New Zealand

   

Executive Accountability

#13
Key Findings
With strong audit and ombuds functions, but media and political-party weaknesses, New Zealand falls into the upper-middle ranks (rank 13) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to its 2014 level.

Parliamentarians have comparatively slim resources, but ample oversight powers. The highly effective ombuds office is the world’s fourth-oldest.

The population’s policy knowledge is generally strong, with children showing an above-average interest in politics. TV and radio broadcasts offer some high-quality information. A decline in investigative journalism in the electronic and print media has been partially offset by internet commentary.

Decision-making styles in the traditional political parties vary. The small number of well-organized economic associations are involved in lobbying and policy formation. Other civil-society groups are frequently consulted by decision-makers.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#12

To what extent are citizens informed of government policymaking?

10
 9

Most citizens are well-informed of a broad range of government policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many citizens are well-informed of individual government policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few citizens are well-informed of government policies; most citizens have only a rudimental knowledge of policies.
 2
 1

Most citizens are not aware of government policies.
Policy Knowledge
7
The most recent comparative data set which includes information on New Zealand policy knowledge is the International Social Survey Program. In the 2004 edition, New Zealand respondents overwhelmingly (69%) felt that they had a good or very good understanding of important political issues. Only about 13% of respondents said that most people are better informed about government and politics. The 2007 edition of the survey however did not include this question. Regarding the question, “How interested would you say you personally are in politics?” there was a slight decline of political interest in New Zealand between 2004 and 2007. According to survey data from the New Zealand Election Study of 2014, approximately two-thirds of respondents expressed satisfaction with the state of their democracy.

While levels of party membership and voter turnout have been in sharp decline – voter turnout dropping from the 80s and low 90s percentiles for much of the postwar period to 74% in 2011 with a minor increase in 2014 to 78% – there is evidence to suggest that levels of political knowledge and engagement are not as worryingly low as figures might suggest. This said, participation rates among the young suggest that generational disaffection during the review period is at an all-time high. According to OECD data, however, children in New Zealand are more civically engaged than on average in the OECD. In New Zealand, 84.4% of 14-year olds intend to vote in elections when they are adults, compared to the OECD average of 78.7%.

From time to time, matters of constitutional importance or public interest are put to voters by way either of citizen- or government-initiated referendums. In 2015 – 2016, for example, the government conducted a two-stage referendum on whether New Zealand should replace its national flag.

Citations:
International Social Survey Programme 2004: Citizenship: http://zacat.gesis.org/webview/index.jsp?object=http://zacat.gesis.org/obj/fStudy/ZA3950.
International Social Survey Programme 2007: Leisure Time and Sports: http://zacat.gesis.org/webview/index.jsp?object=http://zacat.gesis.org/obj/fStudy/ZA4850.
New Zealand Election Study, University of Auckland, 2011-12.
Voter turnout: http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/snapshots-of-nz/nz-social-indicators/Home/Trust%20and%20participation%20in%20government/voter-turnout.aspx (accessed October 9, 2014).
OECD Better Life Initiative: How is Life in New Zealand? Update from 31 May 2016. http://www.oecd.org/statistics/better-life-initiative.htm#Countrynotes (accessed June 30, 2016).

Legislative Actors’ Resources

#15

Do members of parliament have adequate personnel and structural resources to monitor government activity effectively?

10
 9

The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring all government activity effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring a government’s major activities.
 5
 4
 3


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for selectively monitoring some government activities.
 2
 1

The resources provided to the members of parliament are not suited for any effective monitoring of the government.
Parliamentary Resources
6
While New Zealand members of parliament are not generously equipped with financial or personnel resources to monitor government activity, they do have access to party research units. Other personnel available to individual members of parliament include an executive assistant (in parliament) and electorate staff, with constituency members being more generously funded than those on the party lists. Despite the availability of these resources, opposition parties are placed at a distinct disadvantage relative to the breadth of staff, research and other resources made available to the government and its small support parties. Each of the non-government parties has a research unit, which follows up on MPs’ requests, especially in preparation for parliamentary debates.

Citations:
K.-U. Schnapp and P. Harfst, Parlamentarische Informations- und Kontrollressourcen in 22 westlichen Demokratien, Zeitschrift für Parlamentsfragen, 36 (2005), pp. 348–70.

Are parliamentary committees able to ask for government documents?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may ask for most or all government documents; they are normally delivered in full and within an appropriate time frame.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are slightly limited; some important documents are not delivered or are delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are considerably limited; most important documents are not delivered or delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not ask for government documents.
Obtaining Documents
9
The Cabinet Manual defines the right of committees to ask for government documents. All documents have to be delivered in full and within an appropriate time. There are limitations with regard to classified documents.

Citations:
Cabinet Manual: Providing Information to Select Committees: http://cabinetmanual.cabinetoffice.govt.nz/8.66 (accessed October 24, 2015).

Are parliamentary committees able to summon ministers for hearings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon ministers. Ministers regularly follow invitations and are obliged to answer questions.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are slightly limited; ministers occasionally refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are considerably limited; ministers frequently refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon ministers.
Summoning Ministers
8
It is common practice that ministers follow invitations to visit select committee meetings, but occasionally they refuse to do so. This follows a guideline that committees can request but not require that a minister appear before them. Only the House of Representatives itself can compel members to attend a committee if they do not do so voluntarily.

Citations:
Officials and Select Committees – Guidelines (Wellington: States Services Commission 2007).

Are parliamentary committees able to summon experts for committee meetings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon experts.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are considerably limited.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon experts.
Summoning Experts
9
Select committees may summon experts. The only restriction is with regard to public servants who need the approval of their minister to attend committee meetings.

Citations:
Officials and Select Committees – Guidelines (Wellington: States Services Commission 2007).

Are the task areas and structures of parliamentary committees suited to monitor ministries effectively?

10
 9

The match between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are well-suited to the effective monitoring of ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are largely suited to the monitoring ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are partially suited to the monitoring of ministries.
 2
 1

The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are not at all suited to the monitoring of ministries.
Task Area Congruence
6
The New Zealand House of Representatives is far too small to establish as many select committees as would be necessary to fully correspond to the number of ministries. In recent years, efforts have been made to restrict the number of select committees any individual member of parliament may sit on. Prior to the 2017 election there were some 13 select committees, which had to face 59 portfolios, led by 20 cabinet ministers, five ministers outside cabinet, two support party ministers and one parliamentary undersecretary from a support party. Select committees have an average of 9.5 members, with numbers fluctuating between six and 11.

Citations:
Ministers: http://www.dpmc.govt.nz/cabinet/ministers (accessed December 5, 2016).
Select committees: http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/pb/sc (accessed December 5, 2016).

To what extent is the audit office accountable to the parliament?

10
 9

The audit office is accountable to the parliament exclusively.
 8
 7
 6


The audit office is accountable primarily to the parliament.
 5
 4
 3


The audit office is not accountable to the parliament, but has to report regularly to the parliament.
 2
 1

The audit office is governed by the executive.
Audit Office
10
The controller and auditor general is appointed by the governor general on the advice of parliament and is fully accountable to it. The Office of the Auditor General consists of the following departments: Accounting and Auditing Policy, Legal Group, Local Government, Parliamentary Group, Performance Audit Group and Research and Development. It is empowered to survey the central government and local governments. The legal basis is the Public Audit Act 2001.

Citations:
All about the Controller and Auditor General (Wellington: Office of the Auditor General 2012).

Does the parliament have an ombuds office?

10
 9

The parliament has an effective ombuds office.
 8
 7
 6


The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

The parliament does not have an ombuds office.
Ombuds Office
9
New Zealand was the fourth country in the world to establish an Office of the Ombudsman (in 1962). The office is highly effective in terms of formally or informally resolving complaints. In 2015 to 2016, nearly 12,600 complaints were handled. Organizational reform has been under discussion for a number of years because of an ever-increasing caseload. In addition, there is an even older tradition of dealing with petitions in parliament.

Citations:
Annual Report 2015/16 of the Ombudsman (Wellington: Office of the Ombudsman 2016).

Media

#21

To what extent do media provide substantive in-depth information on decision-making by the government?

10
 9

A clear majority of mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions.
 8
 7
 6


About one-half of the mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions. The rest produces a mix of infotainment and quality information content.
 5
 4
 3


A clear minority of mass media brands focuses on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions. Several mass media brands produce superficial infotainment content only.
 2
 1

All mass media brands are dominated by superficial infotainment content.
Media Reporting
5
Not all television and radio stations produce high-quality information programs, but both Television New Zealand (TVNZ) and Radio New Zealand provide a regular evaluation of government decisions. TVNZ’s TVOne has three news programs per day, each lasting between 30 minutes to one hour, as well as a lighthearted daily current affairs magazine-style program. It also has an hour-long current affairs program, “Q and A,” which screens once a week and focuses on domestic politics. TVNZ 7, a station established in 2008, offered a range of news and current affairs programming and attracted a small but loyal audience prior to its disestablishment in 2012. A second television network, TV3, offers a similar news and current affairs schedule to that of TVNZ. Radio New Zealand has four extensive news features per day in addition to hourly news programs. Newspapers provide information and analysis on government decisions and policy issues – although many articles report government statements verbatim and such stories tend to be relegated to the inner pages – with crime and celebrity stories dominating the headlines. The decline of investigative journalism by electronic- and print-media outlets has been noted by media commentators, although internet commentary, including blogs, has to some extent provided a substitute.

Citations:
TV One: http://tvnz.co.nz/tv-one (accessed October 9, 2014).
Radio New Zealand: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/programmes (accessed October 9, 2014).

Parties and Interest Associations

#16

How inclusive and open are the major parties in their internal decision-making processes?

10
 9

The party allows all party members and supporters to participate in its decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are open.
 8
 7
 6


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, all party members have the opportunity to participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are rather open.
 5
 4
 3


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, a number of elected delegates participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are largely controlled by the party leadership.
 2
 1

A number of party leaders participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
Intra-party Democracy
4
During the bulk of the review period, there were three political parties that were supported by more than 10% of voters in the 2014 general election. The two major parties, National and Labour, dominated the electoral map with 47% and 25% of votes, respectively. The Green Party came next with 10.7% of the vote. In 2017, National attracted 44.4% of the vote and Labour 36.9%. None of the small parties reached 10%, although NZ First did best with 7.2%, followed by the Greens with 6.3%.

The organizational structure of the Labour Party is complex, as it mainly consists of affiliated members (for example, a (decreasing) number of trade unions). Although the party refuses to disclose membership numbers (a policy shared by the National Party), it is thought to have a current membership of around 7,000. Decisions with regard to personnel and policy are therefore not restricted to individual party members. However, at the same time, Labour uses a system of delegates. The selection process for candidates for parliamentary seats is based on a heavily formalized moderating procedure that takes criteria such as ethnic background, gender and region into regard. Following pressure from grassroots members to have a say in the selection of the party leader, in 2011 the party took away the party caucus’s sole responsibility for choosing a party leader, replacing it with a combination of party membership (40%), the parliamentary caucus (40%) and the affiliated trade unions (20%). This system has been used to elect the last two party leaders, David Cunliffe in 2013 and Andrew Little following the 2014 election.

National considerably increased the central leadership’s influence in an organizational reform in 2003. The newly created National Management Board, which includes the parliamentary leader, plays an especially influential role in pre-selecting parliamentary candidates for electorate seats (to a so-called Candidate’s Club), although these are still required to compete with other nominees, using the existing decentralized electorate selection process. The selection of candidates for list seats has equally been centralized at the expense of regional party organizations. The party leader is chosen by the members of the parliamentary caucus.

The Green Party’s organizational structure is quite decentralized in comparison with the traditional larger parties. Decisions on policy and the selection of parliamentary candidates are made by the party membership, with less control exerted by the parliamentary caucus.

Citations:
Constitution and Rules of the New Zealand National Party (Wellington: New Zealand National Party 2013).
Green Party: http://www.greens.org.nz/ (accessed October 24, 2015).
NZ Electoral Commission (elections.org.nz, 2017)
Candidate Selection and List Ranking Procedures 2014 (Wellington: Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 2014)
Labour Party: Constitution and Rules 2014 (Wellington: New Zealand Labour Party 2014).
Stephens, Gregory R. und John Leslie: Parties, organizational capacities and external change:
New Zealand’s National and Labour parties, candidate selection and the advent of MMP, Political Science 2011 (63): 205-218.

To what extent are economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Business)
7
There are few well-organized and well-staffed interest groups in New Zealand. The largest and most prominent are the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Federated Farmers, the Chambers of Commerce and Business New Zealand. All are involved in policy formation and dissemination, and all seek to influence government policy. However, there is an underlying asymmetry. Business interests additionally rely on the work of the New Zealand Business Roundtable, an organization of chief executives of major business firms. In 2012, this merged with the New Zealand Institute to form the New Zealand Initiative, a libertarian think-tank that lobbies for pro-market economic and social policies.

Citations:
Business New Zealand – Submissions: http://www.businessnz.org.nz/submissions (accessed October 24, 2015).
New Zealand Council of Trade Unions – Campaign Main: http://union.org.nz/campaigns/summary (accessed October 24, 2015).
The New Zealand Initiative: http://nzinitiative.org.nz/ (accessed October 24, 2015).
The National Business Review: Roundtable and NZ Institute Morph Into New Libertarian Think-Tank: http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/roundtable-and-nz-institute-morph-nz-initiative-ck-115751 (accessed October 9, 2014).

To what extent are non-economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Others)
8
There is a rich tradition of consultation with societal groups during policy formulation. The degree of consultation with groups and individuals and the way in which their proposals have been dealt with is reported in regulatory impact statements. Recent such statements claim that consultation has had a substantive impact in several cases. Still, resource shortages prevent some interest associations from developing specialist policy know-how that would give them durable impact in the consultation process.

Citations:
Regulatory Impact Statement Information Release: http://www.treasury.govt.nz/publications/informationreleases/ris (accessed November 30, 2015).
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