Stuart Smith
National MP Kaikoura

Information

Op-Ed

A major review of New Zealand’s electoral law is being launched which will consider changes to the voting age, funding of political parties, and length of parliament’s three-year terms.

What are your views on lowering the voting age to 16 and the length of a parliamentary term?


New Zealand’s electoral laws belong to all New Zealanders. For democracy to work and for New Zealanders to ultimately have faith in our electoral system, it needs to be built on integrity and genuinely be non-partisan.

Minister Faafoi’s decision to commission a review of electoral law is frankly absurd for two reasons.

The first is that New Zealand is currently battling through restrictions, businesses throughout the country are being starved of income, people are locked up in their homes, the immigration system is a mess and the New Zealand economy is losing $1 billion a week. But despite this, the Minister is more interested in electoral law changes than the pressing issues at hand.

Secondly, the Justice Select Committee in Parliament, which has opposition members on it, is already undertaking an inquiry into the 2020 General Election along with the 2019 local body elections. So the question is, why would Minister Faafoi want to undertake more tax-payer funds on a second review?

The real reason this was suddenly announced? It’s a distraction, when the Government is in trouble they divert attention any way they can.

In Minister Faafoi’s review, it promises ‘cross-party engagement and participation,’ but it really needs to promise New Zealanders there will be no law changes without agreement from other parties in Parliament.

I strongly believe that the voting age should be kept at 18. That is when most people become independent, finish school, move out of home and go to university or seek full-time employment. It makes logical sense then, to have the voting age at a point where people make this transition.

But regardless of what I think, any changes to the voting age, term limits or even the MMP threshold should all go to referendum. The Government have a habit of doing things by stealth, like the He Puapua report and Three Waters, but they won’t get away with this. Our democracy is far too important for any single political party with a Parliamentary majority to be tinkering with.

In fact, what should be of concern for New Zealanders, is that the current Government is able to rush through legislation under the guise of urgency using their sheer weight of numbers without due consideration. This can only lead to bad outcomes and reinforces the old adage that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” and this applies no matter the political persuasion.

I am certainly open to discussing change to electoral law, and in fact, welcome any engagement on the issue. But the system belongs to New Zealander’s, not one party, and I will fight for that above anything else.

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Faafoi’s ‘Frankly Absurd’ Review of Election Law
Stuart Smith

Stuart Smith

MP for Kaikoura. Viticulture, EQC.

Reproduced with permission

Reproduced with permission

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