Big business to fight poll-topping MMP

By Jonathan Milne, David Fisher

The anti-MMP 'Vote for Change' billboard campaign begins this week.
Phto / Supplied
The anti-MMP 'Vote for Change' billboard campaign begins this week. Phto / Supplied

The first anti-MMP billboards will be erected this week, as a group of New Zealand's richest businessmen launch their bid to turf out proportional voting.

According to a 1200-voter Key Research phone poll commissioned by the Herald on Sunday, regular voters are firmly behind MMP - three voters want to keep it for every two who want it dumped.

But this week the Vote for Change campaign begins, set up by former Telecom chairman Peter Shirtcliffe, 82, who fronted the 1993 anti-MMP campaign.

Other businesspeople include Commonwealth Bank of Australia chief executive Sir Ralph Norris. Business Roundtable boss Roger Kerr, who died on Friday, was another key founder of the organisation.

The privately-funded group will unveil billboards in Auckland followed by Wellington and Christchurch.

Vote for Change spokesman Jordan Williams announced yesterday the group would campaign alongside the conservative Maxim think tank for the supplementary member (SM) electoral system, the system preferred by Prime Minister John Key.

Williams said MMP had enabled politicians like Winston Peters to hold Governments to ransom. "Stable government cannot be based on the ability of one man to bring the government down."

He denied Vote for Change was a big-business campaign. "The big money is being spent by the unions and the political parties that are registered to keep MMP."

The Herald on Sunday poll finds 45 per cent of voters want to keep MMP and 28 per cent want it dropped. Only 1.2 per cent support SM, making it the least popular of the five systems that voters can choosefrom.

On November 26, voters will have a chance to tick four boxes: There will be the usual votes for the electoral MP and the party vote, the third box will be on keeping MMP and the fourth vote asks which system voters would replace MMP with, if it were dumped.

Our poll reveals that voters' second-favourite system would be the old first-past-the-post (FPP) system, which had more than three times the support of the remaining alternatives like the preferential voting, single transferable voting and SM systems.

Those who weren't sure or rejected all the voting systems formed 19 per cent of the poll.

Political scientist Dr Bryce Edwards said the poll showed MMP was secure as New Zealand's voting system. "I think that it is almost in the bag."

Edwards said the remaining voters probably backed FPP as a familiar option.

This weekend, Key said New Zealand's electoral system was "ultimately a matter for New Zealanders to decide, and that remains the position".

Labour leader Phil Goff said he would vote to retain MMP, but with some changes.

"National is rorting the system by having their previous leader and Cabinet Minister brand themselves as Act to give National more MPs than they are entitled to in Parliament by conceding the Epsom seat," Goff said yesterday.

Maori Party co-leader Dr Pita Sharples also supports MMP, a spokesman said, because it had increased the level of Maori representation in Parliament.

Those views were echoed at the Keep MMP launch in Auckland on Friday. Campaign spokeswoman Sandra Grey said MMP was needed to keep the diverse representation in Parliament. Grey said a vote for MMP would force a Parliamentary review, where any small anomalies like the 5 per cent threshold could be addressed.

- Herald on Sunday

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