Saturday, 22 May 2021

ACT announces democracy policy


ACT Leader David Seymour has today announced a new Democracy Policy. This includes a new Member’s Bill which would introduce a four year term to Parliament from 2026, if the Government turns control of select committees over to the opposition.

“We need to strengthen the quality of law making. My Regulatory Standards Act Bill has already been drawn, with a four year term and independent select committees, this is a trifecta which will lift the standard of law making and engage New Zealanders,” says Mr Seymour.

“The current three year cycle is relatively short by international standards and limits the ability of a Government to adopt a longer term approach, implementing the agenda it was elected on.

“Even a prepared Government needs time to implement its agenda which involves robust policy work, consulting the people affected, drafting laws, passing them through parliament, and implementing them. Doing that in a three year cycle is difficult and results in poorer law-making.

“However, simply extending the term of Parliament bears a risk of overweighting the powers of the executive branch of government without necessarily assisting in good policy making. It is important to enhance the accountability that can be imposed on the executive by the legislature.

“People were captivated by the Epidemic Response Committee, and not just because they couldn’t leave their home during lockdown. They saw a Select Committee with an opposition majority and an opposition chair. It asked questions they wanted answers to, and calling witnesses the Government would have preferred not to hear from.

“My Bill, which I’m announcing today as part of our Democracy Policy would provide an option to extend the term of Parliament to four years, on the condition that Parliamentary Select Committee membership was proportional to non-executive party membership throughout the preceding term of Parliament.

“We need Select Committees to be an independent voice of the legislature to ask probing questions, scrutinise government actions, and reflect the submissions of the public to the Government.

“Because the three year term is a Reserved Provision in law, it can only be reversed by a super majority in parliament or a referendum. I believe such changes should only be made by referendum, and this bill has a clause saying it will only come into force by referendum.

“The Bill would give governments the time they need to introduce their manifesto while also giving legislation the scrutiny it deserves.

“My Regulatory Standards Bill has already been drawn from the Ballot and will be debated next year. This Bill lifts the standard for new regulation.

“ACT is the party of sensible law making. Our Democracy Policy is what we need to lift the standard of law making and ultimately bring back the promise of New Zealand to New Zealanders.”