MMP vote campaigns gear up

BY VERNON SMALL
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2010

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The daughter of former MMP advocate and Green Party co-leader Rod Donald is linked to a new umbrella group set up to fight for MMP at next year's referendum.

Holly Donald said the voluntary contact person job was a logical role for her.

"I would be lying if I said it was not partly because of Dad. MMP and electoral reform were a big part of my childhood."

She had also just finished studying for a master's degree in political science.

Spokeswoman Sandra Grey, a lecturer at Victoria University, said the Campaign for MMP group would be ready for a referendum by August 2011 if the election was held early to avoid a clash with the Rugby World Cup.

On the other side of the debate, businessman Peter Shirtcliffe, who fronted the campaign against MMP in 1993, and author Graeme Hunt are spearheading opposition through a "Put MMP to the Vote" group.

The referendum will be held in conjunction with the general election. It will first ask voters whether they want another system. If they do, there will be a list of alternatives to choose from.

If a majority vote for change, there will be a runoff referendum in 2014 between MMP and the option preferred in the first referendum.

Two polls late last year showed a preference to retain MMP. In a One News poll, 54 per cent preferred MMP over any other system while 36 per cent did not.

A UMR poll found 48 per cent in favour of retaining MMP and 40 per cent in favour of change.

UMR found that of those who did have an opinion, 29 per cent favoured first-past-the-post (FPP), 20 per cent single transferable vote (STV) and 9 per cent the supplementary member (SM) system.

Prime Minister John Key favours SM, where most seats are chosen by first-past-the-post, but with a minority chosen by proportional representation.

Dr Grey said the debate over retaining MMP would be "people power versus big money".

It was the fairest electoral system and allowed everyone's vote to count.

"It would be a tragedy to go back to the days where only a few people in marginal electorates decided elections and the majority of MPs were in safe seats where the election was basically irrelevant."

Changes to MMP, such as dropping the rule that allows parties that win an electorate seat to gain list seats, even if they fall short of the 5 per cent threshold, were best dealt with after the referendum.

The pro-MMP group was already working with others including Artists and Musicians for MMP and Women for MMP.

Dr Grey said it would lobby for a fair referendum with unbiased questions and a limit on campaign spending.

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She said the anti-MMP campaign was led by the same people "who spent millions of dollars on saturation negative advertising to try to influence the original 1993 MMP referendum".

Mr Hunt said he still favoured FPP, but times had moved on and SM – which the majority of his group backed – would deliver what New Zealanders wanted. "It is FPP with attitude."

It would work well with a smaller Parliament of 100, which his group was also advocating.

- The Dominion Post

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