Ardern assures any MMP threshold changes wouldn't take effect in 2020 election, despite Little hours earlier saying they could; Bridges says changes would need cross-party support

Ardern assures any MMP threshold changes wouldn't take effect in 2020 election, despite Little hours earlier saying they could; Bridges says changes would need cross-party support
Andrew Little by Jacky Carpenter.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is ruling out making changes to MMP that would affect the 2020 election.

She says passing legislation that would come into effect before the next election, to lower the threshold of support political parties need to get into Parliament from 5% to 4%, would be inappropriate. 

Her comments made on Tuesday afternoon follow Justice Minister Andrew Little on Tuesday morning delivering a different message.

Little said that although he was more “sympathetic” to letting voters decide through a referendum whether the threshold should be changed, he wouldn’t rule out making this change before the 2020 election.

As initially reported by interest.co.nz, Little said there was a willingness to make the MMP system fairer, so Labour, the Greens and NZ First were discussing whether to do so through passing legislation or through a referendum.

He said it would be “unlikely” for a potential law change to come into effect before the election; his primary reason being that the Government would struggle to find time in the legislative timetable to make the change.

Yet he didn’t rule this out, saying there was also “a possibility” the law could be changed before 2020, but only come into effect in the 2023 election.

Little conceded that because reducing the threshold would be a “significant and material” change to the system, he’d rather the decision be left to the public.  

National Party Leader Simon Bridges said it would be "outrageous" for the Government to "rort the system" by passing legislation to "save their bacon at the next election".

He said a referendum was an option, but if the Government was to change the law on its own accord, it would need to get cross-party support. 

“I’m available, I’m happy to talk and discuss various constitutional issues," Bridges said.

But he acknowledged most of his caucus would rather the threshold be kept at 5%. 

NZ First Leader Winston Peters said his position was that if you couldn't get to 5%, you shouldn't be in Parliament. 

Little said a referendum would remove allegations politicians were acting in self-interest.

If voters were given the option of voting on MMP reform as they cast their votes in the 2020 general election, Little said his preference would be for the question to be presented in a simple “yes/no” format. Ideally the same would go for the other referendum issue voters would be presented with on cannabis decriminalisation/legalisation.

Sixty-four percent of respondents to a recent 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll said the current 5% threshold was “about right”. Twelve percent thought it was too high, 13% too low and 11% didn’t know.

Little didn't commit to adopting Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman’s Electoral Strengthening Democracy Member’s Bill, as a Government Bill.

The Bill proposes changing the law in line with recommendations from a 2012 MMP review conducted by the independent Electoral Commission.

These include reducing the threshold for a party to get into Parliament to 4% and removing the coat-tails rule.

Ghahraman’s Bill also seeks to ban overseas political donations, reduce the donor anonymity threshold, allow prisoners to vote, and enable voters of Maori decent to change roll type at any time.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

66 Comments

Comment Filter

Highlight new comments in the last hr(s).

I like some parts but others just seem to be the greens strengthening their own position.

The recommendations were made by a review during Nationals term. And there is nothing unjust about a lower threshold, personally i'd prefer to see it halved (2.5% = 3 seats) or even dropped to the two seats level. OR, party votes being transferrable STV style. Rank your parties so your party vote doesn't ever get discarded.

@ PRAGMATIST .................. Wow man , how many seats do you want to have in Parliament to accommodate everyone ?

I'd favour a reduction to about 80ish.. 120 is already way to many. Not sure how you leapt to having party votes counted STV style would require an increase in the number of seats.

Given dearth of talent in Labour I would oppose any reduction. MP's need a term or two to learn the ropes in parliament before becoming ministers. Which means that you 2-3x as many MP's in each of major parties as what you have in your front bench.

But parties also need to get much more aggressive in cutting out dead wood after they have done 1-2 terms in parliament without showing ability needed to become effective ministers. They really almost need to have leadership training services for MP's in their first term in parliament to coach them in the skills they need.

Or perhaps we should only vote for those who are ready to be MP's. I'm sorry... but proposing we increase the amount of MP's cos we effectively need some sort of training or apprenticeship scheme is daft.

How about we halve the number of MP's double the salary and ensure the elected officials are ready to do the job.

Given the dearth of talent in Labour (and the Nats imho), this is a reason to include other new parties who are likely to do a much better job. Not sure they could be worse.

Which part of "proportional" confuses you @Boatman? There will be the same number of seats. As it is NZ already voted for 99 as opposed to 120 MP's in 1999 overwhelmingly, unsurprisingly there are still 120+ chugging down slops at the trough.

Any lowering of the threshold MUST come at the very least with the dtiching of the coat tailing rule, which was part of that review. But thanks for saving me having to go through it all again after the last article about this.

Simon Bridges should shut his gob about this seeing as it was his party via Judith Collins binning the recommendtions when they came back to parliament. THAT was the real rort. Stupid man.

Yep go STV style and let voters decide election outcome not some never-been Winston.

Exactly. The current all or nothing 5% threshold is a massive hurdle for new parties. Using a STV system would encourage voters to select their first choice i.e. TOP rather than going for their second pick because they were unsure if they would get over 5%.

I'm surprised they haven't implemented STV already. It seems like simple solution that almost everyone would be happy with.

Indeed, after all it's done wonders for Australia

Agree - The Aussies have STV and despite their pollies wild shenanigans still have arguably one of the world's most successful economies that has never had a recession in over 25 + years.

Can't be all bad !

NO !

We dont need any more unemployable people who cannot get proper jobs, mostly from the lunatic fringes of society, climbing on the political gravy train and ending up in Parliament on taxpayer largesse .

thats no way to talk about your beloved national party
especially the ones that brought their list seat

I did not vote Nartional in the last election BTW

Neither did I and we both had the same foresight & rationale, and I am both pleased and relieved that the strategy (ie a safety brake in the works) has largely worked.

Exactly, so hopefully this green members bill gets passed and the good people of Epsom will be saved from the David Seymour show next election

they need to do away with that part of MMP,
it should be 4% to bring in other MPs or you can win your set as an independant

Heaven forbid people vote for who they think might best represent them.

"Saved" from the guy they voted for with their own free-will?

That's a new take on democracy.

They didn't vote for Seymour.. they voted for an extra vote for national wearing a Seymour mask.

No-one voted for the greens either by that logic.

Dunno how you figure that.. Voting Green doesn't result in the Greens coat tailing in an extra seat or two, they get enough votes in their own right to pass the 5% threshold. (As ACT once did)

Look at the Epsom party votes.. ACT got less party votes in Epsom than TOP, Greens or NZF did. They aren't voting Seymour because they like ACTs policies, they vote Seymour because its a nice little lapdog for National and drags an extra vote or two in because of the overhang. And its encouraged by National because everybody knows exactly is going on.

If this is passed without a referendum it would confirm my view of the Left as fundamentally interested in power at any cost.

Excuse bloody me, but have you forgotten what happened when we had our say about this is 2012!? The action of the Nats and Judith Collins in particular was spectacularly arrogant.

Nice selective memory, I must say, in your defence.

Yea, so NOT changing an electoral rule is not the same as changing one explicitly to benefit yourselves. Or are you going to tell us not implementing a non-binding review is the same as, say the EFA, which was also a Labour/Greens doozy.

Had you bothered to read my other posts about this, you would already know I think that if any changes are to be made, they should be made as per the review, which, by the way, we were all free to contribute to, which I did at the time. I consider the results of that to be as democratic as anything else.

I don't need to read your other posts to know that you're drawing a false equivalency between National not implementing the review suggestions and trying to equate it with this, which is absolutely the definition of gerrymandering and the Greens blatantly trying to entrench themselves by changing electoral law.

Maybe if you can't even convince 1 in 20 people that you shouldn't be in Parliament then you shouldn't really be in parliament.

Sorry mate, but we had a promised review of MMP in 2012, people made submissions, me included, and at the end of it, recommendations were made for certain changes. National would not even let it go to debate in parliament. Among the things people wanted, not the commission but people who made submissions was a reduction of the threshold, BUT I firmly believe it went hand in hand with the demand for the banning of coat tailing.
Maybe the Greens have forgotten about this as much as it seems everyone just about on here did, but I will be contacting them and suggesting they introduce ALL of the recommended changes.
Gerrymandering btw is where electoral boundaries are altered to suit one party or another, depending on who is doing it. I recall Muldoon being accused of it in the Tamaki electorate

Yes he was not hesitant in much and certainly not, in that regard. That’s how they got rid of Bruce Betham after all

A party that can't win an electorate campaigning to shift the threshold in an MMP environment is almost exactly the same as shifting an electorate line on a map.

Have you even bothered yet to see for yourself what it is they want to do, they want the WHOLE lot of the recommendations to be introduced, the lower threshold will favour them, not sure if the 60-40 ratio will.
Again, if you believe this is why the Greens are doing this, then it is only fair enough the same amount of vitriol be aimed at the Nats for the exact same reason.
This is the RIGHT thing to do, it should have been done years ago.

Oh and by the way, I think it can be fairly safely assumed that one of the reasons the Nats did not want to go anywhere near the review was because they did not want to relinquish the coat tailing rule, hoping it could yet bring more ACT members in, so don't go bawling out the Greens for doing what to you appears just as self serving.

Again, the threshold has been fine for twenty years and people barely batted an eye; you can't conflate National sticking with the status quo with a party seeking to change the threshold for their own benefit because they are polling perilously close to it.

You're cutting the Greens an enormous amount of slack here for what is pretty clearly feathering their own nest but then lay into National for merely doing what Labour stuck with from 2000 to 2008. You can't have this both ways.

National stuck with the status quo precisely because coat trailing does benefit them - due the Maori Party, Peter Dunne and ACT, all of whom were their coalition partners at the time. The upside was bigger for ACT. Mathematical analysis has shown that David Seymour and Peter Dunne were on average worth 0.5 seats more to the National party than had they won the electorate seats themselves, so keeping those parties alive with the promise of coat-tailing, even if they never pulled it off, was beneficial to them.

In Peter Dunne's case, if coat trailing was ditched then he may not have even stood in the 2015 ejection, and who knows how much less ACT would get in donations of party supporters knew they had no real hope of getting more than 1 MP - IIRC at the last election they were explicitly aiming to get 3 MPs with 2 coat trailing after Epsom. Failed abysmally of course.

Yes, but there's no equivalence between not changing a rule that has been in place for decades and suddenly changing it two years in.

You're right there's no equivalence - National deliberately ignored the independent commission and the submissions from tens of thousands of New Zealanders on what WE wanted to happen with OUR government.

The Greens are proposing that those recommendations be implemented.

One is democratic, the other is not.

There is no equivalence, and I have no love of the watermelon party. However any legislation that changes in line with any referendum in this country is a win for democracy no matter who it benefits, because... Democracy, which has been abysmally absent for most of our referendum history.

Damned right I will lay into National over this, after all it WAS them who refused to allow the recommendations that came from the review to even see the light of the debating chamber.
I was going to email the Greens and suggest the whole review should be considered, not just one bit of it so I actually had a look at what the Greens were asking for
https://www.greens.org.nz/news/press-release/national-shouldn%E2%80%99t-...
Hello, they are seeking to have those recommendations that were binned by Collins brought to the table as they should have been 6 years ago. That has not been reported, just a bit of cherry picking by the media.
Bring it on I say, it's been a long wait!

That seems to be a massive overreaction from Mr Bridges. The way I read it any change would be subject to a referendum and effective at the 2023 election. Boatman is right we have had a lot of riff raff in parliament since MMP, and yes there were some no hopers under FPP too, but representing an electorate does provide more discipline and alternatives for the electorate than a list seat. Personally I wouldn’t vote for lowering the threshold, I might though vote for raising it.That might help raise the calibre of all political parties and candidates in general.

Ex Expat, it would just make parliament more representative of the vote. That's how power should be attained. National have no mates.

Dont panic Ex Expat , this MMP nonsense if a sneakily crafted plan to get out attention away from the Capital Gains Tax mess , and the backlash from just about everyone .

Note the story has been updated as at 2.58pm on Tuesday, as the Prime Minister has ruled out making changes to MMP that would affect the 2020 election. Minister Little earlier in the day wouldn't rule this out.

Jacinda's leadership is really poor ................ she has no control over her MP's

Now she is in the embarrassing position of dealing with and MP who has spoken out of turn on a major Constitutional change to our electoral system .

Hell , dont these idiots have Caucus or cabinet meetings where these matters are cleared up before someone walks into the corridor and shoots his or her mouth off ?

Lets keep 5% threshold. I see the current moves as crooked, designed to save those with a precarious hold on their place in parliament.

I agree , and in my view 5% is too low .

The Greens are an absolute joke

In your view, but it's not all about you Boatman. It's about allowing a vote to count. You don't want it to count because it might not help your politics. That's not democracy.

So in your view, democracy should not be representative? if 6 small parties capture 4.9% of the vote each, none should be represented in parliament? In my view there should be no coat-tailing and no threshold. Rather than giving "kingmakers" like Winston more power, it would dilute it as there will be more partners to choose from to form a coalition, and more options to go to in legislation votes to make up a majority. In other words, a more representative democracy. Sure, there'd be more bickering, but what's new...

This whole issue is being driven by Winston - using Greens as a cat's paw to hide his desperation from public (what will be the quid quo pro?). Ardern is currently rejecting it to put Winston in check over some other policy stuff they want to do. It will be back on the table if Winston is sufficiently compliant.

Winston has always maintained that the threshold should be 5%.

Yes it's a risk for his party, but a calculated one. A lower threshold would make it easier for other small parties to get in and compete for their vote, as well as media attention and kingmaker status.

NZFirst's best strategy in 2020 is to hope that National are polling low enough that they can peel off enough votes from people who would rather have a Labour-NZFirst coalition than a Labour-Greens one. I think lowering the threshold would actually harm NZFirst because there'd be less of a tactical voting element because at 4% they're so much more likely to get in that people could still vote National or ACT instead.

More shambolic nonsense form the leadership where the PM has to say her MP spoke out of turn .

What a bunch of loose cannons

If we were on the Korean Peninsula instead of in the middle of the South Pacific we would have triggered WW3 by now ............. by accident.

Not really sure what the problem is. It was corrected quickly enough and in this case was a subject that little had already substantially downplayed.

Seems better to have a government with multiple ministers who are free to have their say, than the previous "kitchen cabinet" arrangement where only 5 or 6 ministers decided everything and the rest were just mouthpieces.

It should go to a referendum with the public able to vote on a range of thresholds:
a) no threshold, i.e. 1/seats
b) 1%
c) 2%
d) 3%
e) 4%
f) 5%
Its the public's democracy & their right to choose.
The referendum should not be limited to 4% only.
The referendum should be legally binding.

Agree. For me it should be 1% ish, ie what ever % is needed to allow for 1 MP.

Why 1-5%? I don't agree with any of them.

I think 10% would be more reasonable. Equates to 12 MPs and means a party must actually have a complete bench and policies, not have a pet project that can be bought by a major party (eg. a legalise marijuana party).... wins a seat or two, sides with a major party and adds no value to the political debate on anything but one issue).

Oops should have had a look at what the Greens were seeking with MMP, pleased to say it appears to be about the entire results of tht review I've been banging on about
https://www.greens.org.nz/news/press-release/national-shouldn%E2%80%99t-...
Feeling pretty damned democratic tbh

"National Party Leader Simon Bridges said it would be "outrageous" for the Government to "rort the system" by passing legislation to "save their bacon at the next election"."

Guy's a moron, he cant grok MMP or cant see past 2020. The conservative party clocked around 4% over 2 elections? arguably then a counter to the left parties in Parliament. Set it up for 2020 and National start to look at 50%.

Call me cynical but does it seem like this whole MMP debate came from nowhere... almost as if the Greens, NZ First and Labour conspired to try and get the CGT off the front page.

Cullen has given the Government a real headache as he has given them something he himself knew he could never implement... yet expects an inexperienced leader with scant intellectual support from the benches to smile and wave and implement a CGT she has no idea how it would work.

She claims to understand small business cos she 'ran' the International Union of Socialist Youth. Give me a break..

@andyb , you are correct this is a smokescreen to enable Jacinda to sail away from the battle over CGT , its just a piss-poor attempt to divert public attention from the CGT issue which is dominating everything .

Frankly if you want every 1% of votes represented in Parliament then you need to get rid of all the electoral seats / constituencies and just have a party-vote only .

So for every 1% of the vote you get , you get 1 seat in Parliament

Yup.. except there are 120 seats so 1% gets you 1.2 seats.

You clearly don't understand how the list seats get allocated. It would take one hell of a weird voting pattern (eg, a huge number of people across all electorates voting labour in the electorate and national for the party vote) for them not to be able to get within 1 or 2 seats of accurate representation while keeping the number of MPs close to 120.

Swoops in, shits on everything and then leaves. Labour should rename themselves the Seagull Party.

Uh oh, too late, seagull mantle already taken by one "Sir" John Key