Referendums Framework Bill passes third reading

A Bill enabling referendums to be held with the 2020 General Election has passed its third reading.

Justice Minister Andrew Little says the Act is important for upholding the integrity of New Zealand’s electoral process.

“The Government has committed to holding a referendum on legalising recreational cannabis at the next General Election. A second referendum to determine whether the End of Life Choice Act will come into force will also be held at this time,” Andrew Little says.

“Ensuring the smooth and efficient conduct of all electoral events in 2020 is critical. This Bill provides the necessary legislative framework to govern the conduct of these referendums which provides the Electoral Commission with the certainty it needs to prepare for 2020.”

The Referendums Framework Bill focuses on the mechanical aspects of holding a referendum with the next General Election, and does not include specific referendum-related material.

“The voting process is a vital feature of our democracy. By ensuring the same rules apply, as far as necessary, to both the general election and the referendums in 2020 the Government is working to safeguard this important process,” Andrew Little says. 

The Bill also includes rules around referendum advertising, which are similar to those used to regulate election advertising.

“Advertising will be a key influencer in the public debate. Therefore, it is important that these rules provide a balance between freedom of expression and transparency, so that voters know who is behind any advertising campaign.”

After the Bill becomes law, further steps will be needed to hold the referendums alongside the 2020 General Election.

“Once enacted, Order in Councils will be prepared that will trigger the Referendums Framework Act to be used for the cannabis referendum and the referendum on the End of Life Choice Act,” Andrew Little says.