Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


So what is MMP?

When discussing politics with people from around the world, one question I am frequently asked is how does Mixed Member Proportional representation (MMP) work. There are only a handful of countries that use MMP to elect their national legislature, Aotearoa New Zealand being one of them, so I understand the curiosity.

My attempts at describing the system are usually unsuccessful, as I tend to give an overly detailed explanation which bores the pants off the other person. So to avoid me wasting my time, and that of anyone curious, I have located a clip that explains it more succinctly than I ever could. It is explained in a North American accent, so you don’t need to struggle with a NZ accent, and it makes liberal use of a “Kiwi” connection.

Currently there are seven political parties represented in the New Zealand Parliament


Farming butterflies is a dangerous business – it’s official

Currently a bill is making its way through the New Zealand parliament, updating health and safety in the workplace. Michael Woodhouse (Minister of Health and Safety) has signed of on a list of high risk industries. These industries must appoint a health and safety officer if the workers want one. Fair enough, you might say, and I would have thought so too – until the list of high risk industries was published.

As you might expect, mining is on the list, but strangely, laying explosives for building demolition isn’t. Neither is dairy, cattle and sheep farming, which account for a third of all work place injuries and more than 100 deaths over the last five years. On the other hand, worm farming, butterfly farming, lavender growing and managing a mini-golf course have been classified as high risk industries.Why?

Worms and butterflies have a tendency to attack en mass any unsuspecting worker, smothering and devouring their hapless victims. Lavender plants send out tendrils to trip farmers before sucking the life blood out of them. Mini-golfers who play a poor round take their frustration out by wrapping their club around the head of the nearest course attendant. Yeah, right.

So why is butterfly farming considered more dangerous than laying explosives? Statistics. And we all know statistics don’t lie, don’t we? They may not lie, but they don’t always tell the truth in a meaningful way. And this is what appears to have happened in this case. How?

First some background for those not familiar with the situation in Aotearoa New Zealand. Medical treatment is either heavily subsidised or free depending on where the treatment occurs. Hospitals are free, GPs, medical centres, physiotherapists, etc are subsidised. Funding for the treatment of illness and disease is sourced from general taxation and administered by the Health Department.

On the other hand, medical treatment for injuries are paid by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). ACC funding comes from three sources. Work place injuries are funded from a fee paid by employers, based on the number of employees and the type of work undertaken. Injuries from motor vehicle accidents are funded from a surcharge on motor vehicle registration fees, and varies depending on the type of vehicle. All other injuries are covered by a fixed rate tax on personal income, which is deducted by the employer and paid to ACC via the Inland Revenue Department.

ACC keeps detailed statistics based on industry and types of work in order to levy appropriate fees from employers. This information was too detailed for the purposes of the legislation, so to simplify the system, data was collected by industry only and the number of categories was reduced. Worm farming, butterfly farming and Lavender growing are grouped under farming – other.  That by itself is bound to cause problems as they are grouped with other types of farming that are far more dangerous, such as crocodile farming. We’ll get to crocodiles shortly.

In compiling the figures someone decided that a population of 4.5 million wasn’t of sufficient size to gather reliable data from, so they decided that as Australia has more than 5 times as many people as New Zealand, they would include data from there as well.

Unfortunately Australia is very different from New Zealand. While NZ has very hilly and mountainous terrain, Australia is flat – very flat. Farms are large and farm transport is likely to be a Land Rover, a pick-up truck or similar vehicle with an enclosed cab. NZ farmers are more likely to get around on a quad bike, even on terrain where quad bikes shouldn’t go. Quad bikes aren’t required to have a roll cage and as a consequence are one of the most common causes of farm related accidents in NZ. By including data for dairy, sheep and cattle farming in Australia, with the NZ data, these industries appear safer than using NZ data alone.

Now we come to the crocodiles. The only place you’ll see a crocodile in NZ is in a museum, stuffed. But in Australia they are farmed, and you guessed it, they are classified as farming – other, as is emu farming. As a result, farming – other becomes a dangerous place to work.

Okay, I’ve explained why those seemingly innocuous farming activities have been classified as high risk, but what about mini-golf? That gentle sport is in the category recreation – other, the same as white water rafting. Need I say more?


Sexuality unimportant in NZ politics

A recent NZ poll surveyed how a range of the attributes of political leaders would affect the party vote of those polled. The attributes in question were sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, gender, union affiliation and religious beliefs.

The ethnicity and gender, were not significant factors for the majority of those polled, whereas age and strong religious beliefs were.

Attribute Total* More likely
to vote
Less likely
to vote
Don’t know
/ Refused
Of a different ethnicity to you 100 3 8 88 1
Of the same ethnicity to you 100 10 2 87 1
A woman 100 11 3 85 0
Gay (homosexual or lesbian) 100 2 20 77 1
Immigrant to NZ 100 2 34 60 3
Strong links to a union 100 11 32 53 3
Strong religious beliefs 100 7 41 48 3
Over 75 years old 100 4 59 36 1

*In some instances the total may not add up to 100 exactly due to rounding

It’s interesting to observe that only 20% of voters would be influenced negatively by a political leader being gay, whereas 48% would be influenced negatively by the leader having strong religious views. It’s pleasing to see that one’s ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation will have little bearing on one’s political standing.

I am surprised by the fact that being an immigrant might affect one’s chances at the polls. We are somewhat more xenophobic than I thought. Thankfully our constitution does not prohibit immigrants standing for the top political job in this country.

I wonder how these results compare to other parts of the world?

The survey was conducted by Research New Zealand using a nationally-representative sample of approximately 500 New Zealanders over 18.


So, New Zealand has a seat at the Security Council

Why aren’t I thrilled that our little country has been elected to a two year stint as a member of the highest chamber of the United Nations? Because our membership will have absolutely no effect on the outcome of the decisions made by that body.

I can give you five reasons why our membership will be ineffective.
* United States of America
* United Kingdom
* France
* Russia
* China

As long as the five permanent members of the Security Council have the power of veto, the security council will always be hamstrung by the self interests of the five. It is time that both the power of veto and permanent membership be reviewed.