Even better, I would never have brought forward a Bill like this in the first place. I would have created a six month commission of inquiry, starting last October, and included the political parties in its deliberations, and required it to hold Citizens Juries around New Zealand to also see what the public thought, in a sensible low key debate. Such a process would, I am sure, have led to quite different legislation being proposed, and would have turned it from what is being seen as a “partisan” issue to a much simpler and cleaner debate about how best to run our electoral system. It would also have meant it would be difficult for anyone to criticise the outcome, given the wide engagement that would have happened.
Jordan is absolutely right. Look the Electoral Act should not be a wildly partisan issue. It is our arguably most important constitutional act. Significant changes to it should be made in a public and considered way.
Even putting aside all the problems wrong with the substance of the EFB, the even bigger problem is the total absence of a process to allow public input into the policy on which the bill is based. You have a public policy process to start with, and then you have a bill based on that policy.
This is why the bill needs to be stopped. Not because it is absolutely impossible to improve it. But because the public have not had their say on the underlying policy issues. And that is very different to being allowed to send in a submission to a select committee once the bill is in Parliament. A proper public process involves discussion papers, options papers, forums, seminars, a website, discussions on radio and television etc etc. Absolutely all of this is missing.
If the Government does not stop the bill, and passes (even with amendments) the bill before Christmas, then the Electoral Act will not recover. It will become a partisan prize for whoever wins the election.
And it doesn’t need to be that way. If a proper process was set up for public debate, with well thought out options, I think one could gain a wide degree of consensus. But you CAN NOT allow this bill to proceed in the absence of the public debate. Especially when the Electoral Act is being massively extended to not just regulate parties and candidates, but every New Zealander. How can you pass a law regulating every New Zealander, when you have not even had their input into why such a law is needed, if it is?