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:

  • 79 women over 5 elections.  Collectively those 79 women have served 196 terms, or 2.48 terms each on average.  Fifteen of these women have been Maori (Parekura’s 12 plus Paula Bennett, Hekia Parata and Rahui Katene)
  • Maori political representation has almost exactly matched population percentages, with a total of 92 seats held by Maori MPs over 5 elections (some MPs have served multiple terms, so this doesn’t equate to numbers of MPs)
  • Pacifica MPs have held steady at 3 MPs per election, or 2.5% of MPs (cf 5.8% – 6% of our population describing themselves as Pacifica).  This includes NZ’s first Pacifica woman MP, Samoan Luamanuvao Winnie Laban and first MP of Tongan descent, Carmel Sepuloni
  • Georgina Beyer became the world’s first openly trans MP in 1999, so far the only one
  • Maryan Street became the first out lesbian MP in 2005, joining Tim Barnet, Chris Finlayson and Chris Carter, all of whom, post MMP, were elected as out queer people.  Since then Louisa Wall (first Maori out queer person), Grant Robertson, Charles Chauvel and Kevin Hague have joined them, and this election there are 14 out queer candidates standing, of which Jan Logie (lesbian) is a near certain newbie.  “Lesbian end of bi” Kelly Buchanan and “bisexual” Rachael Goldsmith may be the first candidates daring to use the B word, though they are probably not headed for parliament.
  • In terms of ethnicities wholly unrepresented when we had First Past the Post, MMP has seen the first Chinese MP (Pansy Wong), later joined by Kenneth Wang and Raymond Huo; first Tahitian MP (Charles Chauvel); first Korean MP (Melissa Lee); the first Indian MPs (Fijian Indian Rajen Prasad and Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi); the first Pakistani MP (Ashraf Choudhary)  and the first MP of African descent (Nandor Tanczos)
  • In terms of religion, MMP has given us the first Sikh MP and the first and second Muslim MPs

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.

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2 thoughts on “MMP and diversity

    • Hey Fliss, yeah, I wrote that sentence clumsily, I meant that Georgina was the first trans MP in the world, and the only trans MP in Aotearoa that I’m aware of. Thanks, LJ

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