This week the Government released their formal response to the select committee inquiry into the last election.
I have to say I was pretty disappointed with what was released. Justice Minister Judith Collins has had the select committee report for three months, but rather than present anything substantive, the Minister has instead fobbed off making any real commitments.
As I said in response, it’s very unclear which of the 32 recommendations that the select committee put forward will be implemented by the Government and which they’ll ignore. The Minister said that a bill will be introduced shortly to introduce some of the recommendations, but gave no detail about what will be included.
In a story in today’s NZ Herald, it seems that Claire Trevett was able to get some information out of the Minister, who specified that she intends to clamp down on the use of undisclosed loans to candidates and to end the wearing of party rosettes on Election Day.
In the actual formal response, the Minister simply said that the Government will ‘carefully consider the policy implications of these remaining recommendations to determine whether change should be implemented for the 2014 election’.
Seven of the recommendations don’t require a law change. For those, the Minister simply said that the Government will ‘consider the recommendations for implementation as appropriate, in consultation with the Electoral Commission’.
You’ve got to wonder what the Minister has been doing for the last three months since she received the report – I would have that thought that that was the time to be doing the considering.
The recommendations from the select committee include online enrolment, improving the accessibility of elections, and supporting the Electoral Commission in expanding civics education – all of which will go a long way in helping to reverse the worrying trend of declining voter turnout.
It’s so important that the Government acts on these recommendations now, in time for the next election, and not waste this opportunity to make a real difference to voter engagement.
In the meantime I’ll be waiting impatiently to see what the Minister includes in the upcoming bill.