Electoral review begging to deceive

Why was the electoral law review commissioned, Gerrard Eckhoff asks. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Why was the electoral law review commissioned, Gerrard Eckhoff asks. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
The recent review of electoral law is deception on a grand scale, Gerrard Eckhoff writes.

Political deception can engage the highest ideals of worth such as Operation Mincemeat during World War 2, where the Allies needed to deceive Nazi Germany that they intended to land an invasion force in Greece.

Deception and diversion were essential for success back in the days of conflict.

That should never be so in our domestic political world, yet the motives and timing of inquiry into matters of public disinterest appear to have all the elements of a political illusion.

The review of electoral law is a form of political deception.

This review, which clearly most political parties will not agree to, begs the question of why this review was commissioned in the first place.

The terms of reference of the electoral reform inquiry are of course determined by the Government.

This interim report back has been presented just a few short months away from the Government’s own electoral D-day.

Labour, National, Act and NZ First predictably reacted in some degree of unison against the recommendations, with the obvious exception of the Greens, who see significant advantage in youthful idealism.

The Greens were very likely to have persuaded the Labour Government to hold such a review as part of a political trade-off.

The review was a form of political deception designed to advantage the Greens and deflect the voting public’s thoughts away from the real issues, which most certainly are not electoral.

Just how lowering the voting age to 16 — which is an arbitrary figure not backed by data — will magically lift the wellbeing of us all through being more inclusive of younger experiences of life is unclear.

It is reasonable to even suggest that 15 is a more inclusive age to receive the right to vote.

Perhaps even 14 would ensure even greater inclusivity from a very early stage.

Perhaps the same logic should apply to lowering the drinking age from 18 to 16?

Those who suggest such reform really do need to be taken into intensive care for an extended period — if there were any beds available.

As a mere 36% of eligible voters cast their preference at the last local government election, it is difficult to see how 16-year-olds will assist in solving the problem of voter disinterest when so many 18-year-olds don’t bother to vote.

In lowering the party vote threshold to 3.5% the review sees advantage in more representation in Parliament of those fringe parties and policy.

The reality is that 96.5% of the voters disapprove of these parties.

Recent history shows that we risk fringe parties or even just one doing backroom deals to hold the major party to ransom.

The country’s wellbeing is dependent on good judgement not good will. Surely the party with the most votes should always get to form the next government and not have to rely on some unfortunate unstable amalgam of the unintended.

The terms of reference did not allow this sensible option.

Why was such an important issue not part of the terms of reference — or was it yet again political deception?

Representation in Parliament is widespread, as all existing political parties will have MPs who hold a wide range of values.

The very real threat of these electorally insignificant parties is their banding together to block vote.

Our Parliament is secular (non-religious) yet there exist those religious groupings which would dispense with such an important requirement to impose their own value system.

As for the recommendation of a four-year term of government, history has shown that a government can in reality get a six or nine-year term with policies which resonate.

In recent times National’s John Key led for six years with Labour’s Helen Clark before him with nine consecutive years.

There really isn’t a problem.

The stunningly successful Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, out of the University of Otago, has identified how to alleviate socioeconomic problems before they start, yet no political party has ever suggested that this study should form the basis of our welfare policy — as it definitely should. For 50 years, data has been collated to find the cause and solutions for social decline.

One aspect of this Dunedin Study — into anti-social behaviour — is now the most cited and influential study in the history of criminology.

Why then do we not review the suitability of implementing this internationally applauded study rather than an academic review of electoral law that nobody other than a few 16-years-olds is interested in?

The public is being deliberately deceived by the continuous political calls for simply throwing more and more money at increasingly complex social problems.

To quote Thomas Sowell, "Since this is an era when many people are concerned about fairness and social justice, what is your fair share of what somebody else has worked for?"

Political deceptions increase in direct proportion to the loss of our democracy, as politicians are generally the most reluctant defenders of our democracy and freedoms.

— Gerrard Eckhoff is a former Act New Zealand MP.