Political establishment target Vote for Change

Press Release – Vote for Change

ASA dismiss complaint – Vote for Change is concerned that pro-MMP groups are trying to stifle genuine public debate on a key deficiency of MMP.MEDIA RELEASE

Political establishment target Vote for Change for pointing out that to work MMP needs more MPs.

ASA dismiss complaint.

17 November 2011 EMBARGOED UNTIL 4PM

Vote for Change is concerned that pro-MMP groups are trying to stifle genuine public debate on a key deficiency of MMP.

A complaint regarding Vote for Change advertisements that point out that only MMP requires 120 MPs to function properly has been rejected by the Advertising Standards Authority.

The ASA decision is being released at 4pm and will be posted on their website.

“There are people trying to prevent us pointing out the fact that MMP makes it much harder than the other systems to reduce the number of MPs” says Vote for Change Spokesperson Jordan Williams.

“They seem to be trying to gag us and stop us explaining the implications of our current voting system.”

‘The last time there was a push for a reduction in the number of MPs, MMP was used as the excuse not to do it, but the Wellington establishment is now trying to gag us from pointing out that the other systems could work with fewer MPs.”

‘It saddens us that political interests are trying to misuse the Advertising Standards Authority process to shut down political debate.

While this referendum cannot result in reducing the number of MPs, a member of the Constitutional Review Panel which is tasked with assessing the size of Parliament has told us that the choice of voting system is an essential consideration.”

‘Just because the politicians have told voters that we must assume each voting system has the same number of MPs, the public should not have their head in the sand and are entitled to consider the relationship between the choice at the referendum and size of Parliament.” In 2006 Parliament considered a bill to reduce the number of MPs to 99.

Submitters argued that with fewer members Parliament, it would lose its proportionality, which is a cornerstone of the MMP system.

“In 2006 the National Party said it agreed that the size of Parliament should be reduced but that it would be too difficult under MMP.

But it appears pro-MMP groups are trying to prevent us from educating the public on that point.” 81.5 per cent of electors voted in favour of reducing the number of MPs to 99 in a referendum held in 1999.

“Despite that overwhelming support groups are trying to arguing that the public is not entitled to take into consideration the fact that MMP favours retaining more MPs than the alternative systems.”

‘No group has been able to show that our statements that MMP requires 120 MPs to function properly is incorrect or misleading.

The words used on the diagram are not misleading.”

‘Some might genuinely disagree with us on what we consider the flaws of MMP.

But debate and advocacy is what democracy is about.

The politicians and pro-MMP groups need to be less precious.” The diagram is available at: http://www.voteforchange.org.nz/wp- content/uploads/2011/11/Vote-for-Change-diagram1.jpg Vote for Change did agree to change one aspect of the diagram and include an additional arrow between “keep MMP” and the second question that asks what voting system would be preferred if Kiwis tick ‘change’.

ENDS
Please see attached Q&A sheet on the basis of the complaints made, the advertisement in question and Vote for Change’s position.
Alleged misleading advertising: Q&A What did the complaint relate to?

The complaint relates to a “how will you vote in the referendum” diagram available on the Vote for Change website and distributed to Vote for Change supporters, members and attendees at public meetings.

Why was the diagram alleged to be misleading or incorrect?

Vote for Change stated that MMP “requires 120 MPs” and the other systems “could work with 99 MPs”.

The referendum is not directly on that point and for the purposes of the referendum Parliament has presented each voting system option as having 120 members of Parliament.

Why does Vote for Change stand by the material?

While the politicians have legislated that the Electoral Commission and public education campaign must assume that Parliament has 120 members under any system1 that does not mean that New Zealanders should not be able to consider the fact that MMP favours having a larger Parliament.

Why doesn’t MMP work with less than 120 MPs but the other options could?

The electorate seats under MMP are not proportional and tend to favour the two large parties, additional list MPs are needed to ensure that the Parliament is proportional.

1 Clause 2(1) Schedule 2, Electoral Referendum Act 2010.

How will you vote in the referendum?

Keep or Change?

> Very complicated
> Electorates have multiple MPs, some up to 7
> Rank candidates in order of preference or opt for parties’ choices
> Similar results for small parties as MMP
> Could work with 99 MPs^
> Current system
> 50 List MPs
> Parties control who is on the List
> Minor parties decide who is PM
> Party vote most important
> Requires 120 MPs^ MMP Keep MMP* CHANGE** STV SM PV FPP
> Fair compromise between MMP & FPP
> 30 List MPs
> Minor parties still in Parliament
> Major parties more likely to have majority
> Both votes count in final result
> Could work with 99 MPs^
> No List MPs
> Rank candidates in order of preference
> If no candidate …………………………..

preferences lowest polling candidate removed and 2nd preferences allocated to remaining candidates
> Could work with 99 MPs^
> Old system
> No List MPs
> Minor parties unlikely to get into Parliament
> Party with most seats (not necessarily most votes) wins
> Could work with 99 MPs^ * Leads to a ‘Review’ of MMP. MPs/parties ultimately decide whether to adjust current system. No chance for Kiwis to reject changes.

** Leads to referendum in 2014. Choice between MMP & alternative. 3 years for Kiwi voters to decide.

^ All of the options at the current referendum are based on a 120 seat Parliament. The Constitutional Review Panel is examining the size of Parliament separately.

www.voteforchange.org.nz AUTHORISED BY VOTE FOR CHANGE SOCIETY INCORPORATED LEVEL 2, 28 GREY STREET, WELLINGTON MMP could possibly function with 99 MPs, but its key feature, proportionality would be undermined unless the number of electorates is reduced.

The South Island has a guarantee of 16 electorate seats as it is regarded as impractical to have less (due to the Island’s geographic size).

The other systems do not have the proportionality or overhang problem.

Is the number of MPs fixed at 120?

For the purposes of this referendum, the number of MPs will not change.

But the Constitutional Review Committee is tasked with reassessing the size of Parliament.2 Clearly the choice of electoral system will impact on that assessment.

Whether a voting system can cope with a few numbers of MPs is a valid consideration for New Zealanders.

Why does Vote for Change consider the point important when Parliament has said that each system is to have 120 MPs for the purpose of the Referendum?

The Constitutional Review Panel is shortly to consider the size of Parliament.

The choice of voting system has a clear impact on those considerations.

A 2006 Select Committee Report3 on a member’s bill to reduce the size of Parliament to 99 MPs demonstrates that MMP was a factor in rejecting the proposal: “A number of submitters commented that a reduction in members’ numbers would affect several functions of Parliament adversely and reduce its effectiveness.

Some argued that any reduction in members would create unnecessary overhang seats in Parliament.

Others argued that the current electorates would increase in size.”

The National Party members of the Committee commented: “National members think there is a good case for reducing the number of members of Parliament but have grave doubts about the effectiveness of the MMP electoral system with 99 members.

Our concerns about the effectiveness of a 99-member MMP Parliament were supported by evidence presented to the committee by experts on electoral law.”

Is it unusual for the ASA to be used in this manner?

Yes.

Whether a particular voting system is best suited for a certain number of MPs is clearly an argument open to debate.

It appears that the pro-MMP groups that have complained are trying to create a duty on Vote for Change to present the pro-MMP arguments.

The Labour Party would not use the ASA to investigate a claim by National that youth rates create jobs.

National would not complain to the ASA on claims that selling state 2 See http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/govt-begins-cross-party-constitutional-review 3 Report of the Justice and Electoral Committee on the Electoral (Reduction in Number of Members of Parliament) Amendment Bill.

Available at http://www.parliament.nz/NR/rdonlyres/067094C5-47A4- 43AA-AE7F-5D7C15B55D3E/36327/DBSCH_SCR_3542_3576.pdf electricity assets will result in increased electricity prices.

Experts would disagree.

The competition of ideas and advocacy is what politics and the referendum is about.

Sadly it appears that the complainants determined to shut down Vote for Change want to prevent Vote for Change from raising the issue the politicians want off the table.

What did the ASA say about the claim that MMP requires more MPs to work?

In considering the references in the advertisement to the number of MP’s in the various voting systems, the Complaints Board considered that the statements that alternative systems could (emphasis added) function with 99 MPs was in fact accurate, even though the current legislation sets the number of MPs at 120.

On this basis, the Complaints Board considered the information provided in the advertisement did not meet the threshold to be likely to mislead or deceive the consumers, taking into account the importance of robust debate.

Is the decision available online?

Yes, the decision will appear online at 4pm today on the ASA website.

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