Why MMP is important to keep

Disclaimer: This is just my opinion being expressed here.

I remember voting in a number of elections and becoming more and more confused. Numbers didn’t seem to add up at times and I think for a lot of us the 1981 election results tell a graphic story. Back in

the day we didn’t have all those little parties that we have today – we had the major players – National and Labour and we started getting some smaller parties that were growing throughout New Zealand. In the 1981 election Social Credit was the minor player and the results by number were quite interesting.

Labour took 39.6% of the vote (702,630 votes)
National took 39.4% of the vote (698,508 votes)
Social Credit took 21% of the vote (372,056 votes)

That looks like this in a pie chart:

Based on those results Social Credit should have got 21% of seats in parliament (around 19 seats out of 92) – instead what they got was 2 seats – clearly a vote for a minor party was worth less than one for the major parties.

MMP gives us a fairer system – it’s not perfect but it is fairer. And it means that if you want to vote for a minor party then you can – and depending on the proportion of votes they get we will see them in Parliament.

And if you’re still not sure then think about this fact: The last time a single party got the majority of votes in a New Zealand General Election was … 1951 – that’s more than 50 years ago!

Make sure YOU get out there on November 26 and VOTE!

NZCTU Biennial Women’s Conference

I spent Friday and Saturday at the NZCTU (New Zealand Council of Trade Unions) Biennial Women’s Conference.

This is the third conference I’ve attended. I find I come away uplifted by the new contacts, renewed contacts and conversations that happen over two days. It’s a chance to walk outside of my own little bubble that is NZEI (New Zealand Educational Institution) and talk with women from other unions – both in the education sector and outside of the sector.

I like to mingle – so the first day I found myself sitting with an old friend from MUNZ (Maritime Union of New Zealand) and some PPTA (Post Primary Teachers’ Association) women and on the second day I sat with some women from MERAS (Midwifery Representation and Advisory Services) and TEU (Tertiary Education Union). At meal times I mixed even further and ate and talked with women from the CTU, PSA (Public Service Association) & NZDWU (NZ Dairy Workers’ Union).

At the end of the conference I was one of the people asked to reflect on our two days together so I’ll repeat here what I said there and then add some more.

  • Rose Ryan, Director of Athena Research, said “The more things change the more they stay the same.”
  • Laila HarrĂ© , National Secretary NDU (National Distribution Union), talked about translating passion into action.
  • Laila Harre speaking at nzctu womens conference

  • The Friday Panel discussion talked about cultural issues that Maori and Pasifika women face that are totally unknown to Pakeha/European women.
  • Louise Tarrant, General Secretary LHMU (Liquor Hospitality and Misc Union), gave us this quote from Helen Keller “One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.” – How many people are aware that Helen Keller was a political activist?
  • Louise tarrant from LHMU Australia speaking to nzctu womens conference

  • Helen Kelly, President of the NZCTU talked about succession planning and a union for the 21st Century.
  • Helen kelly addressing the nzctu womens conference

  • Cross union discussions – both formal and informal – it doesn’t matter where we come from, we have a common purpose and together we are stronger!

A real demonstration of the common purpose came when a PPTA woman asked me where she could buy one of the NZEI Support Staff T-shirts (produced for our current campaign) because she wanted to wear it at school and show her support for the Support Staff campaign. It doesn’t matter that sometimes our two unions are at cross purposes – this is a campaign that matters to us both.

Important message

NZEI & PPTA supporting Support Staff

This week Primary School Teachers across NZ will get a pay increase as negotiated by NZEI before the 2008 election. We are some of the lucky ones as there is now a wage freeze set in place by the National Government. (With the cost of living rising that means we’re getting a negative increase!) I strongly suspect that there will be some cross-union support being called for (and given) over the next few months. What affects one of us, affects all of us.

And to finish here’s an extra verse to the Woody Guthrie classic: Union Maid.

A woman’s life is hard, even with a union card
She’s got to stand on her own two feet, not to be a servant of the male elite
It’s time to make a stand, keep working hand in hand
For there’s a job that’s got to be done, and a fight that’s got to be won.