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Shaky Foundations: Why Our Democracy Needs Trust | Limit Urgency To Rebuild Trust: New Research

Our trust in our political institutions is fast eroding. Today, Maxim Institute releases our latest discussion paper, Shaky Foundations: Why our democracy needs trust. The paper raises concerns about declining trust in New Zealand's political institutions and democratic processes, and the role that the overuse of Parliamentary urgency plays in that.

This is a tactic that has been used by both major parties.

Urgency is when the normal rules are suspended, and laws are pushed through with less scrutiny and time for debate.

“Trust is the foundation that allows democracy to function,” says paper author Dr Stephanie Worboys, Researcher at Maxim Institute. “When that trust erodes, it threatens our entire system of self-governance.”

As the paper reports, trust in political leaders has fallen ten percentage points from 2022 to 2024, down to just 40%. Trust in the government declined nine points to 48% over the same period, below the global average. Only 43% of New Zealanders believe all citizens are genuinely represented in Parliament. Voter commitment dropped from 50% in 2020 to 36% in 2022.

The paper cites several potential factors, particularly the overuse of “urgency” to bypass normal legislative processes and public input.

The discussion paper recommends actions to help rebuild trust, such as limiting the government's ability to fast-track legislation under “urgency” without proper scrutiny and requiring a supermajority in Parliament to invoke urgency provisions.

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“Democracy depends on an engaged citizenry that believes their voices matter,” says Dr Worboys. “When New Zealanders lose faith that their views are represented and that democratic processes are truly open and accessible, they begin to disengage from the system entirely.”

Dr Worboys adds, “This report should serve as a wake-up call that more must be done to reinvigorate trust in our most vital democratic institutions.”

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