Leaked minutes show PM backs electoral reform

16:00, Sep 25 2010
key
John Key

THE PRIME Minister's chief of staff told anti-MMP campaigner Peter Shirtcliffe last year that John Key supported moving to a Supplementary Member system, and that there were no "impediments to progress" in caucus, minutes leaked to the Sunday Star-Times show.

Justice Minister Simon Power is planning a referendum next year on retaining MMP, and last week Key said he thought controversy around the Act Party would "increase the likelihood" people would vote the system out.

Shirtcliffe prepared notes of the meeting outlining areas of agreement on how the issue should be handled, noting chief of staff Wayne Eagleson and Shirtcliffe agreed Key supported the SM option. "The feeling seems to be STV [Single Transferable Vote] does not meet the public wish for simplicity. There is... some merit in offering a format which reduces the House to 100 seats."

While there were "a few National caucus members who want the whole thing to go away", the document said, "Wayne does not believe they are any impediment to progress".

Shirtcliffe said he sensed Eagleson was "reluctant to discuss names", and that "I offered to talk to any of them if in due course that seemed helpful".

Shirtcliffe told the Star-Times he couldn't specifically remember the meeting but rejected any suggestion the memo described a meeting between two people on the same side. The reference to there being no impediment did not refer to progress towards SM, but was about what the public wanted to see in the referendum.

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Prime minister's department spokesman Kevin Taylor said it was "ridiculous" to claim the memo showed the two men were working for SM. The meeting was the only time they had met and since then Power had announced the details around how the electoral reform process would work and introduced legislation.

The first referendum, to be held at the 2011 election, will ask if voters want to keep MMP, and what alternative they prefer from four options, regardless of their first answer. The government proposes a binding referendum with the 2014 election if there is a vote for change – a run-off between MMP and the preferred alternative.

WHAT IS SM?

Most members of parliament would be elected by first-past-the-post voting in single-member electorates.

However, the remaining members of parliament – about a fifth or a quarter of the total – would be allocated to the political parties in proportion to their overall share of the votes.

These members of parliament are the supplementary (or additional) members.

Sunday Star Times