Vote as if you'd still be proud of it in three years time.

The first time I voted was in 2008. I was 20 years old. I gave my party vote to Labour and my electorate vote to Dr Wayne Mapp (National). I wasn't proud of either of those choices at the time, and I'm not proud of them now. I voted for Labour because they were promising universal student allowances, and I voted for Dr Mapp because I thought that regulations about energy saving lightbulbs and low-flow shower heads were the straw that broke the camel's back.

I voted (in advance) this afternoon, and this time I'm going to be proud of the vote that I cast. I'm one of those people who think that everyone has a social obligation to inform themselves of at least a few basic issues in an election campaign and vote accordingly. I think the strength of any democracy is measured by the participation of its citizens, and that the choice not to vote is a selfish one.

So this election I gave my party vote to the Greens, and my electorate vote to Ben Clark (Labour). In the referendum I ticked the box to keep MMP, and voted for STV as the best alternative. Here's why:

National are going to win the election. But that doesn't mean there's no point voting for the other side. For a start, we need to do what we can to prevent them winning an outright majority that would allow them to govern alone. No party has won more than 50% of the vote in New Zealand since 1951. No party has won more than 50% of the seats in Parliament under MMP in either New Zealand or Germany ever. For the past three years, National have been a party of moderation. Returned for a second term with an outright majority, an empowered National Party will not be so cautious.

Labour are going to lose the election, but they will eventually recover. They will get at least 25% of the vote this time around. They'll be back in force in either 2014 (hopefully) or 2017 at the latest.

The Greens are in a much less certain position. Though they have now reached "medium party" status, unlike Labour they are not yet an enduring force in New Zealand politics. The extra MPs that they will bring into Parliament on the back of a strong 12-14% result in this election will give them three years to solidify their position as the legitimate third party that they are.

ACT and New Zealand First won't be back after Saturday. John Banks is going to lose Epsom, and take ACT down with him. New Zealand First won't quite reach the 5% threshold, which will lead to a substantial wasted vote (a result that favours National). Voting for either of them is a lost cause. Even if it's not, it's still a bloody stupid idea.

The Greens won't support a National Government either through a formal coalition, confidence and supply, or abstention agreement. Never mind all this "highly unlikely" waffle, it simply won't happen.

I don't trust National. I don't think they have exhibited much in the way of principled integrity in the last three years, and I've seen nothing in the campaign to suggest that's going to change in the near future. A few months ago, while they were trying to press through retrospective surveillance legislation under urgency, their line was 'if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear'. Last week, when John Key was secretly recorded in a public cafe talking politics with John Banks, suddenly (allegedly) illegal surveillance was all about 'principle'. The hypocrisy makes me sick.

National don't trust anyone else. Simon Power's reforms of the criminal justice system stem from a distrust of the judiciary and the legal profession. National Standards for schools are about denying the autonomy of teachers and industrialising the education system. Payment cards for youth beneficiaries are a populist attack on the dignity of a small group of disadvantaged youth. Sending DPB mums back to work after a year says that private childcare facilities are better for kids than their own mothers.

I think we should keep our state assets. Not because the world will come crashing down if 49% of four SOEs are sold, but because it just makes more sense to keep them. The argument for selling them is not convincing, and I haven't seen any evidence to suggest that the sale will actually be anywhere near as successful at National seem to think (they have denied OIA requests to release advice explaining the $5-7b figure that they're talking about).

I think agriculture needs to be brought into the ETS sooner rather than later, because it is only through the financial pressure that an ETS will impose that scientific developments in the field of animal emissions will accelerate. On the same point, I think we need to be doing a lot more to encourage research and development, and the reinstatement of the R & D Tax Credit will help.

I think education is about more than skills training and that it has a variety of wider benefits to society. That's why I think that increasing funding for community education will be good for communities. Even if the courses taught don't contribute to marketable skills, they are an important way of improving community engagement and helping people get involved in their local communities.

I think we put too much pressure on school leavers to go to university and get degrees that they don't need. We need to be putting more effort into creating clear pathways for school leavers to go into employment and skills training - Labour's dole for apprenticeships plan is a part of this, and is a clever example of how policy and markets can work together to improve outcomes for people.

I think taking GST off fresh fruit and vegetables is an unnecessary complication of the tax system, but that making a portion of income universally tax-free is a great way to give a boost to low income earners without encouraging negative sentiment from higher income earners. Labour are proposing that the first $5,000 should be tax-free (in conjunction with the GST exemption); the Greens are proposing $10,000 (not sure about their position on GST).

I think the tax base needs to be broadened and modified so it doesn't incentivise investment in unproductive assets like housing. Labour and the Greens both have Capital Gains Tax policies that exclude the family home which will go some way towards broadening the tax base, but probably not do all that much to change investment incentives. I think we need a Comprehensive Capital Tax, but at least a CGT is something.

I think that "open government" should be a much bigger issue. National don't have a policy on this. Labour's is uninspiring. The Greens' is better, but still could go further. In the age of the internet, Government information should be much more accessible than it is. We need to be looking at new ways of encouraging citizen involvement in the democratic and legislative process.

I think the top personal tax rate, the trust rate, and the company rate should all be the same, and they should be higher. Under National, the top personal rate was dropped to 30% to align with the trust rate. The company rate falls to 28% next year. Labour are proposing a 39% rate for income over $150,000, but as far as I've heard aren't planning to change the trust or company rates. I'm not sure where the Greens are on this. The point is that, fundamentally, Labour and the Greens support higher taxes and more distributed income - I think these are ideals that our country long ago learned were desirable, but that we have forgotten them.

I don't believe in universal equality, but I do believe in a minimum standard of dignified existence for all people. I think the neoliberal experiment has failed and that the sooner we return to a sensible system of compassionate capitalism the sooner we can start to mend the wounds left by 30 lost years. Other than Mana, I think the Greens are the strongest advocates of minimum living standards. Their home insulation programme is one small example.

I believe that children are not only the future, but the present as well. I think Labour are strong supporters of children, but that their commitment to their working-class base prevents them making children's interests as much of a priority as they need to be. The Greens have a plan to bring 100,000 children out of poverty in three years. There is no higher priority.

Everyone has an ideological position on welfare, and mine lies on the left. I don't believe that the majority of beneficiaries are in that position by choice. I don't believe in punishing children for the mistakes or circumstances of their parents. I think overly targeted welfare programmes will inevitably create cracks through which people will fall. If we are going to make sure the social safety net catches everyone, then we are going to have to accept some level of wastage.

If you accept, as I do, that most beneficiaries would rather be in work and contributing to society, then it follows that the single biggest thing you can do to reduce beneficiary numbers is to create jobs and assist beneficiaries into them. It is not only stupid, but cruel and heartless to kick people off benefits when there are no jobs for them to move into.

I could go on, but I think that explains well enough why I support Labour and the Greens on a policy basis. But elections and governments are about more than just policy; they are about principle, integrity, and trust as well. That's why my party vote goes to the Greens.

Keith Locke (who is sadly leaving Parliament after this election) and Kennedy Graham are champions of principle and integrity in New Zealand. They and the rest of the Greens have long been the conscience of Parliament - they are the party who is always prepared to stand up and make a noise when Labour might be tempted to hold their nose and vote for something they don't believe in.

Though Charles Chauvel and Labour might be able to claim substantial credit for the compromise solution to the Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill that was passed a few months ago, it was Keith Locke and the Greens who were the most vocal on the issue. Though the final Bill was much better than what was originally proposed, it was still not perfect. Labour voted for it; the Greens didn't.

Back when the Ahmed Zaoui case was going through the courts, it was Keith Locke who poured his time and energy into defending the fundamental rights of a man who would otherwise have been cast out by the system. Against massive opposition, Mr Zaoui's cause was eventually vindicated and he now enjoys the life of a free man in New Zealand with his family.

After the Canterbury earthquakes, there was a universal recognition across Parliament that the Government needed to act and that legislation would be needed to allow it to assist the people of Canterbury in an emergency situation. But it was Kennedy Graham who defended, in the face of a Government determined to grant itself wide an unnecessary powers, the constitutional importance of the supremacy of Parliament. He failed, but the point is that he tried.

Kennedy Graham's speech in the House on the closure motion in October gives me hope for the debate that is coming in the constitutional review that approaches in the next term of government. Graham talked about an upper house and the physical layout of Parliament. The Greens want to adopt a code of conduct for MPs that would raise the level of debate in the House out of the gutter into which it sometimes descends.

I want a Labour-led Government, but I want the Greens to have a significant presence in Parliament. It won't happen in 2011, but I think there's a good chance of it happening in 2014.

As for my electorate vote, I'll admit to being a bit disappointed in the candidates on offer in the North Shore. It would be a cold day in hell before I voted for Don Brash (ACT) or Andrew Williams (New Zealand First). I haven't heard a word from either of them in the electorate contest anyway.

Over the past few weeks I've received brochures in the mail from Maggie Barry (National) and Ben Clark (Labour). The Maggie Barry one contained not a word about the candidate. It was three pages of National Party policies and achievements. The Ben Clark one was mostly the same, but had a small section telling me who Clark was and a bit about himself.

Electorate contests are about individuals, not parties. If National put up a candidate with some passion for the electorate and a discernible desire to represent the electorate, then I would vote for him or her. But they didn't. Instead they put up a semi-famous nobody who is so confident in her ability to win that she doesn't even have the decency to ask us to vote for her. The arrogance of the campaign in this electorate makes me angry, frankly.

So, while I don't see much in Clark that inspires me, at least he made some sort of effort. Plus he's from a party that I actually support, which always helps. Not that it matters; Barry will win.

That just leaves the referendum on MMP to cover off. For me, the decision was simple: votes are supposed to correspond to seats in the House. The only system that does that properly is MMP.

True, there are some issues with it that have been discussed extensively in the past month or so. I'm not going to go over them all here, because at the end of the day most of them will get sorted out in the review that's triggered by the referendum. Even if they don't get fixed, it's still the best system warts and all.

I ticked STV on the second question because in practice it apparently works out relatively proportional, and I like that it gives voters some power over the lists. But I think it's far too complicated and I don't like the fact that electorates will have to be much larger for it to work.

So that's who I voted for, and some of my reasons. I set out to be proud of my choices, and I think I've achieved that. I'm fairly confident I'll still be proud of them come 2014.

As I said at the start, I think everyone has an obligation to vote. Whoever you support, and whatever your reasons, try to make your vote something you can be proud of.


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