Myth busting: we have too many MPs

The Herald on Sunday have used the current MMP Review to trot out the old argument that we have too many MPs. This was a line that Jordan Williams’ failed Vote for Change tried to use – claiming that MMP required 120 MPs to operate, and to reduce the number of MPs we would have to select a different. That particular statement is a blatant lie, and the Electoral Commission did not hesitate to correct them.

So the Herald on Sunday claim that Australia only has 150 MPs – “one for every 152,300 Ockers” in their words. By contrast, New Zealand has 121 MPs, or one for every 36,600 people. Why do we need “so many” MPs?

Except that’s not quite the case.

If we ignore local government – then you still can’t ignore that Australia’s federal government has a bicameral Parliament, with two houses. The lower house, the House of Representatives, has 150 MPs, but they are conveniently ignoring the Australian upper house, the Senate, with their 76 federal senators.

And then you also have the state and territorial governments. Many New Zealanders are blissfully ignorant of these, and often picture them as bloated local councils. But they’re not. They have a large remit over the everyday lives of Australians.

I’ve compiled this table which really shows how much representation the average Australian and New Zealander get…


Government Lower House Upper House Total
Federal 150 76 226
New South Wales 93 42 135
Victoria 88 40 128
Queensland 89 89
Western Australia 59 36 95
South Australia 47 22 69
Tasmania 25 15 40
Australian Capital Territory 17 17
Northern Territory 25 25

New Zealand

Federal 121 121

On these numbers Australia has a total of 825 elected representatives, or one for every 27,720 people (using the 2012 population estimate of 22 million).

Additionally, I just don’t think that Australia is a particularly good comparison for this metric. They have a state system which is very different to how we operate, and they have over five times the population. I’d be interested to hear of any more suitable comparisons that people have (I think a country like Ireland would be better). I’d also imagine that there are NGOs out there that do ratings of “quality” of Government – that’s probably where I’d start looking before diving into straight counts of representatives.

Update: I’ve just noticed David Farrar has run exactly the same numbers I have. Doh.

Government malaise setting in

When your answer to every problem is a review, a white paper, an awareness campaign or a code of conduct. Shane Jones hits the nail on the head, as reported by TVNZ

Labour MP Shane Jones says iwi leaders should spend less time “dreaming of ways to profit” from sales of state-owned assets and more time on salvaging the children of their tribes.

Jones, who is Labour’s spokesman on economic development for Maori, has lashed out at tribal leaders and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples after a report today from his department said government agencies are failing the children of Maori prisoners.

The report released by Te Puni Kokiri , the  Ministry of Maori Development, criticised police for arresting many offenders in front of their children, and prisons for subjecting children to stringent searches when visiting their parents in jail.

Sharples has announced he will launch a review in the wake of the report to see what can be done to help inmates’ children.

However, Jones says there are already reviews into economic, treaty and constitutional issues and we do not need another review of what is happening to the children of prisoners because this is already known.

“What we need are short, sharp solutions. In the absence of leadership from Dr Sharples, iwi leaders must focus on salvaging the children of their tribes instead of sucking at the teat of asset sales that won’t solve anything long term for Maori.”

By the way – what ever happened to the National/Maori Party constitutional review?

It really does remind me of this brilliant clip from the Australian show The Hollowmen. Enjoy…

Mojo Mathers vs Lockwood Smith

Stuff are reporting that Lockwood Smith has ruled that new, deaf, Green MP Mojo Mathers will have to fund the $30,000 cost for technology to allow her to participate in the house, out of her own office budget.

Speaker Lockwood Smith has told deaf MP Mojo Mathers she must pay for the $30,000 technology to speak in Parliament out of her own budget.

Green MP Mathers made history when she became New Zealand’s first profoundly deaf MP in November.

She will give her maiden speech in the House tomorrow, which will be translated by sign-language interpreters.

But Smith has told the Green Party that Parliamentary Services will not pay for the electronic note-taking equipment which Mathers needs to take part in debates.

She was prevented from speaking in Parliament last week because the technology isn’t in place.

The Christchurch-based list MP needed a combination of electronic note-taking in Parliament with a laptop or screen at the desk.

He said she must fund the $20-30,000 from her office budget.

As a list MP her total budget is only around $40,000. And let’s not forget that sign language is an official language of New Zealand. I wonder if Lockwood will be charging the Maori MPs for the costs associated with speaking in Te Reo.

This is absolutely disgusting. Twitter is currently going crazy with comments on the issue. The hashtag #sackLockwood has been used.

Let’s not forget though, this is hardly a surprising ruling from Lockwood. He has a fine pedigree when it comes to daft, bigoted rubbish

He told the Marlborough Express that Asian workers were better at picking fruit “because their hands are smaller.”

Dr Smith said employers should not be solely responsible for teaching or funding training that prepared workers for life in New Zealand.

“Some of them are having to teach them things like how to use a toilet or shower…I don’t think the employer should have to pay for that work.”

Are iPredict taking bets on how long it will be until this decision is over-turned?

MMP Review

The Electoral Commission have kicked off their review of the MMP voting system. They have a launched a very good website, where you can make a full electronic submission, or a quick 5 minute submission. I’d encourage everyone to take a look and have their views known.

Under law, the review must consider the following issues…

  • What thresholds parties should have to cross to qualify for an allocation of list seats in Parliament,
  • Whether list MPs should be able to stand as candidates in a by-election,
  • Whether a person should be able to stand as a candidate both for an electorate seat and on a party list,
  • Whether voters or political parties should decide the order of candidates on a party list,
  • What should happen when a party wins more electorate seats than it would be entitled to under its share of the party vote,
  • The effects of population growth on the ratio of electorate seats to list seats, and
  • Other matters referred to the Commission by the Minister of Justice, Parliament, or raised by members of the public.

There is some very interesting stuff in there. Take the fourth point for example: “Whether voters or political parties should decide the order of candidates on a party list” – this would be a HUGE change to our political system, and in effect would force open primaries for political parties.

I’m going to give some thought to these issues, and will probably post my submission, or some form of it, on The Progress Report sometime soon.

The review is also specifically excluded from looking at:

  • The number of MPs.
  • Māori representation.

Which would both be cans of worms for the Government. Let’s not forget that in 1999 a referendum to reduce the number of MPs to 99 gained 81% support. Barbara Stewart, who is once again MP, led the charge via a Private Members Bill to make it a reality. It will be interesting to see if New Zealand First takes up this issue once again.

First sitting day of the year

It’s the first day back in Wellington for our MPs. Even though the new MP for Dunedin North, David Clark, hasn’t yet spoken in the house, he’s had his private member’s bill drawn. The Bill seeks to ‘Monday-ise’ Waitangi Day and ANZAC day when they fall on a weekend. to ‘Monday-ise’ Waitangi Day and ANZAC day when they fall on a weekend.

He’s blogged about it on Red Alert. Check it out.

And congraulations on the good luck David!