THE NEW ZEALAND SITUATION 1891
The need for Electoral Reform in New Zealand is not a recent requirement. The early pioneers perceived flaws in the party-political parliamentary system of their day. Unfortunately, the reformers failed to convince their colleagues for change and we had to wait for the Mixed Member Proportional system enacted in 1993 for a chance to do better.
The time is well past for further improvement to the electoral process.
Photo taken in the mid 1980’s of a building leased by Don McKenzie. Showing above and behind is the Newmarket Overbridge.
CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM COMMITTEE (REPORT OF), TOGETHER WITH APPENDIX.
Extract from the Journals of the House of Representatives
Wednesday, the 17th Day of June 1891.
Ordered, “That a Committee be appointed, with power to call for persons and paper, to inquire into and report as to the form and working of Executive Governments elsewhere,
With a view to such modifications of the existing system of government in New Zealand as will diminish the evils of the present party system; the Committee to consist of the Honourable, Mr. Bryce, Mr. Palmer, Captain Russell, Dr. Newman, Mr. Buick, Hon, Sir J. Hall, Mr Saunders, Mr J. W. Thomson, Hon, Mr. Ward, and the mover; three to be a Quorum.”- (Mr. O’Connor)
The Report begins thus;
“Your Committee have the honour to report that, in their opinion, many and very serious evils are inseparably connected with, and spring from, the system of party government here; that it is unsuited to such a colony as New Zealand; and that in other colonies, and even in England, similar evils have been felt, varying only in degree, consequent upon surrounding circumstances and different phases of the system.”
The Report goes on to explain the “evils” of the party system of government;
- a) After examining past records, they agreed that in general, party government was demoralising and wasteful not only in a financial sense, but also of the time and energy of electors and their representatives”.
- b) The report goes on to point out the difference in population size and importance in world affairs of England and that of New Zealand. The House of Commons in England with over six hundred and forty members compared to the modest number of members here in New Zealand, especially at the time (1891).
Therefore, in a large parliament not so many can aspire to be cabinet material as in a smaller parliament as in New Zealand whereas every second member (or all) may believe that they are cabinet ministers in waiting.
Combined with the rule whereby the government is dependent on its existence from day to day on the support of a majority of members (voter’s representatives) and we see “a constant temptation of the members to struggle not for the common good of the nation, but for the possession of power and place”.
- c) The committee of ten members (of parliament) went on say we “have most to deplore that each Ministry is tempted to entrench its position and to buy off opposition by the expenditure of public money”. That is spending taxpayers tax monies to make the party in power feel good and make matters difficult for an incoming government intent on “pursuing a more prudent and honest policy”.
In less than three months the committee often reported to parliament thus;
“In the opinion of your committee, the most suitable model for our imitation will be found in the present Government of the Swiss Federation. After twenty-six years’ experience, the Constitution accepted in 1848 was revised and improved in 1874 and has worked remarkably well ever since. Both the original of 1848 and the revised Constitution of 1874 were the work of a committee of able and experienced men, many of whom were thoroughly conversant with the forms of government adopted both in Great Britain and in the United States; and by taking that which has proved good and suitable from either, they have succeeded in avoiding the weaknesses of both”.
Edit; Don McKenzie