Archive for the ‘WOMBATS’ Category

10 business days for a reply

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

I emailed the New Zealand Stock Exchange (NZX) with a usability suggestion for their website.

The automatic reply:

The message you sent to has been received, NZX Information staff will review your message and will endeavour to reply to you within 10 business days. If your inquiry is urgent, please phone +64 4 472 7599.

Ten business days for an email response in the internet age - may as well just ask people to call the number and don’t offer the email address.

Meeting hoggers - are they unwelcome?

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Jacob Oram of the New Zealand cricket team, the Black Caps, seems to think so given by  what he was reported as saying in an article about the erstwhile coach John Bracewell.

He said there was nothing worse than the captain, vice-captain and a few senior players hogging a meeting.

What do meeting hoggers convey? They convey the message that they are more important than you and that their contribution is more important than yours. The result of this tends to go two ways:

  • resistance from you the “lesser” being, which creates antipathy, contradiction and argument that is based around evening up the power - and has precious little to do with dealing with the valuable content or reaching a productive outcome
  • withdrawal, resignation and cynicism about a process (a meeting is a process) that doesn’t include them. The hoggers are left to their own devices and can witter on to the rest of the meeting who may be physically present but whose minds and spirits have already left the building.

Interesting to hear this come from a player in a team sport. The Action Meetings approach to meetings treats meetings as a team event - the team works together to resolve a set of outcomes. The structure and process of an Action Meeting minimises hogging and maximises participation from all of the people at the meeting - no resignation, cynicism and withdrawal just satisfying, productive outcomes.

When does a meeting end?

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

When, exactly does a meeting end?

Is it when everybody has left the meeting room? When you leave the room? Or, is it when the time allocated has been exceeded?

In some cases and with some people this is when they’ve lost interest in the proceedings and they tune out and think of other things.

My experience is that it typically ends when the attendees leave and return to their desks or proceed to the next meeting.

Anyone out there got any ideas they’d like to add?

Post a comment, let’s see what comes out of this!

MMP: the “wasted” vote is worse than that

Friday, November 7th, 2008

A “wasted” vote under MMP will effectively get allocated to parties that have crossed the threshold - parties that hold policies opposite to the party of the wasted vote.

One of the features of the flawed MMP system is the so-called “wasted” vote. This is a party vote for a party that fails to cross the threshold (i.e. get 5% of the party vote or at least one electorate).

As I posted before, “MMP: too complicated and not consistent” the Elections website has this to say:

A party vote cast for a party that does not cross threshold has no impact on the number of seats other parties will receive. In this sense it has the same impact as a non-vote - exactly none - except that the voter’s electorate vote will have helped decide that particular contest.

The crucial part is “no impact on the number of seats other parties will receive” - while this is literally true, the effect is quite different. What actually happens is that the wasted vote gets distributed amongst the parties that have crossed the threshold. The impact of this is that part of a wasted vote is very likely going to go to a party that has a very different or even the opposite view on policy to the party that fails to cross the threshold.

Let’s take a real example. You’re a strong believer in the right to deliver a loving smack to your child for reproof and so you decide you’ll vote for the Kiwi party. The party will fail to cross the threshold and so your vote will not affect the proportion of allocation of party seats - your vote will be allocated according to the percentages of the other votes. What does this mean? On current polling, about 9% of that wasted vote will go to the Greens and 33% will go to Labour - both parties that hold the opposite view on the right to smack. Similarly, on current polling 46% of a vote for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party will go to the National Party - who aren’t about to legalise let alone decriminalise cannabis in the near future. Yet again MMP fails to deliver into Parliament a result that is in accord with the voter’s intentions.

Kiwi Party followers may feel that they have stood up for their beliefs by voting for the party - and they will be “sending a message” - but it will be at the cost of true representation in the House.

Up to about 5% of the votes in the election on Saturday 8th November will be “wasted” votes. One person in twenty’s vote will be partially allocated to parties they vehemently oppose - they vote for these small parties because they want to send a strong message. Bad news for these voters is that with MMP they help to entrench in seats the very parties they oppose. A voting system that can give part of your vote to a party with opposite policy is a WOMBAT.

Under MMP, how certain can we be that the make-up of the House actually reflects voters’ intentions?

Are “waka jumpers” necessary for minority representation in MMP?

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

MMP purportedly gives us a wider representation in the House than we had before - and that seems to be true. However, this increased variety has come on the backs of “waka jumpers” (MPs who have been elected as members of a political party and who have then resigned and formed a new party - or MPs who have switched allegiance to a different party from which they first elected).

Every party other than Labour or National has relied on a waka jumper to get itself established in the House.

  • Act - Richard Prebble formerly Labour
  • Greens - Jim Anderton from the Alliance days got the Greens in the House
  • Maori Party - Tariana Turia formerly Labour
  • New Zealand First - Winston Peters formerly National
  • Progressive Party - Jim Anderton formerly Labour
  • United Future - Peter Dunne formerly Labour

Act and the Greens have managed to continue without their original waka jumper.

The lesson: if you want to start an effective political party presence in NZ join a major party first and build your credibility with your electorate and then jump and reveal your intentions.

How the Maori Party can game MMP for more seats

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

The fundamental flaw in MMP is the two unequal votes - that become more unequal depending on which electorate you’re voting in. In the old FPP days, if you lived in a marginal seat then your vote counted - safe seat, stay in bed. Under MMP, voting in an electorate where the electorate seat will be won by a party that won’t reach the 5% threshold gives you two useful votes and the rest of us get one. The problem we had in FPP where some electorates had more “useful” votes than others is still with us under MMP. It’s not fair, it must change.

The Maori Party are on track to win seven electorate seats. They need more than 7% of the party vote to increase the number of seats in the House. It won’t happen. But there is another way.

Register a new party, the Aotearoa Party - same policies as the Maori Party. Tariana Turia  switches to this party - she is a certainty to win her electorate seat. In Tariana Turia’s electorate the Maori Party stands no electorate candidate against her and voters in her electorate vote Aotearoa for electorate and party vote.  All Maori party voters in other electorates are instructed to vote Aotearoa Party for their party vote (this may entail splitting their votes between Maori and Aotearoa). They only need about 1.4% of the party vote to get two seats in the House - Tariana Turia would be one and the party crosses the threshold with the electorate seat so its 1.4% will get it two seats on party vote allocation.

Eight seats, at least, instead of seven. No need to canvass more votes, just get them split to make maximum advantage.

Far fetched? Maybe - but under MMP quite legitimate.

MMP: Maori voters get two votes - the rest of us get one

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

I’m not against the presence of the Maori seats and the point of this post is not to canvass their abolition - however it is to draw attention to an MMP anomaly that is perhaps peculiar to New Zealand.

It’s looking like a number of Maori Party candidates will win electorate seats. Perhaps even all seven seats will go to the Maori Party.

The Maori Party will require more than 7% of the party vote to get more seats than the seven electorate seats - so a Maori Party voter in a Maori electorate has already exerted plenty of influence on the make-up of the House and they still have a second tick to go to up whatever party vote they prefer as well. As Matt McCarten has pointed out it would effectively be a wasted vote for them to vote Maori Party for their party vote. They get two useful votes when most of us only get one. MMP fair? I think not. (It’s not just the Maori electorates where the voters will get two useful votes but any where the electorate vote will secure a seat for a party that won’t reach the 5% threshold.)

There is also the (slight) possibility that National could get more than 50% of the party votes and yet still not be able to muster a majority of seats in the House with the seven seat overhang.

Presumably when the Royal Commission on the Electoral System considered and then recommended MMP they did not fully consider the ramifications of the Maori electorates as being different to the rest and presumably did not foresee the possibility of a Maori Party and how that might skew things. It gets better - if the Maori Party chose to be a little creative they could get a couple more seats - but that’s for the next post.

Incidentally, the election calculator on the Elections website is a great tool for trying out hypothetical results. Also, the pundit election quiz is an interesting tool to use to check that you’re voting for the party whose policies match your views on a range of issues.

AA Worst site in New Zealand?

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Yet again, I tried to use the AA Site. For years it has been the most useless site in the entire .nz domain. Even if you have logged in, it “forgets” who you are, depending on which page you navigate to. Today, I logged in, then went to renew my membership. It asked me for my details - even though they are all contained within the site!!! Another thing, they used to have a so-called petrol watch page. I wrote to them about a year ago and told them their prices were about two months out of date. I never receved a reply, of course. I now see that they do not have this page anymore. Or, if they do, it’s too hard to find, as I’ve just spent ten minutes searching.
If only there was some competition, like the UK. That would make them sort their ideas out. Time for a beer.

MMP knowledge nears all time pre-election high

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

This is the title of a recent news item from the Electoral Commission. And what is that “high”?

“67% correctly identified the party vote as more important than the electorate vote in deciding the number of MPs each party gets.”

In other words 33% have no idea which is the more important vote (as a generalisation). What hope of them understanding that in some electorates (e.g. Epsom) that the electorate vote may help or prevent a party to cross the threshold which potentially affects more seats in the House than just the electorate seat. What chance that voters understand the benefits of splitting your vote? And just how many realise that some New Zealanders on Election Day really do get two meaningful votes while the rest of us only get one.

What certainty is there that the votes cast by a voter really do achieve the voter’s intentions?

Note: I’m tagging this blog post under “Usability” because MMP has a major usability problem.

MMP: too complicated and not consistent

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Firstly, I fully support proportional representation in New Zealand. FPP (first past the post) was a crock - having lived in “safe” electorates there was little point in getting out of bed on election day. The danger in criticising MMP is that such criticism can be used as a justification for returning to FPP. There are better PR (proportional representation) systems out there - STV (single transferable vote), for example.

What’s wrong with MMP? Fundamentally, the two votes. These two votes are complicated for people to understand and they are not equal and have different effects depending upon the electorate you are in.  How you should place your electorate vote to achieve the end result you want in parliament can be completely counterintuitive as I will show in a minute.

The situation is further complicated in New Zealand with the presence of the Maori electorates. These present seven electorates that are only eligible for voting in by Maori. They have a far more homogeneous set of political tendencies than the population at large and so again these “electorate” votes and seats carry unequal weight. The Maori Party has a great opportunity to game the system which I will elaborate on in a later post and get representation in the house at a much higher level than their overall percentage of votes.

A further failure of MMP is the wasted vote - that is, a vote for a party that fails to reach the 5% threshold  in the party vote or get at least one electorate seat. The Elections website states the following:

A party vote cast for a party that does not cross threshold has no impact on the number of seats other parties will receive.  In this sense it has the same impact as a non-vote - exactly none - except that the voter’s electorate vote will have helped decide that particular contest. 

In other words, if you’re going to vote for a party that isn’t going to cross the threshold  you may as well not vote for the party vote. The effect is the same. If you’re in a “safe” electorate then not much point in voting at all. Couple this with the results of the recent Elections survey where only 34% correctly identified how the threshold is reached and you have 66% of the population with the potential to waste their vote.

According to the Elections survey 67% of voters now understand that the party vote is the more important vote. Unless, of course, you live in Epsom - where because of another of MMP’s anomalies (that getting an electorate seat enables a party to cross the threshold) - your electorate vote is more important as it affects whether or not the Act party may get 2 seats in the House (based on similar polling in the last election). Voters in Epsom effectively get the opportunity to have 2 party votes.

An effective electoral system should be intuitive - MMP isn’t. Consider a left-leaning voter in Epsom - what is their best tactical voting strategy to best ensure a higher proportion of “left” seats in the House? It’s completely counter-intuitive. Their best option is to vote National for the electorae vote to try and ensure that Act do not win the electorate seat. The best overall result (seats in the House) is achieved by voting for a party they wouldn’t normally vote for. The Labour party should perhaps be instructing their members and followers in Epsom to vote National for the electorate vote - a dangerous strategy, as given people’s confusion and misunderstanding of MMP they may well vote National with their party vote. 

How certain can we be that the make-up of Parliament is a true reflection of what the voters intended? With MMP as the voting system, not very.