Today, we take a step in the right direction for parliamentary openness and transparency, with the start of a trial of live-streaming public sessions of Select Committees.
Select Committees are the engine room of the legislative process and play a key role in holding ministers and departments to account. It’s also an area where MPs often work together to improve laws or conduct inquiries with less of the theatrics of the debating chamber. Unlike Parliament that is broadcast on TV, online and radio proceedings of select committees have not been.
Last term the cross-party Parliamentary Internet Forum, comprising of Clare Curran, Nikki Kaye and I lobbied successfully then-Speaker Lockwood Smith to live-stream Select Committees. It’s fantastic that Kiwis can from today finally tune-in and watch a Select Committee. For interested observers who can now watch online it may save a plane ticket or drive across town to watch the proceedings. For submitters interested to see the cases made by other submitters they can now watch in the comfort of their home. For students learning about the legislative process they will now be able to watch in real time an actual hearing of evidence.
This is a fairly limited pilot program, so while only two Select Committee rooms, with one static camera each will be used, I am hopeful the public and MPs can support the trial so we can get more professional and easy-to-watch streaming in the future. Hopefully soon we can also make progress on captioning of the Parliament TV broadcast so deaf Kiwis will be able to follow the House. Digital tools like this are a great way to open up the legislative process and for Kiwis to see their elected representatives in action.