Electoral Referendum Bill — Third Reading

Monday, November 15, 2010

The ACT Party will be supporting the Electoral Referendum Bill, which we understand will go through unanimously in the House later this afternoon, but we do so with some reservations. Once again we have a problem with the fact that people who want to be involved in the election are being limited to spending $300,000. Far from informing people, we are actually restricting the rights of New Zealanders who want to participate in this referendum to inform and lobby their fellow citizens.

It has been quite interesting to listen to the last three or four speakers. We heard from Lianne Dalziel a clear personal support for MMP, and a criticism of the supplementary-member representation system. It is interesting that the Hon Pete Hodgson drew the conclusion that Lianne Dalziel was personally supporting MMP. He made the comment that Labour has never supported a political system, but that it has always believed it was the right of the people to decide on what political system politicians should be elected under, and that it is simply not the role of Labour to be advising, lobbying, or campaigning for one system over the other.

It is very interesting to compare that approach with the approach of the Green Party. Metiria Turei said that the Greens think it is very, very right for the Green Party to get out there and promote one political system over the other. Of course, the Green Party owes its existence in this Parliament purely and simply to the MMP system, as I do myself. I am a list MP here, and I am here as a consequence of MMP, and, of course, Green Party MPs are elected entirely under the MMP system. But in outlining the case for MMP in the way that Metiria Turei did, she showed New Zealanders why we should not have restrictions on third-party participation. As a member of Parliament, she can use this venue, and she can use the media coverage that she attracts as co-leader of the Green Party to put the case for MMP. She can do that entirely free of charge. There is no cost to her in standing up in Parliament this afternoon and putting the case for MMP, and having journalists and New Zealanders around the country listening to this broadcast on television and actually hearing that case. Metiria Turei says that by putting a cap on expenditure we are ensuring a level playing field, but we are doing exactly the opposite. We are not ensuring a level playing field. What about people who support first past the post? Where are they in Parliament this afternoon? From where are they getting the free publicity that Metiria Turei has received this afternoon? The Green Party owes its existence to MMP. It has clearly signalled that it will campaign strongly for MMP. It will be required under the rules of the referendum to register and to spend no more than $300,000 on advertisements. But it will have an advantage that is not available to other New Zealanders who want to form themselves into groups to support or oppose one of the four different types of electoral systems. The Green Party will have that advantage.

Interestingly, Lianne Dalziel quoted the Prime Minister, John Key, as perhaps suggesting we should be moving in the direction of the supplementary-member representation system. That is also free publicity that he gets as a Prime Minister.

The ACT Party is voting for this legislation. We think the public of New Zealand deserve to have the right to have a say on the way that politicians are elected and the way that this country is governed. But we would much prefer that there are no restrictions, which would enable New Zealanders to form lobby groups and support groups, or whatever, to get out there, to get involved, and to try to inform their fellow New Zealanders about the different options and promote any particular option that those support groups wanted. Thank you