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Let the people decide on campaign finance laws

Let the people decide on campaign finance laws

Green Media Release 15th June 2007

Green Co-Leader Dr. Russel Norman will use his speech today to a forum on electoral finance law to call for a citizens’ assembly to decide on new electoral finance laws. The all day forum at Victoria University in Wellington is organised by Transparency International and the Institute of Policy Studies.

“The funding of political parties and election campaigns is one of the most important issues for a democracy. We shouldn’t just leave this decision up to politicians because the democratic system must belong to the people not the political parties,”says Dr. Norman.

“In my personal view, the best way to decide the issue is to hand it over to an assembly of citizens, who would be chosen much like a jury and then provided with the resources and information to come up with the rules governing the funding of political parties and election campaigns. These rules would then be implemented by parliament.

“Having served on a jury earlier this year, I have great faith in the ability of my fellow citizens, when given resources and information, to consider the issues dispassionately and come up with a fair system.

“We use a randomly selected group of twelve men and women to decide whether an accused person ends up in jail for the rest of their life, so why don’t we trust people to decide how best to protect our democracy from the influence of money?

“There is recent experience in Canada, another western democracy, in the successful use of citizens’ assemblies. An assembly of citizens has been used twice in the last three years in Canada, in British Colombia and in Ontario, to make recommendations on reforming their electoral system.*

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Dr. Norman will also use his speech to reiterate the Green position on electoral finance reform:

* prevent parties from accepting anonymous donations above $1000;
* ban donations from overseas (except citizens living overseas);
* parties must produce weekly declaration of donations over $1000 leading up to election day;
* a $35,000 limit to how much any one person or entity can donate to a party;
* transparency and a $50,000 spending limit on non-party groups’ election campaigning; and
* partial public funding of political parties.

ENDS

*Notes on Canadian experience
In Canada they randomly selected a large group of voters who were told what was involved and given the option of pulling out. Then, from those who remained, a smaller group of about one hundred was randomly chosen to form the assembly. The Assembly was given the resources to become fully informed on the issue and took public submissions before coming to a conclusion as to the best electoral system. The Assembly included representation from across the country, a roughly equal number of men and women, and indigenous people were represented. Both of these citizens’ assemblies recommended proportional voting systems, one of them virtually identical to New Zealand’s MMP system.

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