BIG NEWS: 06/01/2011 - 07/01/2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More on that referendum on the voting system

Sometimes I wish I was a journalist, even if it was to clarify answers given by Jordan Williams. Well I am a journalist, but not for radio or TV.

Also, just to clarify, there are two questions in the referendum on the electoral system, to be held at the general election.You will be asked whether you want to retain MMP or change to another system. Then you`ll be asked which of four other voting systems to choose from should voters opt for change.

You can answer both questions, or one question – i.e you can answer the second question even if you don’t answer the first one, and vice versa. That’s important. If MMP is kept, it will be reformed, the second question will become irrelevant and there`ll be no 2014 referendum.

Vote for Change are banking on there being a referendum in 2014 between MMP and the favoured alternative. Spokesperson Jordan Williams was on TVNZ today. He said:
NZers should tick to change the system this election, so we actually get to see what this reformed MMP would look like. .. It would be a disaster if NZers vote to keep MMP and we hand the power over to the politicians to reform it.
Two points:
1. Politicians will not be reforming MMP – the Electoral Commission will. The Government will decide whether to adopt its recommendations.
2. There is no guarantee we will “actually get to see what the reformed MMP will look like” if we tick to change the system as the government may not hold a 2014 referendum.What if the government decides to stick with the the chosen 2011 alternative for the 2014 election should a majority decide to ditch MMP? MMP will be gone.What if the alternative system is chosen in 2014? There’s a better chance to see MMP reformed (and sooner) if we tick to keep it in 2011.

So in sum, if MMP is retained in 2011, it is after that we will get to see “what this reformed MMP would look like". If it is not, the favoured system as voted in the second referendum question should run off against MMP in a referendum in 2014. If MMP loses again, we don’t get to see MMP reformed, if MMP wins, we do.

If you want to see MMP reformed, vote for it in 2011.Got that?

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Voting for electoral system change

Peter Shirtcliffe may be 80, but he has a lot of say in this new anti MMP “Vote for Change” group, and spokesperson Jordan Williams is merely helping him along a bit.

The group's rules show the committee has just two people: spokesperson Jordan Williams and Peter Shirtcliffe. However Simon Lusk is also involved.This committee holds office until the next Annual General meeting of the society – usually held in May - six months after the election. Perhaps it`ll be a post-mortem on the referendum – that’s if the group has not already been wound up.

If members want to call a special general meeting it can be up to four months before it is held, but if Shirtcliffe and Williams want to hold one, they can do so within 14 days of a committee meeting.

The group’s founding members include Peter Shirtcliffe, Aaron Hape, Annabel Young, Chris Parkin, Emma Daken and Michael Bassett – most signed up by Jordan Williams – all who support one of two electoral systems. The good news about this group is that anyone can apply to join. The bad news is that the couple on the committee can remove any member, or refuse any prospective member, for pretty much any reason – like intending to vote for change to STV. Their decision is final. Only certain "votes for change" are permitted.

Now back to the electoral systems and the possible review of MMP. The “Vote for Change” group believes the review process is flawed as it is up to the politicians to “fix” MMP. Furthermore they’ve said that those who support a review of MMP are really admitting that MMP is “flawed”.

On Morning Report, Williams said that his group is about discussing “what of the four alternative” electoral systems should replace MMP. Yet the group refuses to discuss the benefits of Preferential Voting and the STV systems.

So in reality, the group is about “which of two alternative” electoral systems – First Past the Post or Supplementary Member - should be preferred, with the result being Supplementary Member, as decreed. Those who support any other system could be deemed as acting “contrary to the aims of the society”, as their vote for change is not what Williams and Shirtcliffe propose.

As both Williams and Shirtcliffe have come out in support of Supplementary Member (SM), if other members disagree with an impending announcement to support the SM electoral system, because they support First Past the Post, will that affect their membership, will they be coerced to support SM - or will they be told to shut up.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Vote for Change – to what?

A new anti MMP campaign has gone online today. It’s called Vote for change – a group that wants a fairer electoral system than MMP. But it is unclear what they want to change to as they have not endorsed a particular alternative to MMP.

That is because some of its founding members can’t agree on whether they like the First Past The Post (FPP) or the Supplementary Member (SM) electoral system.

So what do they want?
We want an electoral system that provides certainty for voters, rather than forcing Kiwis to wait for post-election negotiations. Vote for Change wants governments to be held to what they promised, not what parties manage to negotiate in coalition agreements.
It appears they want a government without a coalition and haven’t thought through how their support for either FPP or SM assists governments to be held to what they promised. It’s also clear that they don’t want MMP
MMP allows List MPs who have been voted out by their local electorates to sneak back into Parliament on party lists.
So they don’t particularly like a lot of list MPs – if they want a reduction of list MPs they`ll support Supplementary Member, in the hope that a one party government can be formed
Under MMP, MPs need to listen to party bosses to keep list rankings, instead of listening to their electorates.
That won’t change with Supplementary Member, as those who rely on list places will be listening to their bosses more so they don’t miss out altogether, let alone worry about where on the list they`ll be ranked.

Like I said, this group have not specified a decision on which electoral system to support. The group says that once they have a “substantial membership base Vote for Change will announce its decision” - a decision to support the Supplementary Member system.

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The relationship between the Mana and Maori parties

Now that the Te Tai Tokerau by-election is over , questions are arising as to whether the Mana and Maori parties will be able to work together.

I doubt it. Activists and politicians tend to clash.

Hone Harawira is making noises that both can work together, and believes that a relationship between Mana and Maori is best for Maori. Yet his priority is not working with other parties, it is building the Mana movement within parliament.

If there is not a good relationship between the two parties, Harawira has no answer to questions around Mana Party gains for
Maori except for standing against the Maori Party.

So, nothing’s changed then. He has staked his political future in working with the Maori Party or taking it over. If he can’t do either, Harawira will be an ineffective MP with a leader’s budget.

Pita Sharples says that that the Maori Party will work with Mana to same extent as he would with other parties. If Harawira works with the Maori Party on his terms only, the Maori Party “ won’t be having a bar of him” according to Pita Sharples on Morning Report today.

There is no way that the Maori Party and the Mana Party will be able to work together for mutual benefit, with Harawira in activist mode. However Mana may not contest other Maori seats if the party thinks it will get enough list votes to get a couple of extra MPs. The Maori Party will try to work with Mana, but they'll be political opponents until the election – with Harawira bad-mouthing off in the media - and that won’t be good for Maori political aspirations.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hone’s second mandate

Make no mistake, Hone Harawira’s win in this weekend’s by-election was not about securing a mandate as the MP for Te Tai Tokerau – it was about securing a mandate as the parliamentary leader of the Mana Party. The Mana Party was registered by the Electoral Commission just over 24 hours before yesterdays polling closed at 7pm - and its leader was unemployed.

That mandate as a leader of a parliamentary political party was more important to Harawira than being just the MP for Te Tai Tokerau – although a by-election success had to happen for the former to occur. It was also more important than holding onto the deputy chairmanship of the Maori Affairs Select Committee. That’s is now lost as Harawira re-enters Parliament.

So for 21 sitting days this year, Harawira will be the leader of parliament’s newest political party, and he'll get funding as the parliamentary party leader. Formerly the holder of the Maori seat with the highest majority a 6000+ majority, he now has the slimmest majority in the Maori electorate – 867.

This win will make it more likely for people to party vote Mana at the general election. I think that Mana Party will be focusing on Harawira’s seat and the party vote in 2011 to build the Mana Party parliamentary representation around Harawira in Parliament. If Mana gets around 2 per cent of the vote in the general election, I suspect the party couldn’t care less whether two of the three MPs are list MPs or electorate MPs if Harawira gets his seat.

I suspect that the Maori Party will contest Te Tai Tokerau with a weak candidate, even Solomon Tipene. I also suspect that the Maori Party will lose at least two seats at the general election to Labour.

While the balance of the Maori seats will be distributed between the Mana and Maori parties, how that is done - and what these deals are - will determine the influence the holders of Maori seats have in parliament next year.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Who will win the by-election on Saturday?

The Te Tai Tokerau by-election will go down to the wire and this time next week we`ll know if that electorate will have a politician or an activist representing them in Parliament. At the moment it has nobody.

Marae Investigates interviewed three of the candidates over the weekend. You can watch that here.

The polls have Hone Harawira and Kelvin Davis neck and neck. That’s a real closing of the gap since 2008, when Harawira was more than 6000 votes ahead of Davis. Harawira has dismissed the poll saying that poor people can’t afford to have a landline phone – “young people in particular”.

Young people can’t vote, either. Many supporters of the Mana Party are either young people who can’t vote, are not enrolled at all, or are enrolled on the general electoral roll and therefore cannot vote on Saturday. But many Mana supporters have an internet connection. Many appear to be ineligible to vote at the election so are getting active on Facebook and putting out media releases instead.

Much has been made of some in the Ratana movement who support Harawira. I personally think it's irrelevant. The group is led by Kereama Pene, a leader of Mangere East’s Ratana church. He organised a hikoi to support Harawira, but only got about six supporters away from their Facebook pages. Pene had publicly said that Ratana should abandon support for Labour. I guess that call will come naturally to someone who was expelled from the Labour Party.

Ratana church leaders have responded, stating clearly that the church supports Labour.

So, I think there is every chance that Kelvin Davis can win, even though the Mana Party vote is elevated due to a poorly performing Maori Party candidate. Nearly 10 per cent of voters in the electorate voted National in 2008 – and they`ll vote Labour on Saturday.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Labour’s work rate on youth rates

Labour has something to oppose. Last night the government signalled that it could re-instate youth rates for those up to aged 25.

That is because youth unemployment is around 18 per cent ( and more than 28 percent for young Maori) , and employers will be more likely to employ younger people if they could pay them less. That also means employers may be less likely to employ older people.

You’d think that Labour’s Darien Fenton would be putting out a media release immediately, or perhaps a blog post on Labour's blog Red Alert, opposing the announcement and perhaps commenting on how the government has not provided for job creation.

She is yet to do either and it’s already Friday afternoon.

Some opposition we have here.

Again it’s up to the Greens and the Unions to provide it. Now, if the Greens could dissect Eric Crampton’s arguments as to why youth rates are good idea, it’ll be interesting to see what they come up with.

Because while there are good arguments on both sides, Crampton's arguments appear more researched.

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Can we have some more money?

Like many I was a bit uneasy about many Maori MPs appearing at the recent Destiny Church conference. Like most MPs, they are after votes in election year.

But the fact is that Brian Tamaki and Richard Lewis were using this conference to get these MPs - all Maori – as a front to get funding – including Whanau Ora funding - from the government. This is because of 300 applications, they’ve only succeeded twice. But in 2009 the MSD gave the trust $355,000 – and the trust then declared $70,000 net profit.

Brian Tamaki is a founding trustee, and Lewis is a current trustee on the Te Runanga A Iwi O Te Oranga Ake Urban Maori Authority (UMA), but last year on Campbell Live Lewis said that the Maori Authority was not really a Destiny Church trust, but “an entirely separate entity and set of trustees”. Yet half its trustees control the money on Destiny churches throughout the country, and it is registered to the Destiny Church’s head office.

Destiny Church in Auckland shares one trustee on the UMA,Destiny Christchurch shares two, Destiny Hamilton and Rotorua, two each (the same two people, Peter and Jean Hunt).

Jean Hunt is actually a trustee of two thirds of the Destiny church trusts – as well as the Urban Maori Authority, the Destiny International Trust, and the trust set up for Destiny’s school, the Te Roto Taone Nui Trust – a trust which has filted money back into Destiny Church via “cost of service provision”, despite being bulk funded through the Ministry of Education - and WINZ.

The income of the Urban Maori Authority is also made up of Government grants, of which most are spent on wages. As of its return to the Charities commission in October last year, the Trust had more than $70,000 of tax-payer money in the bank earning interest but they were given $850,000 for a Community Max scheme that cost the taxpayer more than $ 200 each week for each person worked with. But all except $10,000 was spent on wages, ACC,and KiwiSaver payments..

But the money is not coming in fast enough for Destiny to employ their unemployed church workers on schemes – of which ten percent of the salaries would be ploughed back into church tithes. That's because Community Max is finished.

Paula Bennett is a Maori, and the Minister for Social Development, responsible for funding social services. Why wasn’t she invited, laid hands on and prayed for? Is it because she is the MP for Waitakere, a non-Maori electorate – or weren’t women invited?

GOVERNMENT FUNDING OF DESTINY CHURCH SERVICES 2009-11 ( as released to TV3)

Community Max: $681,843 (Ministry of Social Development - mentoring - Auckland)
Community Max: $74,353 (MSD - mentoring - Bay of Plenty)
Community Max: $57,553 (MSD - mentoring - Northland)
Community Max: $36,419 (MSD - mentoring - Waikato)
Community response: $10,000 (Holiday breakaway programme)
Kindergarten: $419,916 (Ministry of Education - Early Childhood Education)
Destiny School: $266,313 (ministry of Education - private school funding)

TOTAL: $1,546,397

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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

It’s back to work you go

The government has signalled that it would like parents to go back to work when their youngest child reaches 12 months.

Parents can only go back to work if they have a job to go back to. The government can’t make parents “go back to work” – or even look for work - unless they are on a benefit.

But it is beneficiaries that this policy is designed for – those who, by definition cannot go “back” to work, but must find work. But it is not just any beneficiaries – it is targeted at sole parents. And in some cases it could cost taxpayers more than leaving them on the benefit. Not that it is a good or bad thing, it just is.

A sole mother with three kids on the DPB gets $326.82 in benefit payments, plus Working for Families payments. Some get a WINZ accommodation supplement.

If she gets a job for 20 hours a week she loses her benefit. But if she earns less than $80,000 – which she will – she can get an $11.52 an hour WINZ childcare subsidy - to a maximum of $576.00 a week - to look after her kids. Her Working for Families payments will also increase by $60.00 a week.

Say she has three kids under five. She gets a job for 20 hours a week at $23/hr – she’d get $460.00 a week. She works four hours a day and takes an hour to get to work. While she works 20 hours, her travel time is 10 hours so she`ll get 30 hours of state-subsidised childcare a week – that’s $345.60 - which is more than the DPB. She’d also have to pay about $30 each week to travel to work.

If she got a job at $16 an hour for 20 weeks, she’d be getting slightly more than she got on a benefit, due to the $60 In Work Payment - but the state will be contributing even more to childcare.

But - the theory goes - it is better for the state to contribute more to pay someone else to look after kids, than for a mum on the DPB to stay home and look after children.

Much better for the worker to contribute to the economy and pay transport costs to keep the buses running – because she is paying more tax.

Governments appear to think that staying home to look after your kids is only a good idea if you have an earning partner.

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Monday, June 06, 2011

Not honoured

I was not honoured by the Queen today.

Perhaps my job is not important, I’m not earning enough money, or I don’t have a big enough expense account to influence people who may wish to nominate me. Unlike two former mayors who were honoured today, I have not been voted out of the three positions I have been elected to – and even if I was, there were no awards for the important things I am elected to provide my services to.

It’s not like I don’t know some famous or well-known people – I do. But I don’t have an expense account to take them out to lunch and ask for their nomination.

Queen's Birthday honours used to feel like real honours, not a golden handshake for collecting a salary. Guess it’s cheaper than a gold watch though.

Time for a republic.

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Friday, June 03, 2011

Heather Roy’s bill costs taxpayers $453,000 an hour – just like every other irrelevant bill does

Heather Roy is upset that her bill that aims to change membership of student associations’ from compulsory to voluntary is making slow progress in the House. She says:
Since December 8th last year Labour have filibustered the bill - the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill - every members day since then…and is costing taxpayers over $453,000 – the same cost as a Hone Harawira Te Tai Tokerau by-election – every hour that Parliament sits.

ACT's figure was provided by the Parliamentary Library which took the cost of wages for all MPs and Parliamentary staff and divided it by the average number of hours Parliament sits in a year. Wonder how much that cost to provide?

Member’s bills are the only mechanism backbench MPs have to raise issues they feel strongly about. Filibustering is the only mechanism opposition MPs have to raise issues relating to members bills they feel strongly opposed to and are unable to vote down – once their supplementary order papers have been summarily rejected.

By filibustering, Labour is actually representing the voters and the majority of submitters to a select committee who oppose this bill.

If Heather Roy is so concerned about time wasting, she has several options: Withdraw her bill, convince the government to make it a government bill, or get cross-party support like the government did with the anti-smacking legislation.

Roy claims her bill has cost the country millions of dollars – but it is not money that could have been spent on health, education and funding students associations, as Parliament would have sat anyway.

But this bill is so important to Heather Roy that she is willing to spend millions of dollars of taxpayers money by refusing to withdraw it, or amend it, while complaining of taxpayers money being wasted because other bills can’t be debated instead.

And isn't it good that this lame speech of ACT MP Hilary Calvert only took 48 seconds. Pity, according to Heather Roy, it cost the taxpayer more than $6,000.

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