Citizen’s Juries

The Herald reports on how the Greens want to get a Citizen’s Jury on the issue of state funding of political parties underway as soon as possible, so National can’t abolish it after the election.

Now if done the right way, I am quite a fan of citizen’s juries. But everything about this is being done the wrong way.

The outcome has been predetermined. Instead of being set up in bipartisan fashion on matters such as the type of electoral system, it has been set up to deliver just one result – increased taxpayer funding of political parties. Labour and the Greens both want that as the outcome, tried to do it through the EFA, and having somewhat failed are now trying to do it again.

Labour are quite simply corrupt when it comes to electoral law issues, and any process which involves them as Government choosing the expert panel which advises the Citizen’s Jury should be treated as naked self interest. Hell Mike Williams will probably end up as the Chair.

The Greens are little better than Labour in this area. They have absolutely no comitment to a fair process unless it achieves the outcome they want. Look at the Royal Commission on Genetic Engineering? That had it all – independent commissioners, scientific evidence, hearings etc. And the moment it didn’t recommend what the Greens wanted – they attacked it.

So this process is a total sham. It is designed for one purpose only – to let Labour and the Greens use more taxpayer money on their election campaigns. After what Labour and Greens did with the EFA, they should frankly be seen as incompetent to have a say on these issues.

Now this is not to say the concept of Citizen’s Juries do not have a place in electoral law making. I think they do. They can provide some very useful input if done the right way. But the way I would use such Juries are as follows:

  1. The independent experts must be chosen by a super majority of parliamentary parties, not just by the Government of the day. The formula which I like is that any appointments must be agreed to by party leaders representing over 75% of the MPs and over 50% of the parties in Parliament. This means that not only must both major parties agree, but so must at least half of the minor parties.
  2. The issues, terms of references and high level process must also be signed off by that super-majority. The most unforgivable crime that Labour and the Greens have done with the EFA is to treat electoral law as a bauble for the winner, rather than a bipartisan constitutional law.
  3. Issues referred to a Citizen’s Jury should be in totality, not just a narrow aspect such as taxpayer funding of political parties. It is ridicolous to exclude from consideration all the issues dealt with by the Electoral Finance Act. In fact the EFA should be abolished immediately upon a change of Government, and a citizen’s jury could be used as part of the process of consulting on and determining its replacement.

It is a shame that what is a perfectly fine concept is being damaged by its use by the Greens and Labour in such a partisan fashion. I mean Russel Norman is already calling for its timelines to be determined so that National can be attacked over it, rather than any sense of what a proper time-frame would be.

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