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Mike's Minute: NZ needs to learn from Israel's MMP disaster

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Section
Video,
Publish Date
Thursday, 11 April 2019, 9:43a.m.

COMMENT:

It's always good to look at others and potentially learn.

What I have learned out of the Israeli election is their threshold is too low. They run a system like ours. We are looking to adjust our threshold down. This is a mistake.

I thought it was a mistake before I looked at Israel. Having looked at Israel, I am even more convinced it's a mistake. Israel's threshold is 3.25 per cent.

They have 10 parties that cross it. The two main parties barely get half of what they need by way of seats to win government.

Compare that to our last result: the Nats got 56, just short of the 61. Labour got 46. Short (you could argue too short) given they needed two parties to prop them up.

But nowhere near as short as say the Likud party with about 33. Being that short requires a lot of deals with a lot of small parties to get you across the line. The more parties, the more deals, the more reasons to have it fall apart.

Our example, our current government, has held together well. Whatever differences there have been, have been kept behind closed doors.

There has been the odd sense that things might be tense, and Lord knows what has been hashed out with the capital gain tax, but at some point New Zealand First, for example, are going to have to distance themselves from Labour. Otherwise, they're going to get swallowed up.

But the other advantage for Labour has been the Greens. The Greens are compliant, they've barely said a word - and as such are in poll trouble too. In the meantime they have provided easy stability.

But imagine if this lot was made up of six parties? And they weren't all compliant and they weren't all mates? And that's what you get in Israel.

And it's what you get with low thresholds - the sort of thresholds Labour want to implement here. They want 4 per cent.

Now back to Israel: what do we learn from them? Well not just that 3.25 per cent is too low and it produces too many parties and too many multi-party deals. But, and this is the critical part, the 3.25 per cent is the latest move up. They're increasing the threshold.

From 1949-1992 it was 1 per cent. From 1992-2003 it was 1.5 per cent. From 2003-2014 it was 2 per cent. From 2014: 3.25 per cent.

Now, why do you think they've done that? And why have they done it with increasing regularity? Because a low threshold is dangerous, the lower it is, the more nutters get to cross the line.

Even at 5 per cent, all we require of a party is to find five people out of 100 to back an idea or a concept - 95 people can think you're mad, and still you can get to run the country.

Quality is critical in any government, in terms of experience and discipline and professionalism and some form of representation of the wider populace. If you're allowing any form of radicalism or craziness or minority extremism in through a low bar, you will pay the price.

Israel clearly did, and they're fixing it. How can we look at that example and still want to lower the bar and move towards what they're busy rejecting?

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