representation system they should be allowed their 4 seats. But, equally, a party like the Conservatives can argue that if they are not allowed list seats because they didn’t reach the threshold then other parties that did not reach the the threshold should not be allowed, on the basis of winning an electorate seat, list seats either.

    It seems to me that the only solution which would keep all contenders happy would be to get rid of the threshold altogether. The fact that this solution would be fair to all parties overrides, in my opinion, the main objection viz that it could lead to a proliferation of small parties.

    • Colonial Viper 12.1

      No orphan single MP parties unless they represent an electorate.

      • mikesh 12.1.1

        We have three ‘orphan” single parties in parliament at present. What diffderence does it make to the parliament whether they represent an electorate or not? But in any case “orphan” parties would, I think, be a small price to pay in return for a system which gives all parties represenentation in proportion to their support.

    • felix 12.2

      And anyway, what’s the matter with a proliferation of small parties? It’s not as if the large ones are demonstrating a commitment to mind-blowingly high standards.

  13. AmaKiwi 13

    Would the people have voted in a referendum to:

    Lower taxes for the rich?
    Approve TPPA?
    Destroy local government in Auckland?
    Make Gerry Brownlee Czar of Christchurch?
    Approve Labour’s Seabed and Foreskin bill?
    Allow casinos?
    Allow all our major banks to be sold to foreigners?
    Allow party drugs (legal highs)?
    Have GST. Raise GST from 10% to 12 1/2 % and now 15%?
    Sell off Mighty River Power?
    Reject changes to MMP?
    Approve the Sky Casino deal?
    Give GCSB more power?
    Allow the appointment of Susan de Void?
    Treat our military like serfs.
    Destroy unions?
    Cut industrial safety inspection?
    Allow foreign companies to plunder our fishing grounds?

    Etc., etc., etc.

    We (the overwhelming majority of us) have a very low opinion of MPs of ALL parties.

    Why do we let people we don’t trust and consider incompetent run our country?

    Our political system is dysfunctional. The people should be sovereign, not the politicians.

    • ianmac 13.1

      The “Collins Consensus” (actually = Unanimous) would stop any Bill from being presented let alone passed -ever. Unless it was a Bill doubling MP Salaries.

      • karol 13.1.1

        I laughed at Collins on RNZ this morning saying that the majority of parties do not agree with the electoral commission’s recommendations: she referred to something like 5 parties not agreeing. So that would include 2 one-man parties (UF, ACT), National & 2 other small parties?

    • Ugly Truth 13.2

      “The people should be sovereign, not the politicians.”

      Sovereign. A person, body, or state in which independent and supreme authority is vested; a chief ruler with supreme power; a king or other ruler with limited power.

      Sovereignty. The supreme, absolute, and uncontrollable power by which any independent state is governed; supreme political authority; paramount control of the constitution and frame of government and its administration; the self-sufficient source of political power, from which all specific political powers are derived; …

      Black’s dictionary of law, 5th edition.

      Sovereignty is vested in a state, it is not assumed. Sovereignty is a purely abstract concept, in reality no sovereign state has absolute and uncontrollable power. Sovereignty embodies the concept of being at the top of the hierarchy, but just because a group has a hierarchical structure with a single member at the top, it does not mean that the power of that group is supreme, absolute, or uncontrollable.

      As for the sovereignty of a people, this maxim of the common law is relevant.

      Derativa potestas non potest esse major primitiva. The power which is derived cannot be greater than that from which it is derived.

      It’s meaningless to talk of the sovereignty of a people unless the source of power is understood.
      The common law describes this source of power, but the civil state denies both denies the existence of the source and claims the benefits arising from it.

  14. fambo 14

    Best to let sleeping dogs lie. Any changes National made would only make matters worse

  15. tracey 15

    Only two days ago Joyce was railing att eh Greens for undermining democracy with their stance on the casino deala nd compensation… He and Collins obviously never talk!

  16. Tanz 16

    maybe Labour shouild push the recommended changes to MMP as in promising to make the changes if they win next years election. What a loss for democracy though, with Key once again, holding all the trump cards. He will do anything to win votes and stay in power, no matter how unprincipled.

  17. freedom 17

    Consensus comes from consultation. Which as we have heard today, was not exactly forthcoming from Judith Collins, and now we hear that is not “actually” her job.

    Well sorry Judith, but it is “actually”
    You even “actually” said so yourself “actually”.
    ““The Government will now carefully consider the Commission’s recommendations and will be consulting with other parties in Parliament for their views,” Ms Collins said.”


  18. the pigman 18

    I thought the best bit of all this was Collins as quoted in an earlier stuff.co.nz article:

    She said it was not her role to “do deals” on MMP reform.

    “I’m actually not a party leader, I’m the Minister of Justice”, she said.

    “But I will be soon”, she could be heard muttering under her breath. Even from here, I can almost hear the echoes of her dark incantations over a cauldron somewhere in Nu Zihl.

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    Helen Clark showed her characteristic drive and determination in her campaign to be UN Secretary General, and most New Zealanders will be disappointed she hasn't been selected, says the Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. "Helen Clark has been an ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Māori need answers on Land Court job losses
    Māori landowners, Māori employees and Treaty partners need answers after a Ministry of Justice consultation document has revealed dozens of roles will be disestablished at the Māori Land Court, says Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Key’s ‘efficiencies’ = DHBs’ pain
          John Key’s talk of ‘efficiencies’ ignores the fact the Government is chronically underfunding health to the tune of $1.7 billion, says Labour’s Acting Health spokesperson Dr David Clark.       ...
    2 weeks ago
  • More than 1,300 schools to face budget cuts
    The latest Ministry of Education figures reveal thousands of schools will face cuts to funding under National’s new operations grant funding model, says Labour's Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Speculation fever spreads around country
    House prices in Wellington, Hamilton and Tauranga are going off as a result of uncontrolled property speculation spilling over from the Auckland market, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  “Speculators who have been priced out of Auckland are now fanning ...
    3 weeks ago
  • New Zealand lags on aid targets
      The National Government needs to live up to its commitments and allocate 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on development assistance, says Labour’s spokesperson on Pacific Climate Change Su’a William Sio.  “The second State of the Environment Report ...
    3 weeks ago
  • War on drugs needs more troops
    The Minister of Police must urgently address the number of officers investigating illegal drugs if she is serious about making a dent in the meth trade, says Labour’s Police spokesperson Stuart Nash.  “Answers from written questions from the Minister show ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Doctors strike symptom of health cuts
    The notice of strike action issued by the junior doctors today is the result of years of National’s cuts to the health system, says Labour’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr David Clark. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Government starves RNZ into selling Auckland asset
    Just weeks after TVNZ opened its refurbished Auckland head office costing more than $60 million, RNZ (Radio New Zealand) has been forced to put its Auckland office on the market to keep itself afloat, says Labour’s Broadcasting spokesperson Clare Curran. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Government must be more than a bystander on the economy
    Despite what he might think John Key is not a political commentator, but actually a leader in a Government who needs to take responsibility for the conditions that mean a rise in interest rates, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.  “John ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Māori Party all hui no-doey on housing
    The Māori Party should stop tinkering and start fixing tragic Māori housing statistics in the face of a national housing crisis, says Labour’s Māori Development spokesman Kelvin Davis. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Labour committed to eliminating child poverty
    Labour accepts the challenge from Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft to cut child poverty and calls on the Prime Minister to do the same, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. ...
    3 weeks ago