Thursday, 24 November 2011

MMP and diversity

People who support MMP say it has increased the diversity of our parliament like that's a good thing.

Now there are arguments here, about what "representative" means, and whether you believe diverse views are valuable and important. And there are also arguments about whether you believe parliament looking more like Aotearoa's demographics means parliament is more likely to approach political issues in ways which are mindful of all Aotearoa's people, or if that requires policy and engagement with community as well as MPs in parliament. Then there's the oft squaring off from the right of "diversity" and "competence", like they are two different things, really just code for "white, middle-class, heterosexual men know what's best for everyone."

I'm not debating those points this post, but I am going to explore diversity by looking at parliamentary make-up pre and post the first MMP election in 1996. I've struggled to get good data on this, so it's a bit of a patchwork of different sources, not all of which compare well. Feel free to follow the links and let me know if I'm wrong.

Pre 1996 we'd had:

  • 44 women MPs over 25 elections (women could only be elected to parliament after 1919. The first women MP, Elizabeth McComb, was elected in 1933). Collectively those 44 women served 125 terms or 2.84 terms each on average. Just four of these women were Maori (Parekura Horomia's speech names three Maori women, but he has missed Jill Pettis, who won election before 1996)
  • 79 Maori MPs over 43 elections (before 1967 Maori could not stand in general electorates, with the odd exception of Sir James Carroll, on account of his Pakeha whakapapa). After 1967 there were just a handful of Maori elected in general seats.
  • 1 Pacifica MP - Taito Phillip Field
  • 1 out queer MP - Chris Carter - who came out after being elected. (Marilyn Waring did not come out as lesbian until after she left parliament).

After 1996:

Let's look at some pictures. Numbers of women in parliament pre and post MMP:

Or Maori political representation and population demographic, compared with pre MMP in 1993:

I'm going to collate MPs with Asian, Pacifica and African ancestry (so ethnic minorities of colour, based on this, with the addition of Arthur Anae, Kenneth Wang, Ashraf Choudhary, Rajen Prasad, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi and Nandor Tanczos):

Despite the steep curve after MMP, in 2008, with 9% of seats in parliament being won by people from these ethnic minority communities, it is still woefully short of the population demographic of 16.6% last census. Diversity has some way to go it seems, if you're Pacifica, Asian or African.

How about absolute numbers of queer MPs:

It's only in the last two elections that the percentage of out queer MPs gets close to 5%, the figure of secondary school students reporting same and both sex desire. This is about the only general population survey asking about sexuality, so it's probably the best estimate we have. Just where are those gaggle of gays, anyway?

Joking aside, it's clear that MMP has driven real diversity and movement away from a parliament which is completely unrepresentative of anyone but white, middle class, heterosexual men. Of course those guys are still doing alright - leading the National, Labour, United Future and ACT Parties and co-leading the Greens - so no need to worry about them.

There's a simple choice to make on Saturday if you value diversity.


Andrei said...

Diversity is in the definition

Thus you think a bunch of big city lawyers, academics and political scientist types constitutes diversity provided they meet racial, gender and sexuality ratios.

But of course sadly lacking are Bluff oyster men, west coast forestry workers, Cook Straight fishermen etc.

So parliament isn't actually very diverse at all - let alone representative.

Indeed MMP just reinforces the power of the urban middle class and reflects its desires and concerns

big news said...

Good post. Under FPP, all three Maori elected from general seats were National MPs. Interesting, post 1996, most of the Maori securing general seats - Ross, Bennett, Bridges - are also National MPs.

LudditeJourno said...

Yeah I was really conscious of not having a real way to measure class in this Andrei, thank you, that's a very valid point. Also aware this analysis misses disability issues.

Scar said...

"white, middle-class, heterosexual men know what's best for everyone."

Throw a 'cisgender' and 'able-bodied' in there for good measure, too.

LudditeJourno said...

Thanks Scar, you're quite right. Though one of the reasons I didn't write about disability is I wasn't able to find any naming of impairments anywhere except in information about potential MP Mojo Mathers, who is deaf.

Tasha said...

Although I'm in full support of MMP I can't help but wonder how much of these trends might be a shift in society being more accepting as whole.
Obviously MMP allows smaller parties such as the Maori Party and Greens bring in more diversity, but I wonder if the curve is a societal shift rather than the political system?
Perhaps some combination of both.

Hugh said...

Interesting that the number of female MPs rises most steeply between 1978 and 1996 and rises only modestly after 1996, when MMP was implemented.

stargazer said...

tasha, i think a good indicator that this is not the case is the fact that parties with greater diversity in their lists almost certainly force that diversity. if the lists were selected on an FPP basis, they are unlikely to be anywhere near as diverse.

Hugh said...

Also, I'd say that the 5% of high school students is actually a rather major under-reporting. High schools are not especially hospitable places in which to identify as queer.

Scar said...

Also, Georgina is not the only person to have been a trans MP - Vladimir Luxuria was the second trans MP in the world (first in Europe) and there are others too (a quick google will give you their names).


Your friendly trans Fact-Checker :-)

LudditeJourno said...

Tasha - I definitely think both, and I think MMP is also driving greater acceptance of minority groups, so the relationship is not causal in one direction in my opinion.
Hugh - yes, it looks like feminist inroads into parliamentary representation were successful before MMP, but mostly perhaps for Pakeha women.
Re: queer demographics - impossible to say when we have so little population data, but you may well be right. Lots of people come out much, much later than high school. Ridiculous we have no census data on sexuality.
Scar/aka trans Fact Checker :-) - that should read that Georgina has been the only openly trans MP in Aotearoa, sorry, it's a bit clumsy.

Hugh said...

It's also interesting to see that the two periods of steepest increase for female MPs, between 1978-1984 and again between 1990-1996, were times when the left was growing its share of the vote. The 2002 downswing coincides with the election of a more conservative parliament. So I think it's fair to say that Labour (and, during the 90s, the Alliance) has led the way on getting female MPs into the house. (And I say that as a non Labour supporter)

Lulu said...

Yay, go MMP! It isn't perfect but it is far far better than some other systems out there.

A a slightly different note, if anyone is interested in voting for a sustainable, healthy and thriving NZ you should check out and find out what politicians think about the number one issue that will affect our generation.

Hugh said...

Lulu, that's a derail, and given how often I've seen links to this website pop up on other blogs, I'd be tempted to regard it as spam, too.

Anonymous said...

Georgina Beyer entered parliament as an electorate MP (by beating Paul Henry). She then lost her seat but stayed in parliament on the list.