So, I stumbled across a link to National Business Review talking about the Red Peak flag being added to the referendum today. (Briefly: I support it being added, I don’t think this is the Greens playing into National’s hands, and it’s exposed that Labour is being petty to try and upset the public about how badly National has dealt with this process. But I don’t think all of that is worth a blog)

Chris Keall from NBR claims that due to what he calls “preferential voting”, (generally known in New Zealand as Single Transferable Vote or STV) that Red Peak will be disadvantaged in the first stage of the referendum, due to the fact that the three fern designs are similar. (In evaluating electoral systems, we call similar choices “clones”. Some systems split the vote with clones, disadvantaging the clones. Others allow you to stack points for clones, making it easier for a choice to win when it has many clones to pad out its score) As someone who actually follows how voting systems works and advocates for reform of our voting system, (yeah, I’m not actually perfectly happy with MMP, but it’s better than any other systems New Zealand parties have proposed) let’s go to the classroom on why that’s not the case.

The problem with this argument is that STV is not vulnerable to this flaw. (every voting system has numerous flaws and advantages, the trick is picking one that’s suited to what you want to do) Similar options generally1 neither aid nor hurt each other in a single transferable vote, unlike the plurality system where you can check only one option. STV does an “instant runoff” if no choice achieves at least 50% of the votes when it’s used in a single-winner contest like the flag referendum. With five choices and no likelihood of a landslide, we’re definitely going to have a runoff in the election. Let me show you how this works. Let’s say the first preferences are as follows:

  • Silver Fern (Black and White): 6%
  • Silver Fern (Red White and Blue): 25%
  • Silver Fern (Black Blue and White): 35%
  • Red Peak: 30%
  • Koru (Hypnoflag): 4%

No design has more than 50% of the vote yet, so STV eliminates the option with the least votes in this round. That’s the Koru design. The algorithm tallying votes then looks at how the Koru’s second preferences were set, and reallocates all its votes according to that split. Let’s say 50% of Koru voters wanted Red Peak, 25% wanted the Black and White fern, and 25% only voted for Koru with no second preferences. Koru’s 4% is reallocated according to their second preference, and round two looks like this:

  • Silver Fern (Black and White): 7%
  • Silver Fern (Red White and Blue): 25%
  • Silver Fern (Black Blue and White): 35%
  • Red Peak: 32%
  • No votes/discarded options: 1%

We still need 50% for a winner, so we eliminate the least popular option again, this time the Black and White fern. Those votes are reallocated according to the second preferences of people who voted for the fern, and the third preferences of people who voted for the Koru but had their votes transferred to the fern. Let’s say half of them were Red Peak supporters, a quarter liked the Red White and Blue fern, and a quarter didn’t express any more preferences. We proceed to the third round.

  • Silver Fern (Red White and Blue): 26.75%
  • Silver Fern (Black Blue and White): 35%
  • Red Peak: 35.5%
  • No votes/discarded options: 2.75%

We still don’t have a clear winner, so we’ll have to eliminate the Red White and Blue fern, and proceed to the final round. If we say 10% of Red White and Blue voters didn’t express any further preferences, and 45% each supported the other two designs, Red Peak wins, despite the fact that first preferences for the Ferns added up to 66%. (If you do the maths, you’ll note that Red Peak doesn’t achieve 50% to win. This is because we actually ignore the no votes in determining 50%, but that’s difficult to show)

It doesn’t matter how many people vote for similar options in the first round, it only matters whether enough of the voters for those options rank them all in a block ahead of the other options. If Red peak had polled higher than any of the ferns in the first round, then in fact, the only other proposed system would have caused the ferns to lose, even though it’s likely fern voters will normally prefer other ferns over the two remaining designs.

The other system I mentioned is the one Labour proposed it its amendment bill that was shot down- using a Plurality Vote (the same as we do for electorates) to determine the winner, and rolling both referenda into one paper. If we had done that with the above example, the Black Blue and White fern would have won instead, because the less popular desgns split the votes away from Red Peak, even though Red Peak and the Black White and Blue fern designs were the most popular overall when people’s full preferences were accounted for.

This system is actually the best suited for the kind of referendum we’re holding in the first stage. It’s simple, (you rank as many preferences as you want, and all your consecutive preferences are counted. The only way to null vote is to not write a 1 anywhere) it doesn’t suffer from vote splitting, (that is, it doesn’t punish clones) and it allows you  to relatively1 safely vote your true preferences. Everyone’s vote is counted

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So lately we’ve seen some right-wing politicians in the USA come out swinging against the idea of Net Neutrality. The current favoured talking point about why they’re doing this is that Net Neutrality is a form of price control. For those who aren’t aware, the internet has informally functioned on a system described as “Net Neutrality” for most of its lifetime- until recently. It’s the principle that internet traffic should work like phone calls. That is, barring certain exceptions for law enforcement reasons, all traffic should be forwarded to its destination without interference or delay.

The argument that Net Neutrality is a price control relies on people not understanding how the internet works in order to be persuasive. They argue, look, you pay your Internet Service Provider to deliver you content. Why shouldn’t the content provider have to pay for this? They’re getting content delivered to you for free.

Only someone who has never had to deal with the realities of hosting a website would say this. Everyone who puts up a website pays hosting fees either directly or indirectly. If you have your own server in your home, you pay your ISP for the ability to upload certain amounts of bandwidth. For small websites that probably works fine. You might instead pay a specialised hosting company to perform this service for you as well, in which case, they manage the server. You also pay a fee to have a human-readable address (like “”) to the Domain Name Registry Service.

Sites like that offer “free” hosting services for certain types of content manage these fees for you and gamble that they can make money off advertising on your pages. Ending Net Neutrality would essentially open anyone hosting content to blackmail from large ISPs. They could block access to services that compete with them or their parent company, (so you wouldn’t be able to use the internet to move your service to a new ISP, for instance, or if your ISP owns a video streaming service, they might block or dramatically slow down competing services to the point they don’t function) and they could slow down sites hosted by large content providers if they refuse to pay for so-called “fastlane service” in order to extract extra fees. (in reality, they would be paying to get out of a slow lane that had been newly invented, as currently all “lanes” travel at the same speed)

This won’t just affect customers of one ISP, either. Internet traffic uses a system called “routing” that has regional servers direct your traffic. You’re often passing through six or ten intermediary servers when you request internet content. If just one of those intermediary servers slows or blocks content, it effects the whole route. Other ISPs who don’t support this sort of behaviour would need to develop systems to skip biased parts of the internet that don’t forward traffic on a neutral basis.

It’s as if someone actually had the power to mark a speed limit on a section of the ocean, or actually block it off altogether. The way ships are navigated would have to change.

The other argument used by opponents of Net Neutrality is, as I’ve alluded above, that the ability to prioritize certain types of traffic allows them to offer better service- that is, they can fast-lane the things that are important to their customers.

This is a better argument, but it’s still wrong. If prioritising internet traffic is helpful, (and I can see why it would be) a better way to handle it would be to allow software developers to opt in to having certain internet traffic handled slowly. This would allow things like periodic e-mail checks to be deprioritised, (because do you really need to know the instant you receive a new email?) but manual e-mail checks to go through at a full speed that might be slightly faster, and it would also let developers expose options to have all internet traffic sent at full priority.

That puts whether your traffic is handled as a priority in your hands, and the hands of people who actually design software, and whose job it is to know when an internet request needs to be fast or slow. Centralising the priority of internet traffic with ISPs leads to situations like torrent throttling, which slows down things like peer-to-peer video game updating in order to also discourage pirating of TV and blu-ray content, or at worst political censorship by ISPs or simple anti-competitive behaviour like mentioned above.

The worst thing is that if this happens in the USA, it sabotages the Internet for everyone else as well, given the large amount of traffic routed through the USA. It would pose big routing issues for any New Zealand or Australia-based ISPs wanting to avoid slow service. All internet users should be crossing our fingers that a Democrat (most likely either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton) ends up winning the USA’s next presidential election, otherwise this is going to be a problem we have to deal with.

So, occassionally I browse and attempt to assist people on, a site allowing for publicisation of OIA requests.

Somewhat alarming to me is that on reading a few of these requests, government agencies are still declining requests due to information being publicly available. Back in the days when this meant you would need to make a physical copy of what was perhaps a very large report to provide the data, this legal option made sense.

Nowadays, most publicly available data will be electronically available. In which case, we shouldn’t be denying requests- rather, the agency ought to have a duty to provide a link if the information is still available, or release the information through normal channels if for some reason it’s no longer available. If collated the publicly available information requested would take unreasonable time, then the agency ought to use existing policy around fees or denial for that reason.

In this day and age, there is no reason to deny a request due to information being publicly available, when it’s so easy to point out where the information is. It would seem that if anyone wants a member’s bill, giving agencies under the OIA an obligation to provide either the location (virtual or real) of said information or a copy would be a great idea.

Granted, this may be a symptom of the culture around Official Information at the moment- there are plenty of other problems with OIA requests, with many agencies (especially certain DHBs) refusing to answer questions due to collation requirements that any sensible reporting regime would make very easy to answer, and not clarifying why collation is required. (Sometimes it legitimately is, but a reason why such as “we use paper files for this” or “our software doesn’t allow a centralised report and we would have to view thousands of individual files” are great responses. Simply giving the section of legislation it’s being declined under are unhelpful, especially if there is related information that could assist the requester that can be provided) It might be time to modernise the OIA in general and remove or restrict several of the exemptions. An OIA or private information request ought to be viewed in general as an opportunity to either assist or inform the public, not an inquisition.

There are some agencies that are providing good responses, even when they have to decline requests. I read one request that not only detailed why each individual answer couldn’t be given in detailed format due to collation requirements, but actually requested information regarding the general details of the policies that the requester was interested in to reassure them to issue was being considered seriously and policies were in place. That is a good example of how to decline an OIA request, and the type of culture government agencies need to be building.

Johnson vs United States has concluded, and the US Supreme Court has ruled that Three Strikes laws are unconstitutionally vague, and cannot be enforced.

Where does this leave our own Three Strikes law? People actually involved in the justice system have been claiming it doesn’t work for various reasons.

Hopefully as ACT is now largely irrelevant, the government will soften or repeal the amendement act passed in 2010, or it will be gone when the government changes. The only real support for the law seems to be in the mis-named SST, who are claiming credit for it dropping reported crime rates, despite the law not being in effect long enough to have made a difference as anything other than a deterrent. (And there’s an argument against its powers as a deterrent in the link I provided above)

One of the more ludicrous problems with importing extreme right-wing legislation from the USA is that it’s often poorly drafted, doesn’t fit within legal principles, and just plain doesn’t work. If this is all ACT is going to bring in its coalition agreements, it’s a good thing the party is on electorate life-support. There is a reason why the previous law set guidelines for sentencing but largely left the specifics to judges: Judges can inject context of the crime into their decision and adjust sentences up or down as is appropriate to the crime, and parole can be used to address cases where either the judge was too harsh, or the person convicted has responded well to rehabilitation. The Three Strikes law undermines both of those advantages to normal sentencing and parole regime.


As those of you who will likely be reading this post don’t know me or my writing, my name is Matt and I’m a white cisgendered man. I like to provide male backup to feminists so they can use me as a resource for people who want to ask about some more basic things like “what about men?” or “what is privilege?” or “what does FBM mean?”.  I’m also bisexual and have a history of mental illness. (and yes, also in the sense that I’m not entirely “neurotypical”, which some of you will jokingly refer to in terms like “not being entirely sane/normal.” You may want to reconsider that.)

As someone who is very white, who comes from a reasonably well-off family, and who hasn’t had to deal with being transgender, and who is culturally Christian1, I have a lot of privilege. If you’ve been linked here because you took issue with the word privilege, don’t worry: almost everyone who hears this term addressed at them has a lot of difficulty coming to terms with the idea, you’re allowed to be upset in dealing with it, (although I would suggest you don’t direct your feelings or questions at the person who used this term, as it generally starts fights that nobody wants or needs!) but it’s almost never used as a personal insult or accusation.

What privilege refers to is essentially all of the advantages you get, that you can’t help getting, just by being a particular type of person who doesn’t have to deal with a particular oppression- ie. white people don’t have to deal with racism2, men don’t directly have to deal with sexism, straight people don’t have to directly deal with heteronormativity and homophobia, cispeople don’t have to etc…

Privilege happens regardless of what else is going on in your life. Sure, it’s more noticable that you have for instance white privilege if you’re also wealthy and have class privilege, but you still benefit from being perceived as white even if you’re really poor, if you’re a woman, if you’re gay or transgender, or if you’re a minority religion where you live, or if you’re not christian in general in terms of discussing things on the internet. How do you benefit? Well, if you’re of any other race, or if you ARE white but not perceived as white, people will start viewing you as one of a number of different stereotypes. Asian people get classed as nerds and people place an expectation to fit in and excel on them, regardless of who they are as a person. Black people in the USA, and pacific people in New Zealand, often get stereotyped as either criminals or culture leaders, depending on whether that person’s opinion of them is negative or positive. As a white person, I don’t usually have to deal with people crossing the street to get away from me in case I attack them. (Apart from women doing it at night because I’m a man, which I totally understand)

Intersectionality is an expansion on this idea of privilege. It’s the idea that oppressions and privileges compound together for different experiences as you add them together, and that the whole of these social experiences is more than the sum of its parts. Being a lesbian means you deal with different things than what you’d expect adding up what gay men deal with, and what straight women deal with. The reverse is also true- being more privileged means your privileges add up more and are harder to seperate and you may have been less likely to have been educated about them. This isn’t your fault. All anyone who throws around this word “privilege” is expecting of you is two things:

  1. To listen to people with other experiences than yours, and to take on board that in some ways, because of who you are, your different experiences in life may have been easier for you. (And in other ways your experiences might have been harder- it’s not intended as a contest)
  2. To not side-track these discussions by “talking from privilege”. This means that sometimes you are best not to engage in a conversation until you understand it, and that even when you do engage, you should be content with a supporting role if it isn’t your issue, and if it is your issue, you should be okay with engaging in food faith and supporting people with different views or issues than you because they sit at a different intersectionality than you do. (eg. if a gay black man and a white transwoman were talking, they might have very different views on the importance of marriage equality either due to her white trans perspective, or his black cis perspective, or due to being different genders. And it might not all be solvable just them putting themselves into each other’s shoes- they might need to educate themselves about what’s going on in each other’s communities a bit to understand their differences before they can work together productively)

Intersectionality is often brought up when privileged people are making a call for everyone to work together on their particular type of oppression. So white feminists, gay men, atheists, etc… often need reminding or informing about intersectionality when they’re advocating change, so that we don’t just stop at equal rights for white women, we get equal rights for transwomen, and women of all races and sexualities. So that we don’t stop at gay marriage, we also unpack cissexism, protect the rights of transpeople, and help break down the gender binary before moving on to more niche LGB issues. And so that we don’t stop by having a secular society, but we also consider the needs of women in various faith communities, and that we ensure our discussions about religion aren’t masking an racism. Read the rest of this entry »

Remember my chart of what Parliament should look like with the threshold altered to winning a list seat outright?

Want to know the really funny thing?

If National had changed the rules to that, they’d be able to use the conservatives to defeat a bunch of members’ bills they’re now having to fillibuster. There are advantages to real reform to the voting system.

Instead, due to our odd rules about by-elections, New Zealand First takes a seat off National and makes them need two support votes to pass anything.

What follows is an analysis of declared fundraising activies by New Zealand Political Parties. Raw data can be found here.

I am limited in my analysis that a lot of small fundraising for Parties comes from memberships, and that very few donations under $1,500.00 (hereafter: $1.5k) are declared under our system.

Total FundingFirstly, the Grand Totals. Pretty obviously, they break down into four tiers.

First tier, multi-million dollar parties, including total Internet and Mana donations, National donations, and Conservative donations and loans. (Notably, only the conservatives took out loans)

Second tier, donations over $100k, including the Greens, (yes, they declared more donations than Labour. This may as usual be due to the Greens actually following the rules and declaring everything- unknown!) Labour, ACT, the Mäori Party, and NZ First.

Third tier, Focus New Zealand and the ALCP, who both raised significant amounts despite not being in Parliament.

Fourth tier, nominal amounts for United Future and Ban 1080. $0 donation returns are excluded.

Secondly, dollars raisedFundraising ratio per seat.

(The sorting is still by Total Funding, so you can compare the size of their ratio to their total funding)

Note that parties relying on electorates vastly outraised other parties for declared donations on this basis. National and the Green Party raised more money than the other list Parties, and NZ First and Labour are largely in proportion to their support bases.

fundraising bands

(click to view alone, it’s too large to fit in a post!)

Finally, a giant chart grouping the fundraising types into bands.

Note that no party in Parliament declared significant donations from small sources. This is likely due to the limits of our disclosure laws- parties ought to still track and declare the total amount of small donations ideally.

The multi-million dollar parties all received almost all of their donations from large sources, with only National raising any notable amount from medium sources.

Of the other parties in Parliament, Act and the Mäori Party relied on a majority of large fundraising, and everyone else a majority of medium fundraising.

In closing: This was an election with a ridiculous amount of influence from donors over $15k, anonymous donors over 1.5K, and donations protected from disclosure. This is emblematic of a broken funding system, where too much poltical energy goes into funding. We may need to rethink on what basis we allow political donations, because this doesn’t look like a contest of ideas, it looks like a contest of billboards.

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Here is what Parliament should look like, in a world with a low threshold: (for this result, you can pick any of the following: winning 2 list seats, 1% of the vote, or winning 1 list seat outright)

I’ve grouped the parties into government and opposition/cross-bench blocs.

So, only one empty populist party instead of two, no criminal-shielding ACT Party, and due to National not eating up 3 seats worth of the Conservative’s votes, they would need either the Conservatives or the Mäori and Internet-Mana parties or one of the larger opposition parties to pass laws. We would likely not have the Resource Management Act at risk, although of course we would be stuck with binding referendums thanks to the Conservatives, and possibly a bunch of other bigoted yuck. (Then again, what better way to make National unpopular?)

So, here is my traditional moan about how much I hate our ridiculously high, undemocratic threshold. With graphs, because it’s pretty reasonable to be visual about these things:

This is the 2014 party vote. (note: hilariously UF’s party vote is so small at .2% that it rounds down to 0%, making Peter Dunne the only overhang seat this term) I have grouped all parties that have never been in parliament into “Others”, for obvious reasons. Note how the slices suddenly get thicker at the end? That’s because I’ve used the Electoral Comission’s default sorting which sorts by whether a party is in parliament first, then by party votes. Let’s make this picture clearer:

And now the problem is obvious. The votes not counted, overall, account for 6.2% of the electorate, (5.4% or 113,155 voters if we remove the “Others”, who all legitimately have not earned a seat) wheras the votes counted due to electorate lifeboats account for 2.2%. (46,117) This privileging of micro-parties that perpetually hold on to small electorates is ridiculous, and this makes it clearer than ever that an adjustment of the threshold is necessary. Act and United Future both don’t even earn a party seat even if you completely remove the threshold, yet are in parliament whe with a combined total of 19,043 votes, when the Conservatives are out with 4.1% or 86,616 votes.

This is ridiculous- as much as I dislike the conservatives, they deserve their chance to be laughed out of parliament on their own merits as the troop of troglodytes that they are, rather than excluded due to an artificially high threshold that serves only to protect Labour and National from new parties with genuine grass-roots support. Both the conservatives and Internet-Mana deserve seats in Parliament under these results, and both United Future and the ACT Party ought to be out on their asses in any system that doesn’t privilege the will of isolated electorates to throw in a “local MP” who usually does a terrible job of advocating for local interests, and doesn’t even live in the electorate in question.

The good news is the slight uptick in voter turnout- I still suspect we were hurt in this with regards to the rain for much of the country on Election Day, so I imagine the future effect from universalising advance voting is going to be much bigger. I suspect, however, that the increase in turnout is largely from conservative (small c, not just the party) and right-wing voters being energised to vote this election to prevent a change in government, and that this has been another election with increasing left-wing demotivation, most likely from people who want to be Labour supporters, but don’t want to vote for the party in its current fossilised, in-fighting state. I’m optimistic that if we can have an election where both the Left and the Right have strong showings, that we might be able to head back up in voter turnout. However that will depend on whether parties find an effective way to mobilise the youth vote, which is still largely untapped. (Probably due to the large amount of inter-generational war that is waged on behalf of various generations of more elderly New Zealanders that are over-represented in Parliament)

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Looks like the counting is now officially over, bar the inevitable adjustments for the special votes. Things that caught me by surprise:

  • Exactly how poor turnout was for left-wing voters. Some of this may be attributable to the rain. As it looks like it hit both genuinely left-wing parties and Labour, it doesn’t seem to be down to just Labour’s poor performance this campaign.
  • The advance vote looks to be slightly left of the general electorate, but not by as much as the specials are. I had wondered if it might actually be to the right of the electorate as a whole while early booths were being counted, but it looks like that was wishful thinking
  • Hone losing Te Tai Tokerau to Kelvin Davis. Definitely wouldn’t have called that.
  • Peter Dunne hangs on to his seat, and David Seymour takes Epsom. If turnout had been better, these seats might have been in contention. I had expected one or both of these seats to eject their micro-party candidates.
  • The decline of the Mäori party continues. Te Ururoa Flavell won’t be alone in Parliament, but only because of the Party vote. For the first time ever the Mäori Party isn’t going to have an overhang, as Labour swept all but one of the Mäori seats.
  • The lack of shift from right to left we usually see in election counting. This is partially down to the reduced left-wing turnout, and partially down to advance voting mitigating the tendancy of the earliest reported results tending to be rural, as advance votes seem to be ready to report right at the beginning of the count.

There are a few takeaways from this. Firstly, left-wing voters in Ohariu and Epsom are not getting this tactical voting thing. Epsom could have chucked out Act if not for Labour and Green electorate votes, and Ohariu could have done so twice over if not for Green electorate votes.

Secondly, Te Tai Tokerau has voted with their feet and decided they did not want to be a lifeboat for the Internet-Mana party. I would probably put this down to influence of the newspaper and TV media, as I would never have called Hone losing that seat. I expect to see the usual rage from more centrist liberals at Kelvin Davis, but to be honest, Hone has to earn that electorate seat. If we should be looking at anything, it’s that ridiculous threshold that helps nobody, which I post about every election. (Don’t worry, that post is coming later, too. Especially as two parties got burned by it this election)

Thirdly, while I might put poor turnout for the Greens down to the rain, Labour’s result is much worse than I would have expected given the usual gap between landline polls and the election. They clearly have some strategy rethinking to do, and I would largely put the blame here on their conventional thinking. Shutting out co-operation with the Greens was, in my view, a mistake. Perhaps it plays well with Labour’s rural vote, but we all know in reality that what that might lose them in the urban vote is not actually worth their while. And their campaign has been yawn-inducing at best. Nobody is going to vote for a party that wants to basically not change things too much, except maybe a little tinkering with the few things that are really critical, like our ETS, taxes, and energy policy.

While their points of difference were good, Labour needs to think a bit less pragmatically, and campaign more from its heart. They need to pressure media for better, and longer debates.

Or they can keep on as a very centrist party following their convention post 1980s tactics, and slowly lose all of their leftwing voters to the Greens, and basically become the new New Zealand First. Good luck with that.

Finally, I would suggest that next election, Labour and the Greens start campaigning for advance votes from their core constituencies before the advance polls even open. I suspect that the advance voting is masking just how badly the rain affected this election, so if they don’t want to be vulnerable to the weather, the Left will need to rely even more on advance voting.

On the composition of parliament I have one thing to say: This currently look dangerous for policies like the Resource Management Act, where National and Act want to push through radical reforms that they couldn’t sell to Peter Dunne or the Mäori Party. Hopefully the opposition parties can earn another couple seats from the specials, which appear to account for about 11% of the total vote. If the whole government has to agree to all policies, that will restrict their ability to gut environmental protections too dramatically, or if at least three of the government parties are needed, that won’t hurt either.