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Source: New Zealand Parliament


Good evening ladies and gentleman,

Please allow me to warmly welcome:
• Professor Dr Norbert Lammert, President of the German Bundestag
• His Excellency, Gerhard Thiedemann, Ambassador to New Zealand
• Dr Johann Wadephul
• Members of the German delegation

This year we celebrate the 20th anniversary of an MMP Parliament, and also the 30th anniversary of the Report of the Royal Commission on our Electoral System, which recommended MMP as an alternative to the previous First Past the Post electoral system.

First Past the Post in New Zealand was a plurality system, where the candidate in each electorate who won the most votes was declared the winner and allotted a seat in Parliament.

In 1993 New Zealanders voted narrowly in a referendum to replace FPP with MMP. This was a reaction to the perceived unfairness of FPP, which often allotted the governing party with more seats in Parliament than its share of the overall votes in an election. On occasion, governments were elected with fewer overall votes than the Opposition.

Between the 1930s to the 1980s, FPP was dominated by the two major parties, National and Labour. Minor parties struggled to enter Parliament, in spite of occasionally winning a significant proportion of overall votes. Women and minorities were not well represented in Parliament under FPP.

The referendum result was also a reaction to the preceding years of single party governments, which often exerted strong control over Parliament. Governments were able to rush through legislation with little public input or scrutiny. Governments of the period were able to use broad and powerful regulation-making powers to bypass parliamentary scrutiny for matters pertaining to economic stabilisation and public safety. This was particularly problematic during the latter years of the Muldoon Government.

So people voted for change.

In 1996, New Zealanders elected their first Parliament under MMP.

Moving forward to 2016 we can now reflect on the positive impact MMP has had on the New Zealand Parliament.

Without a doubt, MMP has strengthened our Parliament.

Parliament now better reflects our society. It has seen more women, Māori and other ethnic minorities become MPs. There are also more parties represented in Parliament and this diversity has helped to ensure that Parliament remains relevant and better reflects New Zealand’s ever changing society.

Governments are more restrained now.

Every Government since 1996 has been formed by coalition, or through an arrangement of confidence and supply agreements between two or more parties. In spite of concerns that MMP would lead to dysfunction, our experience is of stable governments—over the last 16 years we have had only two Prime Ministers. Governing has required consultation and compromise between all political parties, particularly government support parties, to progress legislation.

I see this as a positive step.

The number of parties represented in the opposition has also increased, allowing for a wider variety of opposition interests to be represented and the Government held to account by more than one party. This leads to greater scrutiny of the Executive, which I believe enhances Government outcomes.

Parliament continues to evolve its procedures and practices through the triennial review of its Standing Orders, to ensure it remains relevant.

I would like to highlight our Business Committee, which can be characterised as a creature of MMP. Every party is represented and my role as chairperson of the committee is to drive decisions to where near unanimity is achieved. Over the years this has become crucial to the smooth running of the House.

I have one final observation.

MMP was established in Germany and New Zealand to rein in the power of the Executive. Far from creating instability, both countries have witnessed long periods of stable, responsible government. This has enabled both our countries to be successful, vibrant liberal democracies and important actors on the world stage.