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May 13, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Unhappy Gilmore

Do you know who I am? Hopefully not, I’m an anonymous columnist. But when those words were (allegedly) slurred by MP Aaron Gilmore one would hope that the answer would have been “yes”.

Too few people know who our MPs are. Creeping in the back benches of our House of Representatives are men and women with names that you’ve probably never heard, and probably never will. Sure, in the course of a normal parliamentary day this doesn’t matter; the Government have the numbers and run the country. However, recent events such as Gilmore’s mishap and the Marriage Equality Bill remind us that every Member is important, and that we should know who they are.

We have the privilege of living in a democracy, and yet so many Kiwis care so little that they can’t name their local representative. Blame for this can’t be solely attributed to lazy voters, but also to parties who failed to inspire, and governments who made New Zealanders lose hope. To an even greater extent though, blame should be placed on systemic failures in teaching Kiwis about our system of government and how elections work. Our civics education system is broken. The case for having comprehensive civics-education in schools and a voting age of 16 is strong, and one that a responsible government that cares about democracy should implement.

Secondly, Gilmore’s shenanigans may have landed him in hot water with his party, but the New Zealand voter has very limited power to get rid of him entirely. In the unlikely event that the National Party place, him high on its list so as to ensure his unique talents will not be lost, he won’t lose his seat even if he loses the support of every one of his local electorate voters. The question of accountability for list MPs is one which needs some thought. While MMP creates a much more representative Parliament, it also poses problems.

If Gilmore is dumped from the National caucus, he could remain in Parliament as an independent MP or join a different party. A man who found his way into Parliament solely thanks to the John Key Brand (and a couple of resignations) could stay in the House, earning $140k and making the decisions that shape our country with zero accountability, or even party policy. ‘Waka-jumping’, as it is known, needs to be addressed urgently. Where an MP’s mandate derives solely from a party and not an electorate they should not remain in the House if they decide to leave that mandated caucus,

At the time of printing, it appears that Gilmore won’t be dumped, and the current government won’t lower the voting age, nor change waka-jumping laws or make list MPs more accountable. What the Government will do will be to use Gilmore’s vote in the House to push through new spying laws, sell off our assets and cut benefits to the most vulnerable people in our country. I know you’re partial to a drink Aaron, so cheers to that.

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