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Greens win Citizens' Jury

19 December 2007

Greens win Citizens' Jury

Campaign funding and finance will be examined by a Citizens' Jury, following an agreement between the Green Party and the Government.

The Jury will include representatives from every electorate in the country and will be resourced so as to provide a considered opinion about the future of political party and campaign funding.

"We are really pleased to have been able to secure this process, which will provide representatives from every electorate in New Zealand an opportunity to contribute.

"Citizens' Juries and citizens' assemblies have been used overseas to consider and review issues such as this. The great beauty of Citizens' Juries and assemblies is that they take the debate away from the political parties and hand it over to a group of citizens without a vested interest.

"We believe that a Citizens' Jury is the best place to consider the contentious issues of political party and campaign funding that have been raised in the debate around the Electoral Finance Act.

"While the Act was needed to close loopholes in the law revealed at the last election, we need a more inclusive and disinterested process to further consider the bigger picture of political party and campaign funding.

"This method has been used very successfully in Canada and we hope it will provide a template for use in New Zealand in any future initiatives.

"We hope that all New Zealanders will support this process and that we can find a place to have some non-partisan reasoned discussion about the future of our democracy."

Citizens' Jury Let the People decide

"The assembly members constantly amazed me with their enthusiasm and deep commitment to the task they were given... Assembly members approached their deliberations with open minds, respect for different points of view and in the spirit of the best kind of collective problem solving. They inspired the members of the public who came to see them at work and they inspired me"

George Thompson, Chair Citizens Assembly, Canada 10 December 2004

The idea of a Citizens' Jury is very similar to that of a jury in a court case, but on a larger scale and dealing with broader public policy issues rather than a trial.

A small group of people are randomly chosen off the electoral roll in each electorate. They are invited to a local meeting, told what is involved and given the opportunity to pull out. Then from those who remain one or two people are randomly chosen from each electorate to participate in the Citizens' Jury.

These one or two people from each electorate then assemble together as the Citizens' Jury to consider the issue at hand. There are usually a number of sessions over a number of weekends. There is an independent facilitator and the Jury has the resources to call in experts, hold public hearings and to conduct research, in order to make its recommendations.

The model has been used previously in Canada to deal with electoral law reform. Electoral law is particularly suited to this mechanism because of the vested interest of the parliamentarians in the outcome of this process.


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