A surprise appearance from Winston Peters at the MMP hearings
There were two television cameras, half a dozen journalists and few spare seats in the hearings room when I arrived at quarter to four. My nerves redoubled—I wasn’t exactly expecting media to be at the MMP submission hearings. Surely they’d be too boring for journalists?
A staff member apologetically met me outside the room. She had rung me earlier to ask me to be there half an hour earlier than my scheduled 4:30 p.m., since they were miles ahead of time. Now, Winston Peters had turned up and decided he was going to present his submission then. So it looked like I would be presenting around half past four in the end anyway.
That would explain the small army of journalists. NZ First’s party secretary was supposed to present at 12:15 p.m. Perhaps Mr Peters wanted the publicity stunt, so told media representatives to be at the hearing room at half past three, displacing whoever was scheduled at the time. I later learned that his party secretary hadn’t shown up.
Still, the commissioners and political scientists didn’t seem upset about the chance to question Mr Peters. NZ First is unique in proposing that a party winning one electorate must get 4% of the party vote before getting any lists seats. Chief Electoral Officer Robert Peden asked the obvious question: why not just make it 5%, in effect abolishing the one-seat rule entirely? Mr Peters didn’t have a real principled answer, other than that they were “reasonable people”, though he appeared (at least to me) to concede that they would probably prefer just to abolish the one-seat rule but for their reasonableness.
But imagine my relief when, as soon as Mr Peters finished and left the room, the journalists in the front row left with him, the cameramen started packing up and each of the five media-labelled microphones at the submitter’s stand disappeared one by one. By the time the next submitter was seated, the public seating was almost empty again. The room was not nearly so nerve-racking by the time I took the stand at 4:40 p.m.
Such is to be expected from Mr Peters, I guess. The Commission staff member was apologetic and thanked me for waiting; I was just mildly amused.