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ACT @ the forefront of e-politics

Thursday 4th May 2000
Richard Prebble
Media Release -- Governance & Constitution

The ACT party has pioneered the use of e-politics with its fight against the Employment Relations Bill, ACT leader Richard Prebble said today.

“At the 5pm close off date for submissions yesterday, ACT had received 577 submissions from the public. Of these, 383 had come by e-mail from the campaign website ACT set up to provide information and rally support against the Bill. A further 194 submissions were received by fax,” Mr Prebble said.

“We gave people the tools to make their views heard quickly and easily. Making submissions by post is challenging. People need to obtain a copy of the bill from a bookshop at a cost of $6.85, then analyse the 187 pages, type a submission, copy it 25 times and then post it to the select committee.

“ACT put all the information on our website, including a copy of the bill, independent analysis, a copy of the guide to making submissions and an online form where people could type their submission and send it in automatically.

“ACT then copied the submissions and sent them to the committee,” he said.

“The comments we have received have been overwhelmingly favourable. Typical comments include ‘Thanks for having this set up for us to use!’”

Mr Prebble said there had been over 300,000 hits on the ACT website in the month of April.

“Some e-mail submissions asked why parliament does not itself allow direct submission by e-mail. I believe that ACT has demonstrated that e-politics is possible and that the public want this form of e-democracy. I am writing to the speaker to request that committees follow ACT's example.”

A copy of Mr Prebble’s letter to the Speaker is attached.

04 May 2000
Rt Hon J L Hunt
Speaker of the House
PARLIAMENT HOUSE

Dear Mr Speaker

Re: E-politics

This letter is to request that parliament promote e-democracy. In particular, that select committees promote direct democracy by allowing submissions on bills to be sent electronically by e-mail.

The ACT party has pioneered the use of e-politics.

ACT, realising that every employer and employee will be affected by the union promoting Employment Relations Bill, set out to inform them via e-politics.

ACT set up a website http://www.act.org.nz/action/employment.

On the site we posted the union bill. ACT also put up not only our analysis of the bill but also that of independent organisations.

ACT posted fresh information regularly (including Billy Connelly's interpretation of trade union negotiations).

On the site we encouraged people to make submissions. ACT posted the Office of the Clerk's guide to making a submission. We also put in place a user-friendly submission template.

We did not tell submitters what to say - that was for them.

Some 577 submissions had been received by ACT as at 5pm May 3 - the closing date for submissions. 383 had come by email via our website. A further 194 by fax.

As you know that is a truly remarkable number. Many very important bills such as the Education Amendment Bill, that affects every school, receive less than 50 submissions.

The barriers to making a submission to a select committee are very high.

First - you need to obtain a copy of the bill - The Employment Relations Bill costs $6.85.

Second - you must analyse the bill - the Employment Relations Bill is 187 pages long!

Third - the submission must be copied 25 times.

Fourth - it must be posted.

Parliament should follow ACT's example.

-Let all bills be posted on the Parliamentary website.
-Why not put up the first reading Hansard?
-include an online form so people can type their submission and send it to the committee directly.

As every MP has a personal computer the submissions could be dealt with electronically (a huge cost saving).

I invite you to examine the quality of the submissions ACT received. They are clearly genuine and make very good points. (Three submissions are in favour of the bill).

ACT has proved that e-democracy is possible and practical. I look forward to your comments on the above points.

Yours sincerely
Hon Richard Prebble
CBE LEADER,
ACT NEW ZEALAND
ENDS


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