ACT’S power of 1pc

Don’t blame MMP

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION/NEWS -

Though this year’s elec­tion out­come was widely seen as a fore­gone con­clu­sion, some sur­pris­ing poli­cies – that had played no part in the elec­tion cam­paign – sud­denly popped up in the plat­form signed off be­tween ACT and the National Party. The sur­prise pack­age in­cluded a pi­lot pro­gramme for set­ting up char­ter schools in three of the poor­est parts of the coun­try, a cap on govern­ment ex­pen­di­ture be­yond that re­quired by the rate of in­fla­tion, pop­u­la­tion growth and nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, and a cou­ple of other mi­nor con­di­tions.

These were poli­cies for which ACT had re­ceived no demo­cratic man­date.

National, too, had given no inkling it would con­sider such dras­tic in­no­va­tions. Quite the con­trary. Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill English was on the record as op­pos­ing a spend­ing cap on govern­ment.

This year, only 23,889 peo­ple voted for ACT, a pal­try 1.07 per cent of the turnout.

Re­gard­less, ACT has now won the abil­ity to stop any fresh spend­ing on pub­lic ser­vices for the other 2,233,447 New Zealan­ders who voted in the elec­tion, via spe­cial leg­is­la­tion that is due to be passed some­time dur­ing the next two years.

Those peo­ple might be for­given for think­ing that they pay taxes so the Govern­ment can pro­vide ser­vices for them to use.

At the very least, they might have ex­pected to be al­lowed a vote on whether they wanted a spend­ing freeze on the pro­vi­sion of pub­lic ser­vices. Ap­par­ently not, how­ever. So far, when ques­tioned on the lack of a demo­cratic man­date for such poli­cies, Prime Min­is­ter John Key has blamed MMP.

In fact, there is noth­ing about MMP that stops po­lit­i­cal par­ties from re­veal­ing their poli­cies and gen­eral in­ten­tions be­fore the elec­tion.

In the name of trans­parency, some par­ties even sig­nal which ma­jor party they can be ex­pected to sup­port, given the poli­cies that have been an­nounced.

Nor is there any­thing pe­cu­liar about MMP that en­ables se­cret agen­das to be sprung on the pub­lic.

Very few peo­ple, for ex­am­ple, who voted for Labour in 1984 un­der the FPP sys­tem would have an­tic­i­pated the se­cret agenda that was sub­se­quently pur­sued by the fourth Labour Govern­ment.

No vot­ing sys­tem can elim­i­nate de­cep­tion en­tirely. In this case, noth­ing about MMP would have pre­vented the National Party ne­go­tia­tors from re­ject­ing those el­e­ments of the ACT Party wish list for which there was no voter man­date.

National could have eas­ily said ‘‘Sorry, but there’s been no pub­lic dis­cus­sion of spend­ing caps or char­ter schools dur­ing the cam­paign, so you can’t use us to sneak them in through the side door.’’

The fact that ne­go­ti­a­tions were wrapped up so quickly in­di­cates that National was a very will­ing par­tic­i­pant.

Those Ep­som peo­ple who voted tac­ti­cally to help National form a govern­ment were, it seems, also un­wit­tingly vot­ing to en­able ACT’S more ex­treme poli­cies to be vis­ited upon the en­tire coun­try, with­out National be­ing held re­spon­si­ble for them.

If Key wants to blame MMP for this sort of ruse, he should be will­ing to make this lack of trans­parency part of the independent re­view of the vot­ing sys­tem next year.

It should be pos­si­ble to out­law poli­cies that played no part of the elec­tion cam­paign from form­ing part of the next Govern­ment’s agenda.

MMP, af­ter all, does not stand for Mat­ters Man­u­fac­tured in Pri­vate.

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