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Electoral panel terms of reference, membership

Hon Annette King
Minister of Justice


Terms of reference and membership of expert panel to review electoral administration and political party funding

Justice Minister Annette King says Otago University associate law professor Andrew Geddis will chair the Expert Panel, supported by a Citizens' Forum, to review electoral administration and political party funding.

Ms King today also announced the terms of reference for the panel, which begins work immediately. As part of Budget 2008, $4.574m was provided in Vote Internal Affairs for the purposes of the review. The Citizens' Forum, an initiative proposed by the Green Party, is supported by the Government.

"Associate Professor Geddis is an acknowledged expert in electoral law, and will be joined on the panel by Professor Stephen Levine, founding Head of the School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington, and Dr Jean Drage, from Canterbury University's political science department."

Ms King said that during the first stage of the review, the Panel will review the administration of the electoral system, including the structure of the electoral agencies.

"The second stage includes the establishment of a Citizens' Forum to ensure public participation in the review process. This group will include citizens selected from each electorate in New Zealand. They will be tasked with examining the funding of elections and political parties.

"The Expert Panel will assist during the Citizens' Forum learning phase, and will prepare background information on the issues the forum will consider. The work of the Citizens' Forum and its report will inform the Expert Panel's final recommendations to the Minister of Justice."

Ms King said the Expert Panel and Citizens' Forum will provide an independent, non-political perspective on the reform options. "The independent nature of the process should give the public confidence in the outcome. The two stages of the Review, including the Panel's work and the public participation process, will be completed by the end of October 2009."

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TERMS OF REFERENCE


An Expert Panel will be established to review and report to the Minister of Justice on the administration of the electoral system, and on the funding of elections and political parties. As part of the review, a Citizens' Forum will be established to consider and report on issues referred to it.


Scope of Review


The Expert Panel of three people, will review and report to the Minister of Justice, on the following matters.


The administration of the system


The review will examine:


the structure, composition, functions, and jurisdiction of the agencies responsible for administration of the electoral system, comprising the Chief Electoral Office, Electoral Commission, Electoral Enrolment Centre; and Representation Commission;


the question of whether the investigation and prosecution of electoral offences should be conducted by the Police, or an electoral agency.

The funding of elections and political parties


The review will examine the current system of election funding and the question of introducing a system of state funding of political parties in New Zealand, including:


a review of international funding models;


issues with the current system of funding elections and political parties;


how any recommended changes to funding would impact on other Parliamentary funding;


what level, if any, of state funding of political parties is appropriate;


how any such funding should be allocated between political parties;


what constraints, if any, there should be regarding what such funding for political parties could be spent on;


whether such political party funding should incorporate, or be additional to funding for election programmes set out in Part 6 of the Broadcasting Act;


the relationship between state funding levels and rules regarding private funding of political parties.


The scope of the review does not include the funding to Members of Parliament under the Parliamentary Service Act 2000.


Process of Review


An Expert Panel will be appointed to:


provide recommendations to the Minister on changes to the electoral administration system;


develop an options paper on election and political party funding which will be referred to a Citizens' Forum;


make a recommendation to the Minister of Justice on suitable candidates for the position of chair of the Citizens' Forum;


prepare for the Citizens' Forum guidelines for how the Citizens' Forum process is to work, including guidance on the extent and form of public engagement; and background information about the matters to be considered;


assist with the Citizens' Forum learning phase (for example: presentations, seminars, or workshops);


make final recommendations to the Minister relating to political party funding issues, after having considered the report of the Citizens' Forum.


Citizens Forum


A Citizens Forum will be selected to consider the options paper developed by the Expert Panel; and report on its deliberations.

Selection of Citizens' Forum


The Citizens' Forum is to be broadly representative of the adult population of New Zealand, particularly with respect to age, ethnicity, gender and geographical distribution. It shall consist of 70 persons, one from each electorate.


The following persons are not eligible to be members of the Citizens' Forum: A person who is not a registered elector; a person who is not resident in New Zealand; a judge, or justice; a member or officer of the Parliament of New Zealand; an elected member of a local government, or a District Health Board; an immediate family member of a sitting member of Parliament, and a current officer or official representative of a registered political party.


Timeframe


The Expert Panel will:

begin its work no later than 8 September 2008;


provide a report to the Minister of Justice on the Review of Electoral Agencies by 31 March 2009 for tabling in the House of Representatives;


set up the Citizens' Forum to begin its work by 16 March 2009; and


provide a report to the Minister of Justice on state funding of political parties and the funding of elections, including a report from the Citizens' Forum by 31 October 2009 for tabling in the House of Representatives.


Support and Administration


The Department of Internal Affairs will be responsible for ensuring that the administrative needs of the Expert Panel and the Citizens' Forum are met. The Ministry of Justice will provide advisory support to the Expert Panel by preparing on request, occasional papers summarising or detailing matters covered by the review. These papers are neither intended to reflect a government position nor will they make recommendations.

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Questions and answers

Why is an Expert Panel and Citizens' Forum being established?


There are some electoral matters that were not addressed by the Electoral Finance Act 2007 or that require further consideration. These matters include the administration of the electoral system; where responsibility for investigation and prosecution of electoral offences should lie; and the funding of elections and political parties.

An Expert Panel and Citizens' Forum will provide an independent, non-political perspective on reform options. The independent process will enhance public confidence in the outcome and any legislation that results. The public will have a further opportunity to make their views known during the select committee process if legislation results from the review's recommendations.

Who has been appointed to the Expert Panel?

Associate Professor Andrew Geddis (chair) completed his undergraduate work at the University of Otago, studying law and political studies. In 1996 he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to Harvard Law School, where he completed his LLM degree. In 2000 he returned to Otago to take up a lecturing position. He was appointed Associate Professor in 2007. Associate Professor Geddis has provided advice on several occasions to Parliament's Justice and Electoral Committee and Privileges Committee. His book on our electoral system, Electoral Law in New Zealand: Practice and Policy, was published in 2007.

Professor Stephen Levine was the founding Head of the School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington. Professor Levine has published extensively on a number of aspects of politics and security in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, and teaches the School's Pacific Islands politics honours course. His research interests focus principally on constitutional and electoral systems issues viewed in comparative perspective. He has also been studying the implications of electoral system change for parliamentary institutions and for Members of Parliament. Since the mid-1990s Professor Levine has served as Director of the New Zealand Political Change Project, a collaborative research programme examining the political and policy-related implications of New Zealand's system of proportional representation (MMP).

Dr Jean Drage's background combines research and teaching in political science, local government and women and politics along with policy development at central government level and a number of governance roles. She taught at Victoria University in Wellington in the political science and international relations programme prior to moving to Canterbury. She was awarded the Henry Lang fellowship in 2005 to write a book on the impacts of local government reform on political representation. It will be published in 2008. She is currently completing new research on women in local government.

What is the role of the Expert Panel?

In the first part of the Review, the Expert Panel will review and provide a report to the Minister of Justice about the administration of the electoral system, including the structure of the electoral agencies. The Expert Panel will also prepare guidelines, background papers and an Options Paper about the funding of elections and political parties for the Citizens' Forum to deliberate and report on. The Expert Panel will then produce a final report to the Minister of Justice on funding of elections and political parties.

What is the role of the Citizens' Forum?

The role of the Citizens' Forum, as provided in the terms of reference, is to represent the public and to deliberate on the public's behalf. However, the Citizens' Forum will not be the exclusive means of public participation in the review. The Expert Panel will be free to establish special sessions (to elicit, for example, the views of young people, people with disabilities, and people from diverse ethnic backgrounds), and invite input from key stakeholders such as political parties, media organisations, and electoral agencies

How will the Citizens' Forum be appointed?

The selection process for the creation of the Citizens' Forum will be confirmed at a later date. However, the Citizens' Forum is to be broadly representative of the population of New Zealand, particularly respecting age, ethnicity, gender, and geographical distribution.

What is the structure of the Citizens' Forum?

The terms of reference propose a Forum of 70 members - - one from each electorate. The number and form of meetings will be confirmed at a later date.

What sort of training will be provided to members of the public who make up the Citizens' Forum?

There will be sessions in which they learn about the issues the Forum will debate and deliberate on. The learning phase will be facilitated by the Expert Panel.

Why weren't the Expert Panel appointed and Citizens' Forum established last year before the Electoral Finance Act 2007 was passed?

It would not have been possible for the Expert Panel and Citizens' Forum to complete hearings and report to the Minister of Justice before the end of 2008. Parliament recognised the need to pass the Electoral Finance Act at the end of 2007 so the new rules governing election expenses and election advertising and political donations were in place in time for the 2008 General Election.

What are some issues the Expert Panel and Citizens' Forum will look at?


Issues will include administration of the electoral system; where responsibility for investigation and prosecution of electoral offences should lie; and the funding of elections and political parties. The review will not consider funding to MPs under the Parliamentary Services Act 2000.


ENDS

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