Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Making indicatives of ourselves

Okay it’s started and we are about to be bombarded with promises of things that will never be, by people who can make them safe in the knowledge they will probably never be elected. Things will get really heated with the usual name-calling reaching fever pitch and the current incumbents throwing out lollies to the huddled masses while claiming credit for every positive thing that has occurred in NZ in the last three years and shifting blame for every negative one to the opposition.

The more observant of you will have already noticed a number of ‘windfalls’ coming the way of various communities and Government Departments. Here are just a few from the last two months:

·         Health Minister Tony Ryall announces Whakatane Hospital has a new six-station satellite renal unit– September

·         Transport minister Steven Joyce says $55M Welcome Bay underpass could begin within the next three years- September

·         The Bay of Plenty is getting 12 new police recruits. - October

·         Education Minister Anne Tolley announces four Tauranga schools have ultra-fast broadband as part of the government’s rollout.– October

·         Environment Minister Nick Smith announces $15.2 million to clean up Te Aroha’s Tui Mine – October

·         Health Minister Tony Ryall announces $10 million into the health and justice system to combat drug and alcohol abuse – October

In addition to these sorts of ‘conveniently timed’ announcements there has been a welter of ‘good news’ stories. Many of these have appeared in papers and on news sites that make no attempt to question any of the apparent inconsistencies in them.

For example we learned earlier this month that crime in the Bay of Plenty and wider New Zealand had dropped and that within those figures murders had dropped. Sexual assaults and child abuse had increased but Western BOP Area Commander Mike Clement was allowed to explain that rise away by blaming it on increased reporting. He was not asked if the drop in other offences might have been down to decreased reporting. After all, many people can’t be bothered reporting smaller thefts and less serious assaults because it takes so long to get a police response and then the courts simply let the offenders off, rather like the local press did with Mike Clement.

In the midst of all this is a sneaky referendum about the voting system. I say sneaky because we will be asked two questions at the same time; do we want MMP to continue and which of the other four systems we would choose IF New Zealand decides to change. There are many things about this referendum that concern me. First it is now only four weeks until the election and there has been a zero information campaign to explain to the general public what the various other options entail. Then we will be asked to second guess the result of question 1 and choose another system ‘in case’ the majority vote MMP out. You can, however simply vote in the first part and ignore the second, and it would be interesting if everybody did that.

However what worries me more is that if more than 50 percent of us choose to keep MMP there will be a review to recommend changes to it. But it appears our input will not be required at that stage as we are obviously not smart enough to look at such things that parliament has previously decided including the thresholds to be eligible for a share of list seats, whether voters should can change the order of candidates on a party list and whether candidates can continue to have a bob each way and stand in both an electorate and on the party list. The Electoral Commission will have that job and it’s a fair bet they will give the Government of the day whatever they want. Although their brief does not include considering the size of Parliament, which is what many people are upset about, and they won’t consider the issue of Maori representation, they will be able to consider any other aspects of MMP they choose to.

If more than 50 percent of us choose to chuck MMP out, there will be another referendum in 2014 (this time a two-horse race) to run MMP off against whatever most people chose as the preferred option in part two of the poll this year.

But probably the most alarming thing about all these referenda is they are merely indicative referenda. Government does not have to take any notice of them if they so choose. It is merely an indicative referendum.
Wanna play democracy anyone?
Only if I can win!

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