Thoughts on 2020 general election and referendums

For the last few local body elections, I have prepared voting advice. I follow politics quite closely and if your values align with mine, this could be helpful to many. And it appears that it is by now highly anticipated. I have heard that some people are hanging out for general election advice, too. I do not usually do that and there is also reduced value in that as people, on average, know much more about politics at a national level. That said, there is the additional complication of two referendums to decide on. Therefore, I shall share some thoughts.

Party vote (any electorate)Green
Electorate vote Banks PeninsulaAbstain or vote for
Eugenie Sage
Electorate vote Christchurch CentralDuncan Webb
Electorate vote Christchurch EastPoto Williams
Electorate vote IlamSarah Pallett
Electorate vote WigramMegan Woods
Cannabis referendumyes
Euthanasia referendumyes
Summary of recommendations

How does it work?

Although we have had our current electoral system for a wee while (since 1996), it is not clear to every voter how the MMP (mixed-member proportional) system works. You have two votes. The vote that matters much more is the party vote as that determines the overall composition of parliament. How the party vote falls determines how many MPs represent each party in parliament (if a party does not get 5% of the party vote, or wins at least one electorate, then they will not be represented). The electorate vote is much less important, but it does determine who will represent the local electorate.

So how does it work? Say a party wins 40 electorates (there are 72 in total) and gets 55 of the seats in parliament. Their MPs would be those 40 who won their electorate plus the next 15 that are highest placed on their party list.

Party vote

Many of the initiatives that I really wanted to see happen were pushed for by the Green Party during the last term of parliament. Top of the list for me is action on climate change. I agree with most of their policies (and where I disagree, e.g. their emphasis on solar energy or free public transport for large groups of the community, it’s not a deal breaker) and they do have by far the most and detailed policies of any of the parties. This transparency is tops; they nail their colours on the mast and you can read up what they stand for.

One potential outcome at this election is for Labour to have such a strong showing that they do not need a coalition partner but could govern alone. I believe that any MMP government should have the moderating influence of a coalition partner and Labour governing alone would really worry me.

There will be many voters tossing up between Labour and the Greens for their party vote and I quite liked this argument put forward by one of Julie’s colleagues: “if you vote Labour, you get the drags from far down their party list. If you vote Greens, you get the top Green politicians, and they are far more capable than Labour’s drags.” I am sure this was meant in the friendliest way possible.

If you want to deep-dive into the policies of the respective parties, by far the best site to do so is The Spinoff’s website Policy.

My recommendation: party vote Green

Electorate votes

In the Christchurch area, each electorate will either be won by the Labour or National representative. Nobody else is likely going to be anywhere close so you just need to look at those two candidates for each electorate. You can, of course, vote for any other candidate, but that will not change the outcome. Let us look at the Christchurch electorates in alphabetical order. The candidate names are linked through to the Policy website.

ElectorateDiscussionRecommendation
Banks PeninsulaCatherine Chu is National’s candidate. First elected to both Christchurch City as the Riccarton ward councillor and the Canterbury District Health Board, she has received quite a bit of bad press. She does not seem to be across her portfolios, which may be explained by her frequent absence. Not trustworthy.

You might think Labour’s Tracey McLellan would thus be my shoe-in recommendation. Right? No, unfortunately not. There were some very unsavoury things going on at the 2019 local body elections (targeting candidates other than myself) and I have twice sat down with Jake McLellan and told him that I was disgusted by his mother’s actions. Dirty politics. I shall not put in writing what was going on (feel free to ask me, though) but I could not support Tracey McLellan.

Therefore, either abstain or give your electorate vote to Eugenie Sage of the Green Party. She has done a fabulous job as Associate Minister for the Environment but as discussed above, she is unlikely to win this electorate.
Abstain or vote for Eugenie Sage
Christchurch CentralDuncan Webb of the Labour Party is the incumbent. Has done a fine job and I would not be surprised if he got given a ministerial portfolio this coming term. He certainly deserves another go.

I would describe Dale Stephens of the National Party as a compassionate conservative. One of the better candidates of this party. Will possibly get into parliament via the list; ranked at 29 he is the second-highest placed list candidate who is not already in parliament.
Duncan Webb
Christchurch EastLabour’s Poto Williams won the electorate in 2017 with one of the country’s largest majorities. Has been in parliament since 2013, is doing a fine job, holds a ministerial role, and will once again win by a large margin.

National’s Lincoln Platt did not see reason to respond to The Spinoff’s request for content for their Policy website. That is an instant fail, mate.
Poto Williams
IlamI have a deep-seated dislike to the Earthquake Tzar Gerry Brownlee of the National Party. He was bad news for wresting control off the locals after the earthquakes and taking charge himself. For that alone, he deserves to go. No point clicking the Politics link for Gerry – responding to information requests is beneath him and neither does he turn up to candidates’ meetings. Never has.

Will Labour’s Sarah Pallett have what it takes to unseat Gerry? I hope so. I have heard her speak and she would make a good representative.
Sarah Pallett
WigramNeither Megan Woods (Labour) nor Hamish Campbell (National) have seen reason to respond to the Policy request for information. Poor form. At least we know what Megan Woods is about due to her high-profile roles in government.

On a personal level, what I most appreciate about Megan is the change in attitude that she has instilled at EQC (she no longer is the Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission; that job was passed to Grant Robertson in June 2019). As someone who must deal with re-repairs, it feels as if I am dealing with a completely different organisation.
Megan Woods
Recommendations for Christchurch electorate votes

Cannabis referendum

“Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?”

As somebody who has never smoked dope (or even a cigarette) in my life, I ask myself this high-level question on the cannabis referendum: Should the used of common drugs like alcohol, tobacco, or cannabis be illegal? Well, we have tried alcohol prohibition and it did not work one bit, did it? I suggest to you that cannabis prohibition is not working either.

The closely related issue is that people do end up in the justice system through using cannabis, and to me that is entirely wrong. However, your chances of getting in trouble with the law depend heavily on the colour of the skin – it is estimated that you are five times as likely to end up with a conviction if you have brown skin. That is deeply embedded racism and truth be told, that is my main reason (by a large margin) why I recommend a yes vote.

The main argument against a yes vote appears to be the potential damage done by consuming cannabis when you are young. I am, however, far from convinced that legalising cannabis use will result in an increase in use by young people.

Other issues are taking dealing in cannabis out of the hands of gangs, turning it into a controlled system, and starting to collect tax (the estimate is for a whopping 1 billion dollars per year).

My recommendation: vote YES in the cannabis referendum

Euthanasia referendum

“Do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force?”

I am less clear on the euthanasia referendum. Fundamentally, the way I see it is like this: we have a rater sick cat at home; Bella is a much-loved pet. She has been with us for 13 years and the end is coming. At this point, she seems comfortable but at some point, she will be very uncomfortable and in much pain. At that point, it would be cruel to prolong suffering and we will have her put down. The important thing is to make the call not based on our needs, but on Bella’s needs.

Most of us would do that for their loved pet. And it should not be any different for humans. If life has become unbearable, a person should absolutely have the right to make a call on voluntary euthanasia.

So far so easy. There need to be safeguards in place that it is the call for the person whose end is near and not determined by some pushy relatives. My wife, who frequently reads legislation as part of her job, informs me that the End of Life Choice Act 2019 is a poorly written piece of legislation. It probably suffered greatly from the numerous tweaks that were agreed to as the bill went through its readings.

The question is thus – should we accept an inferior piece of legislation with a view of potentially tweaking it as we go forward, or should be reject it? I fear that if we reject it, the topic will be politically dead for the next decade and we will be left with the status quo. If we accept it, we can then have a meaningful discussion about straightening up those issues that are not quite right. On balance, I thus recommend for the act to be supported in the referendum.

My recommendation: vote YES in the euthanasia referendum