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The test of MMP

Written By: - Date published: 12:20 pm, August 5th, 2020 - 123 comments
Categories: election 2020, greens, labour, MMP, national, nz first, winston peters - Tags:

The left’s change of fortune in the last 3 years is still kind of mindblowing. In 2017, the election that many believed the left would lose was twice turned on its head. First by Metiria Turei’s speech announcing the Green Party’s new welfare policy, where she, and they, managed to shift the Overton Window on poverty and welfare in a way that no-one else had managed through the long 30 years of neoliberalism. We owe them a great debt for this.

Turei’s speech was closely followed by the resignation of Andrew Little as leader of the Labour Party, and we are fortunate that Little’s timing and how he managed that process enabled the rise of Jacinda Ardern (imo Little is one of the best men in parliament currently, and like the Greens points the way to post-macho politics).

Forward three years, covid changed everything again. At the start of the year, there was a fair chance of a Labour-led victory but it was by no means certain. This has morphed into an Opposition in disarray and Labour having a high likelihood of being able to govern with no coalition partners.

Two other features of this year’s election are the potential removal of NZ First from parliament, and the increase in ACT’s party vote. I’m not writing off Winston Peters until the final votes are counted, such are his legendary Lazarus powers, but I also have the feeling that this time he has misjudged the electorate, who in the age of covid want a kind of security that doesn’t come from powermongering, divisive politics, but from people being good to each other and the sense of we are in this together.

Peters has long applied the monkeywrench to MMP, using the inherent advantage of centrist parties to play each side off the other and to consolidate his power. Sometimes it’s hard not to admire his gall and mastery of his trade, but this isn’t the MMP that many of us envisaged whereby representation broadened and democractic engagement increased. The Peters’ era MMP is basically FPP with the power to enforce the status quo consolidated into the hands of one man.

It’s not that I don’t see a place for NZ First in parliament, it’s that as the global crises deepen, we desperately need to move on from macho politics and I can’t see that happening as long as Peters remains. I hope this is the year we reject the divine right of kingmakers.

Then there is the prospect of ACT having 5 MPs in opposition. One of the gifts of MMP is that we get to see true colours. Rather than having the hard right hidden within National, better to be able to see what they are doing and what they want to achieve out in the open. Also who will work with them and why. ACT historically had appeared more as liberal libertarians, but this is changing as they actively cultivate gun culture, Trumpian politics, and the racism that comes with both. There are multiple challenges here for the left, but there’s also an opportunity to work with what MPP offers.

Which brings us to the Greens. Long the conscience of the left, if we listen to the polls we apparently don’t need one any more.

Two of the popular narratives about the Green Party, in the mainstream discourse but also in parts of the left, are that the Greens 1) haven’t achieved much in this first term and b) are neoliberal centrists. The right love those narratives, for obvious reasons, harder to see what the left have to gain, especially in the face of some of the most progressive policy in decades.

[tweet https://twitter.com/wekatweets/status/1287164216160354304]

The responses to this policy document from many on the left were strangely muted, as with the earlier welfare policy, the most progressive social security policy I’ve seen in my 50 odd years.

Understandably, because of 2014 and 2017 (and the Morris Dancing legacy), the Greens have been focused on changing the mainstream perception of the party as economically unreliable or too left field. My understanding is that party activists and others close to the party have pushed the Greens to now front foot the more radical progressive policies.

This doesn’t surprise me, because the progressive nature of the Green kaupapa is built into the party and timing is everything. Rather than the Greens being centrist neolibs, they’ve played the hand dealt them and trod a fine line between their values and the pragmatics of parliamentary politics.

As for the idea that the Greens haven’t achieved much, given the number of MPs they have and that they’ve worked outside of Cabinet for three years, I think it’s time to acknowledge that the Greens have really stepped up. The narrative on the left that they haven’t done anything really needs to die now. For those that missed it, here’s the list of what they have done this term.

Two things interest me now. One is the 4.4% of voters who voted Green in 2014, then Labour in 2017, dropping Green MPs from fourteen to eight. What are those 95,000 odd voters thinking now?

The other is does the left actually want MMP? At at time of big shifts of power in parliament, will New Zealand look to the full potential of our electoral system?

123 comments on “The test of MMP ”

  1. Gosman 1

    You claim NZ doesn't want divisive politics in relation to NZ First yet you then imply that ACT has increased it's vote as a result of divisive politics. What is it then? Do NZers want divisive politics or don't they?

    [if you think 3% of the electorate = New Zealand, then sorry, you are too stupid to comment here. Much more likely you are trolling, which you’ve been warned about too many times this year. Double the last ban = two weeks. Bring the good stuff next time Gosman – weka]

    • Red Blooded One 1.1

      Those sentence's aren't mutually inclusive, "NZ doesn't want …" I presume the author means the majority of NZ'rs. "ACT has increased … " means ACT voters have increased because of divisive politics, not the majority of NZ'rs. Please feel free to educate me if you are so much wiser.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.2

      The majority of NZers don't want divisive politics – ACT voters do because when its every person for themselves is when they make their biggest profits by screwing over everyone else.

    • Chris 1.3

      "Do NZers want divisive politics or don't they?"

      Wow! What a question! It really should be given the award for the most ill-thought-out and utterly meaningless question in the history of questions.

      Unfortunately, it isn't a silly question because the answer is that many, many right-wing thinking people do want divisive politics because that's the only way right-wing parties can get traction with voters.

      • weka 1.3.1

        substantially less RW voters want that currently though.

        • Chris

          I hope so, but we're yet to see the filth Collins will inevitably produce in the coming weeks and whether RW voters will like it. I suspect many will like it.

  2. Ad 2

    1999: 5.16%

    2002: 7%

    2005: 5.3%

    2008: 6.72%

    2011: 11.02%

    2014: 10.70%

    2017: 6.3%

    Greens would have to try reasonably hard to annoy their loyal base so much that they don't even make it back.

    Over two decades, MMP is alive and well for the Greens.

    • Andre 2.1

      Greens would have to try reasonably hard to annoy …

      As far as I'm concerned, and many of the green voters I hang with, the list that only has three people in the top ten who appear identifiably focused on green issues, along with the appallingly ill-conceived wealth tax (instead of continuing to fight for the much more sensible capital gains tax), come together to have a good go at creating that annoyance.

      • Bearded Git 2.1.1

        Andre….I vote Green and I like the wealth tax….what is your gripe with it…too soft?

        • Andre

          First, it catches some people on low incomes but happen to live where house price inflation has bumped them up into the zone where it hits. So they will have to go into debt to pay the tax, and taking on debt is a huge psychological issue for a lot of people that have been debt-free and don't have opportunities to increase their income. A capital gains tax works much better in this situation, as it only comes due when something as psychologically important as a home gets converted into a mere financial instrument by being sold (or otherwise changing ownership)

          Its low threshold would significantly complicate annual taxes for a lot of people of relatively modest means. If you already need to use an accountant for your taxes, then sure it's just paying the accountant a bit more for the extra time. But for a lot of people that would be caught, right now their taxes are so simple they don't even need to file a tax return. Sure, that also applies to CGT, but that for most people that would only come around rarely, not annually.

          In terms of the philosophy behind it, it comes across as simply wanting to stick it to rich pricks. In a similar way, TOP's CCT came across as the wet dream of an economist that thinks of everything in terms of a dollar price, and thinks the tax system should force people to maximise the dollar return of everything they do. In both cases, the tax lacks any connection from how society contributed to growing what is being taxed. Presumably it would continue to apply even if the assets it applies to lose value. Whereas a capital gains tax only applies to how someone has benefited from society helping to grow that benefit.

          That kind of tax also disincentivises activities such as ecosystem restoration on farms, because it forces the owners to come up with more active income to pay the tax. A wealth tax makes it much harder to just forego a little bit of lost production and maybe a bit less capital gain, when you're stuck with paying a wealth tax on something that's not earning you the money to pay the tax. Again, a capital gains tax works much better for this since it only comes due when the asset that previously had significant psychological important and other non-monetary value gets turned into a mere financial instrument by being sold.

          • Bearded Git

            Andre….A couple who have net wealth of $2 million pay no Wealth Tax at all under the Greens plan. That sounds far from onerous to me.

            CGT is massively complicated to implement and because no party will include the family home, will raise far less than the Greens Wealth Tax.

            People who live in residences worth into the millions but have low incomes and limited cash have made massive untaxed capital gains over the last 20 years. I don't have much sympathy with the argument that they should not pay wealth tax. They should take the opportunity to sell the residence and generate cash and then move into a less valuable perhaps smaller residence-often this would be able to be achieved in or near where they live now.

            I don't think the Wealth Tax comes across as sticking it to rich pricks. This seems to be contradicted by your argument that the threshold is too low. In fact it seems to come across to me that you or your family may be affected by the tax yourself-is that why you aren't impressed with it?

            I don't really follow your ecosystem argument. The Greens say the Wealth Tax will raise $7.9 billion in the first year…I am sure some of this would be earmarked for ecosystem work among other Climate Change friendly measures.

            • Andre

              Because I am a dual US/NZ citizen resident in NZ, occasionally I have to pay taxes to the US as well as NZ. That happens when I have a large capital gain, which the US taxes and NZ does not. Because of my retirement savings built up in the US that are still there, I also pay Cullen's Foreign Investment Fund tax which operates effectively as a wealth tax.

              So far in my life I have paid vastly more capital gains tax than FIF tax. Yet the capital gains tax doesn't bother me, because it falls due when the cashflow is there to support it. But the FIF irritates the fuck out of me every time I pay it, because it's levied regardless of cashflow, and it even happens that the FIF tax is due when the fund has actually lost value. From personal experience, the way the FIF wealth tax operates induces decisions that are quite a lot less optimal than would be made under a capital gains tax regime, which also likely results in less tax being ultimately collected.

              You appear to have no idea of how the tax operates, so you're just pulling ignorant reckons out of your arse. As for "just sell up and go somewhere else", suggesting that people leave their life community because a new tax imposes onerous burdens just because they've done well on capital gains – well, fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

              Take the cut of the gains to go back into maintaining society when it's no longer their home and lives we're talking about, but merely the finances resulting from the sale of property that has been moved on from. That's a capital gains tax, that doesn't fuck with people's lives in order to satisfy an ideological urge.

              As for your sly insinuation I'm opposed because I might have to pay the tax, that just reinforces my opinion that those proposing this have no fucking idea of what effects it may have, and are therefore unfit for office. So congratulations, you've nudged me further away from the Greens.

            • solkta

              They should take the opportunity to sell the residence and generate cash and then move into a less valuable perhaps smaller residence

              They don't need to do this as the tax can be deferred until the house is sold. Some councils already allow this with rates.

              I am sure some of this would be earmarked for ecosystem work among other Climate Change friendly measures

              This new tax is intended to pay for the Poverty Action Plan.


              • Thank you Soltka-helpful contributions from you, unlike Andre above who seems to to be fanatically opposed to a Wealth Tax and never really intended to vote Green.

                I hadn't spotted the ability to defer the WT-the detail is often the key in tax matters (I am a qualified accountant, lapsed.) This further bolsters my support for the WT.

                I would only comment that when $7.9 billion comes in from the Wealth Tax this can be spent on (as you say) poverty alleviating measures that are at the same time climate friendly-they are not mutually exclusive. For instance if houses are insulated this reduces energy costs for someone struggling to make ends meet while also helping the planet.

          • Brigid

            Andre it pays to refer to the source.

            From the Greens website

            "The net wealth tax will be set at 1% on net wealth over $1 million and 2% on net wealth over $2 million. This is likely to raise around $7.9billion in its first year. No one whose individual net wealth is less than $1 million would pay this tax. We have designed the tax to apply at an individual level, which means that couples who own their assets jointly will only start paying tax if they jointly have over $2 million in net wealth,such as a $2 million house. "

            "Some people, particularly retired people, may have a high value home but only modest income. These people will be able to defer payment of the net wealth tax until the home is sold, just as many councils already allow with rates payments."


            • Andre

              I've seen the effects on the mental well-being of some people that were debt-free being forced to go back into debt, which is what a deferred tax liability feels like. It can be so severe that anyone proposing something like this obviously has no fucking clue what the effects could be, and are therefore unfit for government.

              The much better way to deal with this issue is a capital gains tax, and it's a failure on the part of the Greens that they are not continuing to push for the better answer and have instead tried to come up with some sort of back-door workaround that simply reinforces the worst stereotypes about left governments.

              • Brigid

                In what way is the deferred tax on the family home of a retired couple (say) different from the CGT payable on the sale of the home. Why should one be detrimental to ones mental health while the other is not?

                The fact is really that this generic retired couple need not concern themselves about this tax at all. If they choose to tie themselves in knots over it perhaps a person (you) could assure them that actually all is fine and that their perceived debt is just a book entry and is likely to remain so until they shuffle off this mortal coil.

                • Andre

                  Because a deferred tax is a debt that the taxpayer is personally on the hook for, and it keeps building and building, and there's no way to clear it.

                  Whereas a capital gains tax is merely sending a cut of the profits at time of sale to the government, to help maintain the society that made the profit possible.

                  I watched a neighbour in the US get slowly more and more distraught over the size of her deferred property tax bill (basically same as rates here), in a suburb where values had been creeping down for a while. Neither her family nor I nor other neighbours could help her come round to the idea that it wasn't something she should worry about and there was no way it was going to cause her to lose her home, or cause problems for anyone else. Finally her son in desperation went and paid off the accumulated taxes, which she took as an extremely serious affront to her independence. I heard several other similar stories from other people while I was there.

                  So no, rather than see that kind of scenario play out ever again, I'd rather the Greens hardened up and fought for the better answer which is a capital gains tax. It's a big enough issue that I'd rather see the Greens completely out this term, with the risk of them not coming back in 2023, than having even the tiny risk that they somehow get Labour to agree to it in lieu of the capital gains tax Labour stupidly ruled out.

                  It's better to not have anything at all and wait for the chance to implement the good solution, rather than go backwards by implementing something deeply deeply flawed from the beginning. It's not like the Greens have given up trying to fight for other goals they can't get implemented immediately. Or have they just rolled over on everything else that's a little bit hard and I haven't noticed?

                  • joe90

                    My mum spent her final years fretting about interest accruing on a reverse mortgage.

                  • weka

                    Because a deferred tax is a debt that the taxpayer is personally on the hook for, and it keeps building and building, and there's no way to clear it.

                    Whereas a capital gains tax is merely sending a cut of the profits at time of sale to the government, to help maintain the society that made the profit possible.

                    is this primarily a psychological thing? Because if I own a house worth $1.5m and I have to pay a % to the govt when I sell it, I'm not sure there's a huge amount of difference between that % being calculated on the asset that has yearly accrued capital vs a % being calculated yearly on the same asset. If the day I sell I have to pay $x, the same in each case, what's the difference?

                    • Andre

                      Yes, it's a psychological thing. And for those that aren't so income constrained that they need to defer the tax, the annual drain on their finances caused by a wealth tax still constrains their other choices and options.

                      It's also important to note that a wealth tax is simply the government saying "nice place you got there, we'll take a slice of it" regardless of whether anything is happening to improve the situation. It still applies when the asset is decreasing in value or otherwise losing money. Kinda like a mafia racket.

                      Whereas a capital gains tax only applies to the portion by which the owner is better off because of how things have improved in the meantime. Which usually is quite dependent on the government doing things that improve the value of assets.

                      Consider a few hypothetical cases: someone that buys into a Titirangi block for a $1M because they value the bush and put a lot into looking after the bush. Over 10 years, that value goes up to $1.5M, with kinda slow growth because the government isn't investing in the area and it's getting to be a slower and slower commute into town. Under the Greens wealth tax scenario, the tax bill over those 10 years would add up to $25k, averaging a $2.5k average annual drain on the owners finances. Under a capital gains tax regime, say copied from Australia, there would be no annual drain on cashflow, but on the sale at the end of 10 years there would be a capital gains tax bill of $82.5k at the moment the (former) owner has $1.5M cash siting in their pocket.

                      Or the owner could have become a Kelston slumlord and bought 3 properties for $333K each, but over ten years the total value goes from $1M to $2M because of improved transport links and urban revitalisation projects heavily funded by the government. The wealth tax over that 10 years would add up to $50k, but under a capital gains tax scenario, upon cashing up the capital gains tax would be $165k.

                      Or a hypothetical Murupara small farm owner that bought in at $1.6M, but for a variety of reasons (some due to government neglect of rural regions and regulation changes) the value has dropped to $1.4M ten years later. That would also incur $50k of wealth taxes over ten years, adding insult to injury on top of the capital loss. But under a capital gains tax regime, no capital gains tax would be due because what actually happened was a loss.

                      If you really can't get your head around what that difference is in practice, you really should be questioning your understanding and whether you've got the mental tools to assess what might work well and what might be a fuckup.

                    • mikesh

                      Whereas a capital gains tax is merely sending a cut of the profits at time of sale to the government, to help maintain the society that made the profit possible.

                      There are no profits. The sale of property merely transfers the disposition of one's capital from one asset class to another. e.g. from property to cash. this is true even if the value of one's capital has been enhanced through capital gain.

              • mikesh

                Debt is only a problem if one has to repay it. For most persons in this position the debt will be paid from their estate when they pass on, whence it will operate as a form of inheritance tax. Such an arrangement seems desirable since it acts against the growth of the inequality which might result from intergenerational accumulation.

                It should be noted that he same arguments apply to Morgan's CCT. And, incidentally, Morgan is not saying that anybody should maximize his income, but rather he is saying that non-cash benefits which already exist, and which could be deemed quasi incomes, should be taxed.

                The main problem with capital gains taxes, apart from the unfairness of their incidence, is that they are a tax on capital and, since capital is what we employ to earn income, they reduce our capacity to earn and, incidentally, the amount of income tax that we pay.

                The reason for taxation seems to be that a certain proportion of our productive capacity needs to be put to public use, and, since production is usually reflected in income, the most appropriate method of taxation would seem to be income tax.

                Apart from punitive taxes like those on alcohol and tobacco, the only other tax I would advocate would be a land tax. A land tax seems fair because ultimately the land belongs to all of us, and anyone claiming private ownership should be paying for the privilege. A land tax would also incorporate a capital gains tax by default since most capital gains are on land.

                PS: I am not actually advocating either a wealth tax or Morgan's CCT, but merely pointing out the fallacies in your arguments.

            • Bearded Git

              Brigid-thank you too. See my post to Soltka above.

      • froggleblocks 2.1.2

        Yeah, the wealth tax is an embarrassment. It's simply cemented the idea in the general electorate that the Greens are far-left whack-jobs in favour of taxation policies that have been implemented in a dozen European countries and then repealed in 8 of them due to not working (the latest being France in 2017).

        • Bearded Git

          Froggle….see my post above…..the problem is Labour has no plans to meaningfully redistribute wealth at all that I have seen. Feel free to disabuse me of this position.

          The Green’s Wealth Tax may need a little fine tuning but it is a great first step.

          • froggleblocks

            TOP's UBI policy is far better.

            Greens should have just copied that instead of this hare-brained scheme.

            • Andre

              Yes on the UBI, but TOP's comprehensive capital tax is even worse in its effects than the Greens' wealth tax.

              • mikesh

                Worse? How so? Since wealth would almost certainly include capital wealth it actually suffers from the same problem as capital gains tax. i.e. Capital is what one employs to earn income and, therefor, taxing it reduces one's capacity for earning income. It is far more logical to tax the yield on capital rather than to tax capita itself.

                Gareth Morgan's CCT on the other hand seems very fair since it taxes a non-cash benefit which should be treated as income. The only problem as far as I can see is that it bases the tax on the home owner's equity in the property rather than on the full value of the property.

      • left_forward 2.1.3

        I am a sometimes Green voter and I particularly like their blend of environmental and social justice policies – I'm very tempted to go with them this time.

        • Andre

          If the Greens' current mix of people and policies fit you better right now than they have at other times, and they fit you better than any of the other parties, then sure, for you voting Green makes a lot of sense. If you can honestly say their current offering is a good fit for your values and priorities, I'm happy for you, because feeling like an existing party is a good fit for me is an incredibly rare thing.

          For me, it appears the current Green lineup of people is weak on the issues that matter to me, while possibly going overboard in areas off my priority radar, combined with some policies that are so ill-conceived it calls into question their fitness be in office.

          So yeah, I'm facing a real conundrum as to whether the Greens or Labour are going to be the least nasty smelly dead rat to choke down and vote for.

          • Bearded Git

            In that case Andre if you are looking for a left-leaning government (however slightly) the obvious vote is Green to make sure this happens.

            National can win this election by only getting 39% if the NZF and Greens votes totalling around 9% are wasted with neither reaching 5%.

            • Andre

              I don't want a left-leaning government that ends up embodying the worst stereotypes of dumb left ideas. I'll take centrism over that, and hope that the further left options come to their senses during a time-out.

    • weka 2.2

      wanting the Greens in a 6% holding pattern is kind of like thinking Peters should be kingmaker. It's essentially a BAU position, one that serves Labourites who want Labour a bit more to the left but not too much. Won't save us from climate change though. Nor provide the wide relief from poverty that is desperately needed. Nor solve the housing crisis.

      Not really the full potential of MMP.

      • Ad 2.2.1

        The Green caucus should try Norman Vincent Peale if they're keen on realising their potential. And they could start with deciding if they want to be in government, or just in Confidence and Supply. Say it out loud James.

        Because right now it really is a popularity contest. No matter what we might wish, this simply isn't a policy election.

      • bwaghorn 2.2.2

        I like the greens at 6-7% . I see them as nzs idealistic conscience. But sorry I dont want them with to much power .

        That said I'm seriously considering voting for them if it looks like labour will romp home.

        The only worry for voting for either is I haven't picked a winner in the last 6 elections and am possible the kiss of death to political parties.

  3. observer 3

    I definitely want MMP. Unfortunately NZ's version of it hasn't evolved as expected (or hoped?).

    Leaving aside the Maori electorates, we've had various parties relying on an electorate MP, at different stages (NZF 99, UF, ACT, Jim Anderton), as well as a constant focus on possible electorate lifeboats for all other parties bar Labour and National. This election is no different, sadly.

    The threshold has to be lowered (say, 3%). Then we could get beyond the all-consuming tactics commentary ("deal? rule out?" etc), and focus on what the parties actually stand for.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      Leaving aside the Maori electorates,

      No, don't – they really are a spanner in the works of our democracy.

      The threshold has to be lowered (say, 3%).

      I'd prefer 0.8% and getting rid of the electorates as well.

      • Incognito 3.1.1

        I’d prefer 0.8% and getting rid of the electorates as well.

        I utterly and completely agree with this!!

      • Phil 3.1.2

        I'd prefer 0.8%

        Yeah, I'm in this camp as well. If you can garner enough votes to hold 1/120th of the house, you absolutely have a right to be there.

      • Andre 3.1.3

        Definitely 0.83% threshold for a party to get representation.

        But there's a good argument for retaining a degree of local representation by way of electorates. Without electorate MPs, it's quite easy for local issues that nonetheless need to be resolved by the national government to never make it onto the radar. Waitakere Ranges being an example of an issue that might never get properly dealt with without electorate MPs.

        I'm uncomfortable with electorate MPs being more than 50% of the house, tho.

        • Draco T Bastard

          But there's a good argument for retaining a degree of local representation by way of electorates.

          Not really.

          Without electorate MPs, it's quite easy for local issues that nonetheless need to be resolved by the national government to never make it onto the radar.

          That's what we have local government for. Now, it may be that local government needs to have better way to get parliament's attention and have them take action but MPs shouldn't be sticking their nose directly into local issues.

          That said, the Greens have electorate offices here and there despite being primarily a list party and are quite happy for people to stop in and talk about issues. Nothing stopping the other parties from doing the same thing.

          I'm uncomfortable with electorate MPs being more than 50% of the house, tho.

          Yeah, if we're not going to get rid of electorates then having the electorates being equal to or even less than the list seats is the next best thing.

    • froggleblocks 3.2

      The sudden emergence of the Advance/Public party with their conspiracy theory ideas might be of note to those who think the threshold should be reduced to 0.83%

      • Incognito 3.2.1

        If in a Democracy 0.83% of the voters give that party their vote then that party should represent them in Parliament. If you don’t like that, keep the threshold high enough so that anything but mainstream views make it into Parliament AKA BAU.

        • froggleblocks

          Having a bunch of fringe nutjobs that take up space and get generous salaries while doing nothing to help New Zealanders is not a great strategy if you want the public to take Parliament seriously.

          We'd certainly end up with at least one religious party in Parliament too, despite all of the ones to date being founded by criminals and/or hypocrits. I guess maybe the next ones won't be?

          • Draco T Bastard

            Having a bunch of fringe nutjobs that take up space and get generous salaries while doing nothing to help New Zealanders is not a great strategy if you want the public to take Parliament seriously.

            That, too, is part of democracy. If they do really badly then, hopefully, the people who voted them in won't do so again.

            People must be allowed to make mistakes so that they can learn from them

            And, who knows, maybe one of those fringe people might come up with a solution that works and does wonders for society. If we don't listen, we'll never know.

            We'd certainly end up with at least one religious party in Parliament too, despite all of the ones to date being founded by criminals and/or hypocrits. I guess maybe the next ones won't be?

            My preference is that if those elected are criminals then the law gets applied to them appropriately. And, really, considering what National has just been caught doing with people's private health data how many do you think aren't criminals?

          • Andre

            We've had plenty of fringe nutjobs make it into parliament. They've all been weeded back out by the electorate pretty darn quick, ACT excepted (unfortunately).

            • froggleblocks

              I wouldn't regard any of the minor parties that have made it into Parliament to be nutjobs. Some individual MPs perhaps.

              But we've never had parties actively peddling in conspiracy theories in the house.

              • Draco T Bastard

                But we've never had parties actively peddling in conspiracy theories in the house.

                People who parrot that line are, basically, ignorant.

                12 crazy conspiracy theories that actually turned out to be true

                In fact, wasn't the Winebox Inquiry pretty much a conspiracy theory until Winston got in and got an investigation going?

                Perhaps we need more people in government doing so.

                And, yes, I know that many such theories are dangerous but simply writing them off as you just did can also be. After all, the people actually carrying out a conspiracy don't want people looking for a reason.

                • froggleblocks

                  These people are saying COVID-19 is a "plandemic" and spread by 5G towers.

                  Whatever historical conspiracies turned out to be true is rather irrelevant to the people we are talking about here.

          • gsays

            We'd certainly end up with at least one religious party in Parliament too,

            Looking at the line-up, The Nats qualify as a religous party.

            …despite all of the ones to date being founded by criminals and/or hypocrits. I guess maybe the next ones won't be?

            I suppose it all depends on your view of CCP as to whether The Crushed Collins Crew tick that box.

        • observer

          I can't think of a single democracy where such an electoral system has worked well, but happy to consider examples.

          Observable practice is more useful than theory in this kind of debate. There are certainly many worse systems than ours.

          • Draco T Bastard

            Observable practice is more useful than theory in this kind of debate.

            Observed practice can be used to make changes and thus make it work. I can point to where representative democracy hasn't worked too well and then it got changed to work better. I can point to where its definitely not working but the people in power refuse to change it.

            There are certainly many worse systems than ours.

            Yes there are but that should not be an excuse used to prevent making ours even better.

    • Ed1 3.3

      I believe the threshold should be lower, and I have also argued for "coat-tailing' to be removed. This could perhaps be done by applying the threshold to the allocation of any list seats – so if the threshold remained at 5%, ACT would get no MPs in addition to its electorate seat unless they reached 5%. If we believe there should be a threshold, why not apply it consistently?

      • greywarshark 3.3.1

        Makes sense Ed1. Then it would be safer to decrease threshhold to 4% – I wouldn't like to go low.er Parliament isn't a place for apprentice politicians to learn what they need to know, get practicality not fervent ideas, better that they get clued up beforehand.

    • mikesh 3.4

      I would lower the threshold to zero, and at the same time get rid of overhangs. A zero threshold would eliminate the problem of coat tails.

  4. The responses to this policy document from many on the left were strangely muted…

    The doc was released right about the time Jan Logie's inability to say what a woman is and enthusiasm for sex self-ID was breaking on Twitter, so I got the email with the policy doc and a couple of others asking for donations but was busy thinking "Fuck you, fuck off and stop asking me to fund your bullshit," so paid it no attention. I'm still going to vote for them, but it's going to be a while before I can face reading their policy docs.

    • weka 4.1

      hard to gauge how much of an issue this is for the left generally, but I agree it is a problem, and there is a strong dissonance between some of their positions.

      • Psycho Milt 4.1.1

        I suspect that, as usual, I'm an outlier and most on the left would have no problem with Logie's anti-feminist gibberish if they were even aware of it.

        • weka

          I was meaning most are unaware. Whether NZ would follow a similar pattern as the UK once the issues start to be meaningfully debated I don't know.

        • solkta

          Oh, so you are the expert on what is and is not feminism now? Good onya.

          • Psycho Milt

            I claim no particular expertise, beyond the mundane ability to define the terms man and woman, something which appears to be beyond Jan Logie.

            • solkta

              If you have no such expertise then why would you claim that a feminist is anti-feminist? Full of shit much.

              • No expertise is required to figure out that a policy that would harm women is anti-feminist.

                Also: the implication that only alleged 'experts' are capable of understanding simple concepts makes no sense unless the aim is obfuscation.

    • solkta 4.2

      You are not going to read a policy doc re welfare because bigoted views of transgender people? Good onya.

      Doesn't make sense aside from the stupidity since transgender issues have been running a long time for the Greens. I'm sure it no a first for twitter.

      • Psycho Milt 4.2.1

        Trans-gender people are irrelevant to my comment. Some of them support sex self-ID, some don't. My dispute is with the Green Party.

        • solkta

          Trans-gender people are irrelevant to my concern.


          You just said above that gender is a simple binary. You could be honest and just say that you don't believe transgender people exist. You know, just like how homosexuality didn't used to exist. It was just a disorder.

          • Psycho Milt

            I can't imagine myself saying something as stupid as "gender is a simple binary" and your fantasies about beliefs I supposedly hold are your own business.

          • weka

            I don't want to get into moderator mode here, but there is an expectation under my posts and on TS generally that we don't make shit up about other people's beliefs or arguments. I can't see anything PM has said that even comes close to what you just asserted. You're welcome to make the arguments, but not at the expense of functional debate or by inflammatory comments.

            Also worth bearing in mind that I will do my best to protect trans people's as well as women's right to debate here, including space to comment free from harassment. I am also committed to not letting TS become the shit show that is the GCF/TA war on twitter. All sides will need to up their game and fit into the debate culture at TS.

  5. Phil 5

    duplicate post

  6. Louis 6

    Well, Im seeing a number of traditional Labour voters on twitter saying they will vote Greens this time and Im in favour of MMP, wouldn't want a FPP type of system.

    • weka 6.1

      Would it bother you if Labour governed alone?

      • Louis 6.1.1

        I dont think they will.

      • Yes, as it would mean centre right voters had come onboard. We need a good outrigger for balance.

        • weka

          the danger being that Labour is pulled towards the centre?

        • Chris

          If centre right voters have come onboard wouldn't that mean that the centre had shifted to the left, which is a good thing?

      • McFlock 6.1.3

        I think it would "okay", but might lack a bit of policy spark. The Greens bring original ideas to the table – even if the policies might not be implemented, it's good to have that perspective in mind, I think.

        • Sabine

          quite costly to keep people employed for their 'original ideas' and nothing much else.

          • McFlock


            Then management fires the people who have the original ideas, and wonders why their organisation becomes ossified and lethargic in changing circumstances.

            Case in point: The NZ National Party. Fresh out of original ideas since at least 2011.

      • Novacastrian 6.1.4

        Labour should govern by themselves

      • Barfly 6.1.5

        I believe that if the Greens make it back to parliament they will get a coalition deal with Labour even if Labour has the numbers to govern alone NZ 1st I believe would be offered same – it would be Very smart politics

        • Louis

          That's what I think too Barfly.

        • solkta

          I think that is likely too but Labour would still need to give the Greens significant policy concessions. The worst scenario for the Greens would be to be in coalition without the Winston handbrake and still not achieve enough. I can see the membership saying no thanks to a stingy offer.

  7. Dennis Frank 7

    I pointed out at the time that Turei's virtue-signalling would have seemed worthy of respect if she had done it at the start of her parliamentary career, rather than waiting until the end of it. Ambushing the Greens with it struck me as poor political judgment then, and still does. How else could you read the result?

    The Overton Window is an approach to identifying the ideas that define the spectrum of acceptability of governmental policies. Politicians can only act within the acceptable range. Shifting the Overton Window involves proponents of policies outside the window persuading the public to expand the window. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overton_window

    I haven't noticed anyone here providing evidence that validates the claim that her signal did actually produce support from voters/public. Therefore I believe it was not only politically inept, it didn't even work according to plan!

    Two of the popular narratives about the Green Party, in the mainstream discourse but also in parts of the left, are that the Greens 1) haven’t achieved much in this first term and b) are neoliberal centrists. The right love those narratives

    because they are bullshit. Rightists believe that bullshit works in politics even more than leftists.

    My understanding is that party activists and others close to the party have pushed the Greens to now front foot the more radical progressive policies.

    If so, the strategy is sensible marketing – with the proviso that market research to validate the strategy has actually been done. Has it? Or is it yet more virtue-signalling? Radical progressive policies that fit the situation we're in and provide a viable path toward a resilient, sustainable Aotearoa would get my support. But if marketing them fails to lift the Greens over the threshold then realisation that something extra is required over & above them will be necessary.

    Your question to leftists about whether they want MMP seems designed to measure the dinosaur ratio. Fair enough. So far, no leftist dinosaurs have answered no…

    • weka 7.1

      afaik the GP caucus knew about the speech beforehand, can't see how that is an ambush.

      I haven't noticed anyone here providing evidence that validates the claim that her signal did actually produce support from voters/public.

      I didn't claim that (although there is the 15% poll after her speech). I'm saying that the national debate on welfare shifted. This is pretty obvious to beneficiaries. I see it in how the MSM covers the issues, but also in policy development (the GP obviously, but also Labour). There is more recognition of the issues with WINZ, and less bludger memery. The debate has shifted from the deserving poor (child poverty) to the problems with poverty generally and the need to find solutions for everyone.

    • Warren Doney 7.2

      There was a massive Jump in polling when Metiria announced what she had done. You didn't look that up? As it all came from Labour, it's almost certain that's what triggered Andrew Little to resign, and then along came Jacinda.

      Labelling something as "virtue signalling" signifies a lack of virtue nowadays.

    • solkta 7.3

      Rightists believe that bullshit works in politics

      Yes, that is why they say virtue-signalling all the time.

      • greywarshark 7.3.1

        They despise the term because it rubs them raw that they don't have any virtue themselves to signal, and that they never even try or want to have any virtue. So it's 'Shut up everybody else we are sick of your virtue-signalling'.

        • solkta

          I think a lot of right wing people don't really understand what virtue is. The only way they can understand why someone would do something altruistic is by trying to define what that individual might gain for themselves – with the only possible answer that they raise their standing among their peers. Others are just joining in the bullshit.

  8. mosa 8

    " Two things interest me now. One is the 4.4% of voters who voted Green in 2014, then Labour in 2017, dropping Green MPs from fourteen to eight. What are those 95,000 odd voters thinking now "

    Well if they are intelligent and well informed regarding the policy they would want to see implemented they will vote Green.

    No one else can deliver these initiatives around social policy , climate and the environment.

    There was a lot of policy detail to consider but for me their animal welfare policy hit the mark.

    If Labour are to capture a high party vote therefore have a strong majority in the next parliament where they govern alone then i am sure that Green party supporters ( and some Labour lefties ) will want to ensure a Green voice is represented in parliament and Labour will want a constructive relationship.

    I am out of the closet and voting GREEN on or near September 19th.

  9. Stuart Munro 9

    It's become a tradition, in the brief period we have 'enjoyed' MMP, that smaller parties are monstered by their coalition partners, and have little or nothing to show their supporters when the election rolls around. We saw it happen to the Alliance, and this term it has been the Greens that have been stymied at every turn.

    Now of course, since the advent of neoliberalism, voters have been being conditioned to accept failure, and to lower their expectations, as the powerful monied forces shit all over the governance processes specifically designed by centuries of constitutional monarchies to constrain abuses of power by this very group. I, however, will not accept failure.

    The question before us is whether we should entrust our franchise once again to a party that has fallen short of our expectations, and gives every indication of intending to do so again, in the hope that, somehow, this time it will be different.

    I am not encouraged, and, absent some kind of recognition from the Greens of their failures, they will not be getting my support this time around.

    • greywarshark 9.1

      It seems that since the collapse of Communist Russia, the USA does not feel as constrained to back up its presentation of itself as being a superior country by keeping to certain values that previously earned it respect.

      Is it not possible that if MMP and the Greens were not in that Labour would completely go right wing as it has leaned towards already? How have other Green Parties got in in bifurcating democracies – UK? Other 5 Eyes?

      Hasn't the Green Party been the burr under the saddle that has kept the small 'l' labour trying for 'honest' to its Labour label?

      • Stuart Munro 9.1.1

        It would be difficult to tell, without being a party to those discussions and even non-verbal interactions, that mark the accommodations of interest in the tottering Els Castells – like edifices of power of the coalition.

        Voters necessarily judge these performances by highly personal heuristics – adherence to ecological principles, progress in specific policy areas, lack of conspicuous failures and so forth.

        Shall we say that, in the suddenly unwontedly well-funded environment of the covid stimulus, the third-best alternatives the Greens typically obtained in opposition are not great achievements. The freshwater restoration should not have been kicked down the road for a generation like some National roading promise, but implemented.

        If this is the best they can achieve in fiscally ideal conditions, what will they do as conditions revert to some kind of normal?

        The riroriro (grey warblers) are singing in the bush near my house – the traditional admonishment to cease procrastinating and begin planting. Will we be saying to the Greens in years to come “Where were you when the riroriro sang?”

        • greywarshark

          I was intrigued by Els Castells – looked up. Human tower.


          A poetic finish to your comment!

          • Stuart Munro

            Have to throw something in there or it would be unrelievedly negative.

            Yet, you are probably aware of a great story about deciding to act, Xenophon's Anabasis. In somewhat trying circumstances, the young Xenophon concluded that, if he relied upon business as usual (BAU), he and his companions were going to perish. He resolved to act, and convinced his colleagues to do likewise.

            Unhappily, the once in a lifetime opportunity to redress the erosion of freshwater quality, which has been accelerating with the recent enthusiasm for intensive dairy farming, has been squandered, with nitrate levels being set so high that even the worst affected regions in the country – South Canterbury for example – need take no action at all. It is such a reversal of the lesson of Anabasis (that sometimes one must act), that one might almost believe that David Parker's design was based on a misreading of the title of the popular novel (also based on Anabasis) by Douglas Adams – Watership Down.

    • weka 9.2

      absent some kind of recognition from the Greens of their failures,

      Could you be more specific about what they are?

      • Stuart Munro 9.2.1

        1080, a nitrate level 8x higher than any sensible country top the list for me. But there are cultural issues within DoC that need to be addressed – non-integrated pest management approaches that burn through a chunk of funding, attack but fail to control a designated species (undaria and introduced birds for example) without community consent or any sustainable long term plan. There are conversations that need to be had – and the Bomber Harris approach cannot be mistaken for environmental wisdom.

  10. Corey Humm 10

    Out of 8 soon to be 9 MMP elections Winston has only held the balance of power in two elections (96 and 17) 2005 labour could have gotten to 61 with the Maori party , progressives and greens and perhaps done a deal with Dunne that had him in cabinet but not the greens. So I dont get why people always act like Winston decides every election, hell the greens could have given NZf the middle finger in 2017 and demanded a list of policies from national and a cabinet seat, the nats are more likely to bend imo as they have no real ideology other than power. It would have destroyed the greens but it was possible meaning that Winston didnt have the ultimate power last election that everyone makes out.

    Hear me out because I'm probably gonna vote green again but I have some real issues with the party this term.

    If the greens can promise not to give the nats their questions under any circumstances they will have my party vote, a lot of us labour voters at least 1% voted green last election out of fear the greens would die, I wager the voters who went to labour from the greens were always labour voters they just didn't like labour at the time, the questions thing and Chloes people making such a big deal about Auckland (shes wasted in Auckland she should be touring the country getting the party and weed vote out) I dunno how many lab will party vote green, I probably will regardless but I wanna hear that they will not give the nats an inch. I like the old radical greens that had a left wing libertarian tinge that was fearful of govt and corporates, I dont like the obsession the new greens have with political correctness and as an LGBT member I think their obsession with LGBT rights is insincere sure they mean well but it comes off as pandering and their members blatant hatred of straight white men does more harm than good to the rainbow community and the left, most of us LGBT dont even vote Green, ohhh and green activists turning pride into such a divisive issue and telling og LGBT rights activists they were facists and scum because they disagreed over whether gay officers could march in their own communities event was an awful period in the LGBT community and many of us if not most of blame the greens and their mates in PAPA. LGBT soldiers cops doctors etc should be able to march in uniform, pride is not left nor is it right and the parade was destroyed by that group. The fact we have LGBT soldiers and cops is something some people thought would never happen. Ugh.

    But I reckon we have to swallow some dead rats and party vote green anyway. It'll be hard to form govts in future without the Bourgeoise socialists on bikes brigade. I insult them so much because I voted for them and will end up voting for them again so I'm just truly disappointed. I don't want them to be anti LGBT or pro hate speech but they need to sort their messaging out. They have great policies but they need to get out of the Welly bubble and the uni bubble and widen their base, hopefully a spell on opposition under a majority Labour govt allows them to refresh and recharge and hold labour to account. I still hate them though. Deeply conflicted. Love the policies

    • Warren Doney 10.1

      I agree we have to broaden our base – I looked for policy on senior affairs the other day and couldn't find any.

      As someone on the other side of the pride debate, Green policy on it didn't really register as I just saw it as doing the right thing. The police could easily have compromised on the uniform issue – they were already printing T-shirts for friends and family. I saw the parade and sponsorship as something captured by big business in any case. I felt many in the community wanted to sweep the problems under the carpet because they were not personally affected by them, and I was really disappointed in the lack of solidarity.

    • solkta 10.2

      It would have destroyed the greens but it was possible meaning that Winston didnt have the ultimate power last election that everyone makes out.

      Right, so the Greens could have shot themselves in the head and thrown away thirty years of member effort and you think that was an option?

      Chloes people making such a big deal about Auckland (shes wasted in Auckland she should be touring the country getting the party and weed vote out)

      Her and Golriz work hard touring universities as well as general events around the country. Will be in Northland in a few weeks.

      but I wanna hear that they will not give the nats an inch.

      They have said that they won't be part of a Nact lead gummint. They will however work with any party on specific legislation. They achieved that insulation stuff in the early Key years for example.

      I think their obsession with LGBT rights is insincere

      There is a large group of LGBT people in the party. They have a party "network" and push their issues hard. Support for these policies is high in the party in a large part because members know people affected directly.

      their members blatant hatred of straight white men

      There are a lot of straight white men in the party. They would be the majority group.

  11. DS 11

    Metiria Turei's speech did not move the Overton Window. It did two things:

    (1) Tear up the agreement with Labour (the Greens basically decided that, prior promises be damned, this was their shot at eating into Labour's support). Combined with the Greens subsequently giving their parliamentary question quota to the Nats, this showed that the Green's cannot be trusted, so far as Labour is concerned.

    (2) Severely alienate the vast majority of the electorate. I was doorknocking for Labour the weekend after Turei's speech (this was prior to Little quitting). The response I kept getting? "I was angry at Labour before, so I was going to vote Green, but now they've done this I don't know who to vote for." And that's the polite way of putting it – Turei made the Greens radioactive outside their core.

  12. gsays 12

    Thanks Weka, great post.

    It has helped shift a few opinions and drop a few grudges.

    Time is overdue for a generational shift in parliament. This is so brilliantly contrasted by the Ardern/Collins mismatch.

    Collins politics, style and policies are very much last century. It reminds me of Dylan Moran arguing with a woman.

    Trigger warning: he is smoking in this clip.

    I figure The Greens are the best way to have this evolution in government continue.

    • greywarshark 12.1

      Yes Green minds seem able to take on the complexities of the 21st century – and can anyone in the world really handle all the fast-moving hailstones hitting at different places round the world? Look out duckie the sky is falling. But the Greens have to watch that some don't get too concerned about being bathed in the white light of purity. The field is so wide to tackle that they need to get two or three teams that handle different things and don't speak up in strange tongues that upset the others' efforts and the plan for the whole.

      • gsays 12.1.1

        It is that white light of purity that was fairly off putting for me.

        I do realise it exists in other political parties, but it is particularly white and extremely pure in some Green circles.

  13. Reading all of the above I am surprised anyone wants elections at all.

    "left/ right", centrist (?) wtf?.

    Meaningless code words.

    If we are to have a functional democracy then a return to ffp is not on.

    mmp or preferential voting.

    Regardless of our wishes, parliamentarians will vote in favour of what THEY want.

    Our mmp rules need a very good hard look, especially at thresholds (way too high), and Maori seats, lower thresholds could ease problematic questions here.

    Better still, no electorates and a preferential voting system. The country would have voted , not assorted electorates based on colonial thinking.

    Is that too radical a thought for this blog?

    " These are my favourite egotistical hopefuls in order of preference, you have to vote for at least one. "

    That would be the instruction on the ballot paper.

    It would at least be more reflective of the national electorate than the current system

    • lprent 13.1

      …not assorted electorates based on colonial thinking.

      Not sure how you’d get to that statement. To me, that just sounds like some fool with a doctrinaire rigidity who doesn’t know how to think and hasn’t bothered to dig into the reasons for different voting sytsems.

      Electorates are local thinking. Damn good thing too. They help a lot in building a more representative democracy that doesn’t just kowtow to large voting blocs.

      Otherwise politics in NZ would be almost entirely orientated towards Auckland (~1.6 million in a population of 5 million). Exclusively urban (~87% of the population live in urban areas). North Island (~3.7 million out of 5 million). etc etc. These are all issues to do with the tyranny of the majority as expressed in political parties trying to maximise their core votes.

      There is a pretty good case to say that the representation of Maori inside parliament would be even lower than their proportion of the population than it is right now if your half-baked ideas ever came to fruition. As it is for every other ethnic or societal group that isn’t European kiwi.

      Not to mention that given the recent level of immigration into NZ over the last hundred years, the early settler families representation, both Maori and elsewhere has been diluted by families of recent immigrants who arguably have less of a stack in our country and society.

      The problem with idiots with rate limited brains like yourself is that they don’t bother to think through what type of democracy we run. It isn’t a pure numbers game – because if we wanted that then everything would be done by referendum. Instead we have a representative democracy because it means that we get closer to all groups in society having a reasonable chance of representatives in parliament to argue their thoughts.

      As it is, party politics of the type that is implicit in a PV or even a MMP system gives quite a lot of power to political parties. In effect giving power to those people who can cooperate together in a party system – and implicitly excluding the large proportion of individuals who simply can’t cooperate – and therefore couldn’t be elected to representation.

      Now I’m overstating the case for effect. But that is mostly to point out just how naive your ideas are. Perhaps you should go and read some material on voting systems to see the exclusion constraints that are implicit in each decision. It’d be easier for the rest of us if we didn’t have to explain some basics yet again.

  14. Chess Player 14

    I like MMP, as otherwise democracy is a bit like two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner.

    I'll also probably reluctantly vote for the Greens again this time.

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