The Green Party once again put electoral reform on the political agenda with the first reading of Golriz Ghahraman’s Strengthening Democracy member’s bill - only for it to be voted down by Labour.
“My Bill would have ensured everyone has the right to a fair, equal, accessible say in the decisions that impact their lives,” says Green spokesperson for electoral reform, Golriz Ghahraman.
“When I first introduced this Bill in 2019 I remember being told repeatedly that electoral reform was not a priority. People literally said things are fine as they are.
“But New Zealanders do not need to look any further than the fact that three out of five parties in the last term of Parliament have been hauled in front of judges to defend their donation breaches to see that our democracy could be stronger.
“Over the last three years, Labour has been taking parts of my bill in order to strengthen our democracy. We are disappointed it couldn’t go one step further and adopt the Bill in full.
“The whole point of Parliamentary debate is that laws improve as they progress. Labour could have easily supported my bill tonight and started a conversation with the New Zealand public about what type of democracy we want to be.
“This would have given us the chance to talk about extending the voting age to 16, introducing an upper limit on political donations, prisoner voting rights, the removal of the residency requirement for overseas voters, and the implementation of the Electoral Commission’s recommendations to improve our voting system.
“These changes could have been made this term and in place for next year’s election. As it is, Labour has cut the conversation short and kicked the can down the road.
“Its next big test will be whether it commits to implementing the recommendations of the independent electoral review - so far they have not been clear whether they will actually listen to the expert panel. I don’t think people will accept party politics getting in the way of strengthening our democracy.
“I am incredibly proud of the difference we have made as Greens - but there is more to do if we are to create the strong democracy New Zealanders deserve. A democracy where everyone has an equal say from the age of 16 and big money plays no role in deciding elections.
“We have seen what can happen when there is a strong Green voice in Parliament. We will continue to pressure the Government to create a thriving, accessible democracy that works for all New Zealanders. With more MPs we can put more pressure on,” says Golriz Ghahraman.
Golriz Ghahraman’s Strengthening Democracy member’s bill was first put in the ballot in March 2019.
Since then, political pressure from the Green Party has resulted in the following law changes being passed or going through Parliament currently:
- Ban of foreign donations
- Lowering the disclosure threshold for donations to political parties from $15k to $5k
- Repeal of National Party’s prisoner voting blanket ban, restoring the rights of prisoners serving a term of less than three years
- Allowing Māori to switch rolls at any time
- Temporarily extending the voting rights of overseas New Zealanders for the 2023 election
- An independent electoral review, with experts making recommendations by the end of 2023 to strengthen our democracy