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Electoral law changes defy conventions

Nick Smith - Electoral Law

20 June 2019

The Government is riding roughshod over New Zealand’s conventions on electoral law by advancing changes ahead of the triennial Justice Select Committee Inquiry and without any consultation with the Opposition, National’s Electoral Law Spokesperson Nick Smith says.

“The Government is rushing changes in electoral law to advantage its own re-election. It is defying long standing conventions that electoral law changes are made on cross party basis through the triennial Justice Committee Inquiry.

“It is also outrageous that it has only consulted the three parties in the Government. This is the sort of conduct we expect from banana republics and not a respected long standing democracy like New Zealand.

“National respected these conventions under the Bolger/Shipley and Key/English Governments, consulting all parties on Government electoral law changes before Cabinet decisions were made.

“This Government announcement makes a mockery of the Justice Select Committee electoral law inquiry. These are the very issues before the committee and subject to public submissions, officials’ advice and external discussion.

“We only found out these Cabinet decisions through questioning at today’s estimates hearing on the Budget highlighting the sneaky process by which they are being advanced. The committee had to abandon its consideration today on the electoral law inquiry having now had the key issues pre-determined.

“The Minister cannot complain that the committee’s work is taking some time when it is he who wrote last December wanting the terms of reference extended and Labour members who wanted local electoral law included.

“The Government’s changes go against the recommendations of the Electoral Commission in areas like allowing an election day same day enrolment and voting. The commission advised such a change should not be implemented for 2020. The Government is ignoring this advice so as to advantage its own re-election.

“National does not know the detail of many of the changes proposed, such as the policy to make it easier for New Zealanders to vote from overseas. Given such votes favour Government parties and the appalling process, these changes are also likely to be designed to give them an electoral advantage.

“These electoral law changes set a dangerous precedent and highlights the vulnerability of our democracy. National has been exploring the need to entrench the Electoral Act requiring a super-majority in parliament or referendum to make changes. Today’s announcement reinforces the need for this sort of reform.”


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