As Helen Clark was appearing at the same time in a different select committee, the total number of media at Justice & Electoral was one – from Select Committee News.
There were eight written submissions, and three of us also made oral submissions. We all supported having the Electoral Commission as an Officer of Parliament, and/or having a requirement for any appointments to have widespread parliamentary support.
The Committee indicated they were favourably inclined to the notion that the requirement the Minister of Justice not consult other parties over any appointments to the Electoral Commission, should be strengthened to gaining approval from most of the other parties (myself and Andrew Geddis suggested approval from leaders of parties representing 75% of MPs and 75% of the parliamentary parties should be the level required).
They also indicated they are seeking further advice on whether the Electoral Commission should be an Officer of Parliament, like the Ombudsman and the Auditor-General. The Ministry of Justice seems to have been rather anti this in their background papers, and I felt the pros and cons had not been adequately investigated. It is pleasing that the Committee may do so.
So I’m pretty confident we will not end up with a situation where the Minister of Justice can unilaterally appoint the person who runs our electoral system. For scare tactics I joked about the possibility that Simon Bridges as a future Minister of Justice (but I accidentally called him Simon Power which confused people) could appoint me as Chief Electoral Commissioner – and how I am sure Labour MPs would want to get to have a vote on that 🙂
Looking at the written submissions, those calling for the Commission to be an Officer of Parliament (rather than appointed by the Minister of Justice and accountable to him or her) include the former CEO of the Electoral Commission, a former long-term staffer of the Commission, the former Labour Party General Secretary (Mike Smith), Professor Andrew Geddis, the NZ Law Society and myself. Now I’m not sure there are a lot of electoral issues we would agree on between us, so I hope our collective submissions agreeing on this point, have had some impact.