MIL OSI – Source: Green Party – Press Release/Statement
Headline: Gareth Hughes: Broadcasting (Election Programmes and Election Advertising) Amendment Bill – Third reading
Gareth Hughes MP on Thursday, March 16, 2017 – 13:50
I think I just made it. Kia ora, Mr Assistant Speaker. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou. Kia ora. I rise to support the Electoral Amendment Bill and the Broadcasting (Election Programmes and Election Advertising) Amendment Bill. The Green Party supports this pretty pragmatic but, albeit, very small change to our electoral arrangements in New Zealand. We have all seen the decline of the opening and closing broadcasts and the need for greater flexibility for the political parties to get their message out to the voters, wherever they are. As a politician and a student of history, I very much believe that we as elective representatives have to be where the people are. In the 1930s they were at home listening to the radio. In the 1970s they were on television, and now, in the 21st century, they are increasingly online, so it makes sense and it is a pragmatic step that we can move away from some of these, I guess, legacy distribution means, like television, towards more modern means. But let us get the facts straight. This is a tiny, tiny step in the right direction.
The Government is ignoring and avoiding the big issue that is the crisis of electoral participation in New Zealand. We have a crisis when a million New Zealanders are not voting. If they were represented in this House, they would be the second-largest party—the Kiwis who chose not to or could not vote on election day. Although this legislation passing today comes out of the post-election inquiry, this was one of the only things to be picked up. We have seen review after review, academic study after academic study, pointing to where the problem is—30 years of declining electoral participation, a million Kiwis unable or not choosing to vote—but the Government is absolutely avoiding the critical things, the pragmatic, smart, effective things it could be doing so that all New Zealanders’ voices were heard in this, the House of Representatives.
At the moment we have an absolute tonne of Kiwis who are not represented in this, the House of Representatives. We have heard in the debate a whole host of steps that have not been taken. We have seen a policy from the Government of omission, of avoiding the critical things it could be doing. We have heard simple things that should happen, such as allowing people who turn up on election day to be able to enrol at the ballot box booth and be able to vote. Too many people I talk to around New Zealand and where I am standing on the East Coast are scared, actually, of what is going to happen if they turn up having not been enrolled, so they therefore avoid turning up entirely. That is a simple step that we could clean up in an afternoon.
We have heard about the need for civics education, and how poorly we are serving New Zealanders in terms of giving them information about their democracy and about their society. We do not want to see partisan political propaganda being taught to kids, but what we want to be seeing is them being educated on how their democracy works, how they can participate in their society. And let me say how disappointed I am in this House that we are no longer livestreaming select committees. Here is a chance for people anywhere in New Zealand with an internet connection to be able to actually see us politicians working together collaboratively around a select committee. It is disappointing that trial was discontinued.
We need to see better promotion of how and why people should vote. Every year the Electoral Commission trots out Lionel from Shortland Street in the guise of the Electoral Commission’s orange man. I cannot believe we are still using an advertising and marketing campaign more than a decade old. It is clear it is not resonating with young New Zealanders, as we see with the absolutely massive decline in the last 30 years. Personally, I strongly believe we need to move to lower the voting age. Last week we saw the Children’s Commissioner, Judge Andrew Becroft, come strongly out in support. Even The Economist magazine has come out strongly in support of lowering the voting age. I support the idea that people can learn about their democratic responsibilities at schools and then vote with their peers at school. All the data shows that if someone votes the first time, they are subsequently much more likely to vote in succeeding elections. I want to see people being able to vote with their peers at school, and then continuing to vote.
Lastly, we need to clean up our electoral system. The big issue the Government has avoided is removing the unfair, disenfranchising coat-tailing clause. What we see is a Government, through its pleasure, propping up two zombie parties, the ACT Party and United Future. These parties exist only at the Government’s pleasure. The Government sends the message very clearly, through cups of tea and other things, to vote for these parties, and why does it do it? It does it for an electoral advantage. It is trying to screw the scrum, and despite the absolute—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Trevor Mallard): Order! The member’s time has expired.