One of the ways we tried to find a way out of the logjam around the Electoral Finance Act last year was to support a Citizens Assembly on campaign finance. It seemed to us that it should be the people that take the lead on electoral finance rather than the parties. And a citizens assembly properly resourced could do this. We got $4.3m in the budget for an expert panel and a citz assembly.
The idea was that the expert panel would be independent and widely respected individuals. They would lead the process and the assembly – but the members of the assembly would be randomly chosen from each electorate (randomly choose a small group, invite them to a meeting, tell them what’s invovled, give them a chance to pull out, randomly choose one person from those left).
The negotiations over the terms of reference for the citz assembly are still underway unfortunately. I would very much like the process to be underway already. Labour aren’t necessarily big fans of the idea but are in negotiations with us about it, and National have expressed their suspicion of such a process, in the Herald today, but I hope that they change their mind. If they seriously want to take the partisan politics out of electoral finance reform then surely this is the way to do it.
David Farrar says some silly National Party things about the citz assembly but he also makes some good points over at Kiwiblog. He says the political party buyin should be as broad as possible – I agree with that but don’t know how to acheive it give the politicisation of the issue.
He also says that the terms of reference should be broad. I agree that they should be broader than simply ‘state funding of parties’ but after talking to Jonathan Rose (an expert on citz assemblies) I’m not sure the ToR should be too broad. He says that if they’re too broad the assembly lacks focus. maybe there is a compromise in there somewhere.
Anyway, hopefully it will be resolved soon.