An acceptable political system?

These days no western democratic systems seem to be capable of taking the wise and courageous steps needed to produce social equality and to save the planet.

How does our parliamentary system work?

By Russell Marshall

MMP advertAs the 2014 General Election approaches it is worth thinking about our present parliamentary system and how it currently works. Non binding referenda in 1992 produced an 85% preference for change from our inherited first past the post British system. On the question of which of the other systems people wanted, 65% voted for the Mixed Member Proportional system (MMP), with preferences for the Single Transferable Vote trailing well behind at 16%.

Pros and cons of MMP

MMP duly became the new parliamentary election system, beginning with the 1996 General Election. Bundestag As a member of a New Zealand parliamentary delegation in 1974, I looked at the German MMP system and how it worked.  MMP had certainly brought about a more genuinely representative membership in the Bundestag.

Less impressive was the fact that the regularly third placed Liberal Democratic Party seemed to wield a disproportionate amount of power, holding major portfolios for Finance and Foreign Affairs.

In this country and six parliaments on, the same scepticism about the influence of smaller parties prevails, though the influence is often idiosyncratic if not bizarre. Charter Schools anyone?

Small parties in our system

Green voteThe only enduring genuine smaller parties are the Greens and the Maori Party. I have no serious problem with either of them.

  • The Maori Party has clearly exerted some influence on its National Party senior partner, though now struggling to survive.
  • The Green Party is part of a worldwide move to greater environmental awareness and is here to stay.

With the possible exception of Hone Harawira, the remaining parties have ended up as one man bands, though ACT once had some coherent views and support for them.

Recommended changes to MMP not heeded

A couple of years ago a review of the way MMP has worked out made some sensible, if modest recommendations, for change. Had those recommendations been heeded, there would have been a proportional increase in the ratio of elected members, and some reduction in the space for the idiosyncrasies which diminish parliament’s effectiveness.

The commission received a surprisingly large number of submissions, many of them the product of serious thought. Sadly and foolishly, the recommendations were summarily dismissed by the current government.

New Zealand needs checks and balances in the system

checks and balancesThese days no western democratic systems seem to be capable of taking the wise and courageous steps needed to produce social equality and to save the planet. Our Upper House was disestablished in 1950, with the undertaking that something would be developed in its place.

We must be one of the few of the western democracies was has no such check or balance on what their Houses of Representatives do. While it is clear elsewhere that it is difficult to produce a system which earns widespread support and respect, the absence of such a monitoring body in this country continues to undermine any pretence that we are a real democracy.

The proportion of eligible voters choosing not to cast a vote will continue to decline this year.


There Is No Fat Left in the Land

there is no fat left in the land
we’ve sucked poor Gaia dry
we’ve partied while we raped and burned
what’s left? Who knows? Not i

we’re predators who’ve preyed ‘til now
on everything we saw
but all that’s left to prey upon
is us. So now it’s war.

The strong will prey upon the weak
the young upon the old
to keep the middle class alive
our children will be sold

descent to bloody anarchy
will shred our civil skin
the truth of what we really are
is just now sinking in

we’re all so nice and proper
when Gaia foots the bill
but now the piper must be paid
that means we have to kill

“we have to kill the bankers
the politicians too
the CEOs and billionairs
kill them and all their crew

and all with aspirations
to grow and grow and grow
we’d better knock that on the head
and put their heads on show”

and when were scabbling in the dirt
for anything to eat
and almost everyone is dead
“oh boy will that be sweet”

we’ll be what we were in the days
before our “reason” dawned
before we dreamed that we were gods
before our greed was spawned

we’ll fade and die a species
that might have had the stars
but lacked some fundamental thing
we used up in our cars

first published: 06/26/2011 at

how do we know that these people have been informed enough as individuals or even have the intelligence …..
Alas that sentiment stands for about 99% of the population Graeme. An example is the ignored fact that the Antarctic Western Ice Shelf is in ‘exponential melt’ It’s speed of melting has doubled in 4 years to an annual rate of 1 mm global sea level rise, so in 4 years that could be 2mm … and 8 years 4mm per year sea level rise etc, from just one source, but as we have seen not only do say the people living in the underestimated ‘high tide line’ not accept this pack of underestimates, they then sue the council to remove the info from their LIMs (?) , like wishful King Canute advisers.
The voting public want to stay uninformed, just like the idiots they vote for, it’s the dumb and stupid leading the dumber and more stupid, voting only confirms it.
The last human generation is 8 years old now, and voting isn’t going to do a blooding thing to reverse that.
Sorry better not breach the self imposed ignorance of you all.
Thank god for the left, they are all telling the truth ie Kiwi Saver
Not sure I can wait 17 weeks to go and tick a square for future generations?
Sorry I mean tick a square for the guy who has promised ME the most, stuff the kids.

Hey Robert, make sure you bring out that pushbike for work, leave the car at home.

wise and courageous steps needed to produce social equality and to save the planet.
Yeah right, Alan you are talking about idiot, selfish, short sighted humans here.
First the planet doesn’t need saving …. we do ) and as we have gone past several points of no return ie the methane clathrate gun and the exponential melt of Antarctica, to name only 2, there is zero chance of ‘social equality’, which would take more atmosphere than the planet has to ‘produce’, meaning giving the general masses an equal slice of the pie would destroy what habitable parts of the planet that are left – several square miles of Africa maybe? –
Politicians and democracy will never fix the ‘problems’, even a mass die off will not stop what is already in motion, martial law will not stop it, but might postpone the atrocities humans will commit ?
We are 8 years into the last human generation, but no one wants to understand that.

Hello Russell, I don’t think we are a ‘Real Democracy’. How can we truly have a democratic result if the percentage of eligible voters that vote is low and furthermore if it is declining? Perhaps we need to instigate certain changes that would make these voters vote, but even then if one has to vote, how do we know that these people have been informed enough as individuals or even have the intelligence, instead of going eeny meeny miney mo.