The MMP Review Submission deadline is today.
I'm not sure if ACT on Campus are making a submission, but here is my personal one:
1) Should the 5% threshold be kept or changed? Why? If you recommend change, what should it be and why?
I believe that the 5% threshold is fundamentally undemocratic and should be abolished entirely.
The main excuses given to justify a threshold (at whatever level) are that a lower/no threshold would allow extremist parties to enter Parliament and that it would allow a large number of smaller parties to enter Parliament leading to fragmentation making it more difficult to form a majority in Parliament.
However, neither excuse justifies completely ignoring the vote of a section of society.
Without an official threshold there would be a natural threshold of whatever percentage required to gain one seat.
If a party is able to gain the support of enough voters to be eligible to one seat, they should receive that seat.
Just because you (or I) believe a party to be extreme, should not give us the right to exclude them from the democratic process as is essentially done now.
Similarly, fragmentation is a straw-man argument. Many Parliaments overseas operate minority governments (not just minority-led with partners) and in reality, the National and Labour Parties are the two parties closes to each other philosophically and if neither of them can form a government they can figure out for themselves if they would prefer a new election or wish to work together (as we saw with a Grand Coalition in Germany recently).
2) Should the one electorate seat threshold be kept or changed? Why? If you recommend change, what should it be and why?
My response to this question should be read in conjunction to my response to Question 1.
I view the one seat threshold as a necessary evil given the 5% threshold.
If the 5% threshold were removed entirely, the one seat threshold would be irrelevant.
This would be my preferred outcome.
If the 5% threshold is not removed entirely, my preference on what happens to the one seat threshold depends on what level the threshold changed to (or left at 5%).
If the threshold were reduced to 3% or lower, I believe the "evil" of the one seat threshold outweighs the "evil" of the 3% threshold, and so the one seat threshold should be removed.
However, if the threshold were to be set at more than 3% (3.1%, 3.5%, 4%, remain at 5%, etc), then unfortunately the "evil" of the % threshold still outweighs the "evil" of the one seat threshold and so the one seat threshold should be retained.
The argument that a party requires at least a minimum number of MPs to function in Parliament is a ridiculous argument.
I imagine many voters are better represented by Peter Dunne, John Banks or Hone Harawira than if their preferred party had received no seats and their vote had been completely wasted.
3) Should list MPs continue to be able to stand as candidates in by-elections? If so, why?
Yes. Of course.
4) Should dual candidacy be kept? If so, why?
My preferred outcome is outlined in the following question, but if this is not adopted, then yes, dual candidacy should be kept.
The only argument against dual candidacy is that people who lose electorates are able to enter Parliament via the list.
If the ability to stand for both were removed, this would not affect who entered Parliament, it would simply change how parties structured their candidate selection.
Candidates that the party wished to get in to Parliament but who lived in marginal seats would simply not stand as an electorate candidate and stand only on the list to avoid any "risk" of not getting in.
5) If you recommend change, what should it be and why?
I believe that New Zealand should abolish electorates entirely and elect MPs based solely on their list position.
Electorates are a hangover from First Past the Post and even earlier when politics was a community affair, people wanted a "local" MP and MPs were an important source of help for people to go to.
I believe the advisory role played by local MPs should be left to local councils and that members of the public should approach Ministers/Departments for government related issues and approach an MP from their preferred party for help on policy issue.
I also believe that parties would assign MPs to cover specific areas of the country anyway - they don't need the electoral commission to work out these arbitrary lines for them - in fact the minor parties in Parliament are forced to do this anyway as they don't have enough MPs to assign one to each electorate anyway.
6) In an election, should voters be able to alter the order of candidates from the list order decided by political parties? If so, why?
No. Absolutely not. If members of the public want a say in the matters of political parties, they should join that political party.
Members and volunteers of a party, who work hard for their party for years and volunteer for MPs and candidates during election campaigns, should not have their views overridden by voters.
While I personally believe that a party should hold a vote of their party membership to determine their list ranking, I don’t believe this should be required of all parties by law.
7) What should happen when a party wins more electorate seats than it would be entitled to under its share of the party vote?
The party should receive the number of seats which its party vote entitles it to (this includes receiving no seats if the party only gets say 0.1% of the vote).
These seats should be allocated to the MPs who won electorate seats in that party, in the order they were placed on the list.
So if a party wins 5 electorates and is only eligible to have 4 seats, the lowest ranked candidate of the 5 who won electorates should not receive a seat.
8) [Population growth leads to more electorate seats and fewer list seats which could affect proportionality over time.] Is this a problem, and what should be done to fix it?
Yes this is a problem.
My preferred solution is to abolish electorate seats completely.
If this is not adopted, I believe that the number of electorates should be fixed and the population of each electorate should simply grow.
If this is not adopted, I would prefer to see the size of Parliament grow than to reduce proportionality.
The requirement of a minimum number of seats in the South Island should also be removed.
I’d also note that I support a larger Parliament overall – say 200 MPs.
New Zealand’s Parliament is small by most international standards.
A greater number of back benchers would also help to limit the power of parties and of cabinet over the ruling party.
9) Other issues.
I believe that an MP that leaves their party should be free to continue to operate as an independent MP, or join a new or different party.
Many argue that an MP that leaves their party is not being loyal to the voters of that party and has therefore affected the proportionality of Parliament.
However voters vote for a party list, not just for a party.
It is equally possible that a party has changed position on an issue, forcing an MP to leave their party as they disagree.
An MP in this situation could legitimately argue that they are more accurately reflecting the views of the people who voted for that party, or at least a portion of them.
Whether the leaving MP or the remaining party more correctly represent the will of the party’s voters is an issue that cannot be determined by legislation or by Parliament.
Whether they remain in Parliament should therefore be decided by the voters at the following election.