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Community Development Resource Kit

SECTION A: Community Development Practice

SECTION B1: Setting Up A Community Group - Introduction

SECTION B2: Setting Up A Community Group - Legal Structures

SECTION B3: Setting Up a Community Group - Incorporated Societies

SECTION B4: Setting Up a Community Group - Charitable Trusts

SECTION C: Planning and Managing

SECTION D1: Employment Matters - Agreements

SECTION D3: Employment Matters - Support

SECTION D2: Employment Matters - Recruitment

SECTION E: Running Meetings

SECTION F: Project Management

SECTION G: Financial Management

SECTION H: Funding

SECTION I: Keeping Good Records

SECTION J: Technology - The Internet

SECTION K: Political Processes and Submissions

SECTION L: Legislation

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SECTION K: Political Processes and Submissions




Submissions to Parliament and Select Committees

Lobbying, Advocacy, Coalitions and Submissions

Community groups can play an important part in:

  • defending existing rights or improving their own or others' situations
  • letting the government know about community needs and the impact of policy decisions
  • contributing to new and innovative ways of developing policies and providing new services
  • making sure that the public knows about an issue
  • creating social or political change

Effective political action depends on people being well prepared and well informed, having their say, and knowing how to make their voices heard.

Lobbying

Lobbying is a planned effort to influence political decision-making through public relations. It requires very careful preparation

Some lobby groups (such as the Business Roundtable) are rich and powerful and able to put a lot of resources into lobbying. Community groups seldom have much in the way of resources, but they do have the most important resource of all - people, and they can be as powerful as money.

In the lobbying environment, public opinion can work for you or against you. You need to be sure of your argument and clear about your role to take your case to the public.

Direct lobbying involves meeting face to face with political leaders and others of influence, discussing proposals and arguing your cause.

Indirect lobbying can involve bringing pressure to bear through the media so that an issue receives public attention, in preparation for a direct approach. It may also involve visiting Opposition party members, or possible competitors in business.


General Checklist
  • Get to know the facts and the legal constraints
  • Know what you want to achieve, and agree on any compromises you are prepared to make
  • Understand your opposition, their point of view and where they may be prepared to compromise
  • Identify people and groups who have the power to cause change
  • Identify influential people who will help you
  • Decide on your campaign: Who? When? How? Direct Lobbying? Indirect Lobbying?
  • Involve as many members of your group as possible
  • Know the political process and plan around it (elected officials tend to avoid drastic change just before an election)
  • Be polite
  • Be concise
  • Be realistic
  • Do not be afraid to ask for advice
  • Contact media (including the Parliamentary Press Gallery) and let them know who is involved, what your case is, and what you are looking for
  • Keep lobbying until you have achieved your purpose - or failed decisively
  • Back up your lobbying with events, publications, media appearances and other forms of publicity
  • Novelty gets publicity. Five women wearing cow masks and carrying babies are more likely to make the six o’clock news than 1000 people carrying signs saying “Stop GE”
  • Make sure there are no open disagreements within your campaign - everyone should be well briefed on the issues
  • Have regular meetings to brief and debrief people and co-ordinate the campaign.

Direct Lobbying
  • Make appointments with those you want to lobby, and ask how much time is available so you can use it to your best advantage
  • Have two or three well-briefed speakers
  • Prepare a written summary of your case, your organisation's origin and credentials and its area of work, refer to it at the meeting, then submit it when you depart
  • Agree on the order of speaking and the issues each speaker will address
  • Assign someone to be the record-keeper
  • Arrive five minutes early
  • Introduce your party
  • Note who is present and who you might best contact later
  • Make your most important points first
  • Be ready to summarise if your time is cut short
  • Understate your case rather than overstate it: you only want the person to agree with you, not join you
  • Present your case clearly
  • Use visual aids if possible
  • Be confident, or at least give the appearance of confidence
  • Leave when you have covered all the ground
  • Write a note of thanks for the time you were given to present your case

For more information on how to write a press release and hold a news conference refer to Section E: Maintaining the Organisation.


Advocacy

An advocate works with people or groups so they are able to make choices and exercise control over their situation.

S/he assists, supports and assertively represents their needs and desires by:

  • helping them investigate options and make decisions
  • encouraging them to be aware of their rights and obligations
  • supporting them through the outcome of a choice, or speaking out for them if they are unable to express themselves

Role of Select Committees

Select Committees are made up of MPs. Their work includes:

  • examining new Bills in detail (except for appropriation Bills - Bills that authorise the expenditure of public money by Ministers and Departments - imprest supply Bills, and Bills considered under urgency)
  • examinating the Estimates (the Estimates show the cost of producing the goods and services of individual Ministries)
  • reviewing the performance of Government Departments and agencies
  • examining petitions
  • conducting inquiries

They have considerable powers of inquiry, including the ability to send for people, papers and records. They report back to Parliament with their findings, recommendations, and proposed amendments.

Public input is invited into Bills before a Select Committee, in the expectation that better law will result from public participation. The use of Select Committees also allows the House of Representatives to obtain information directly from government officials.


Current Select Committees

Some of the Committees have specialised functions, such as financial procedures (the Finance and Expenditure Committee) and local Bills. In addition to 'subject' Committees, there are named specialist Committees (the Standing Orders Committee, the Regulations Review Committee, and the Privileges Committee).

Other Committees are: Commerce; Education and Science; Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade; Government Administration; Health; Justice and Electoral; Law and Order; Local Government, and Environment; Mäori Affairs; Primary Production; Social Services; Transport and Industrial Relations.

If you are unclear about which Select Committee is hearing submissions on an issue or Bill you want to make a submission about, you can contact the Office of the Clerk. This office provides advice to local authorities and members of the public on procedures relating to Bills and petitions. Contact:
Office of the Clerk
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Wellington
Phone: 499 0486
Website:
www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz


Finding Information About Proposed Legislation

When a Select Committee decides to seek submissions from the public it usually advertises in the public notices columns of newspapers. The advertisement will include: the name of the Bill or enquiry for which the submissions are sought, the name of the committee that is considering the matter, and where and by when submissions should be sent to the committee.

The Parliamentary Bulletin has information on new Bills and closing dates for submissions on Bills, and it is available in many public libraries, at government booksellers or online at
www.parliament.govt.nz. Circulated weekly while Parliament is sitting, it describes, not only new Bills and closing dates for submissions, but also weekly progress of legislation, members of Select Committees, referenda questions, petitions to Parliament and other business of the House.

Some other weekly publications (such as The Capital Letter, and the NZ Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisations' Law Scene) also print closing dates for Bills introduced into the House.

Writing a Submission
  • There is no set form for making a submission, but it should include the following information:
  • who the submission is from (your name, address, telephone number; and if it is from an organisation - its name, aims, membership and structure)
  • which select committee it is going to, and the date
  • whether you want to speak to the Committee in person about your submission (if so, give a daytime phone number)
  • how widely you have consulted about the matter
  • your comments - arrange them in logical order, be simple and brief, accurate and complete.
  • If you are commenting on a Bill, first state your general position, then make detailed comments on clauses of concern; you can also list your recommendations.
  • If you are commenting on an enquiry, use its terms of reference (available from the Clerk of the Committee) as a guide to presenting your views; make a list of recommendations.


Send 20 copies of the submission in a stamped envelope to: Clerk of the [name] Committee, Select Committee Office, Parliament Buildings, Wellington.

Presenting a Submission in Person

The purpose of presenting in person to a Select Committee hearing is to stress key points and clarify anything the committee members find unclear.

Prepare a brief summary of your submission beforehand.

You may want to take one or two members of your group to the hearing, so you can consult with them if necessary, and for group representation.

As well as the Select Committee members in the room, the committee secretary(s), media representatives and members of the public may be present. Media and public will only be excluded if the committee wants to hear submissions in private.

If you have the time, it is a good idea to sit in on the Committee while it is hearing other submissions. Then you can see how the system works and note the points that are being followed up by Committee members.


Tips:
  • Make a statement about your submission (no more than five minutes) and conclude with a summary of your main points (if you are inexperienced or nervous, say so)
  • When you have completed your summary, the Chair will ask the members of the Committee if they have any questions
  • Take your time answering. It is acceptable to have a whispered conversation amongst yourselves as to who will answer a question
  • If you don't understand a question, say so
  • If you don't know the answer, or if you don't have a group opinion or policy on a question, say so
  • If you are asked a question and you don't have the information with you but can get it, ask the Chair if you can send it to the committee secretary later
  • A Committee member may ask what appears to be a very obvious question. They sometimes do this so that you can stress a key part of your submission.

Petitioning Parliament

A Petition to the House of Representatives requests the House to take some action on a matter of public policy or law, or to deal with a local or a private grievance (such as amend the law, change Government policy, or hold a public inquiry into an unsatisfactory situation).

Anyone of any age can petition the House in either Mäori or English. The petition should include the name and address of the "Principal Petitioner" (a daytime phone number is also helpful). The Principal Petitioner is usually the person who has organised the petition, and the person sought by the Select Committee when more information is needed. They should sign the front page of the petition. Each page containing signatures should be headed with the petitioner's request. The language used should be respectful, moderate, and to the point. There should not be any documents attached to the petition. While media attention focuses on petitions with many signatures, one signature can be enough for a small matter.

Presenting the Petition

A petition has to be presented to the House through a Member of Parliament (presenting the petition does not necessarily mean that the MP agrees with it). The MP is also required to sign the front page.

The petition then goes to a Select Committee for consideration. The Committee might seek further information from the petitioner, from Government Departments and from other interested parties, and it might hear oral evidence. Petitioners who want to give oral evidence should state this clearly when giving information.

When reporting on a petition to the House, a Select Committee will generally either: report and make recommendations; make no recommendation at all (in this case no further action will be taken on the petition); or if the petition was considered with other business, acknowledge the petition in its report on the other business. Occasionally it will present a "narrative" report outlining the evidence and making recommendations.

The Government must report, within 90 days of the Committee's report being presented, on what action, if any, it has taken to implement the Select Committee's recommendations. Government reports on petitions are printed and available to the public.

Other Action First?

Petitioning may not always be the first course of action. The Ombudsmen can investigate and review some decisions, recommendations or acts of Government Departments, local authorities and related organisations (such as school boards). A petition will not be accepted if the matter is one that can be investigated by the Ombudsmen and the petitioner has not referred it there. You can contact the Office of the Ombudsmen (free phone 0800 802 602, email
office@ombudsmen.govt.nz, www.ombudsmen.govt.nz) to see if your case should be referred there.

A petition will not be accepted if it can be dealt with by a court or a tribunal and has not been considered by one. A petition that is similar to other petitions that have already been considered by the House will only be considered if substantial and material new evidence has become available in the meantime.

Where to Find More Information

Links

NZ Government Online (www.govt.nz) – lists bills and discussion documents open for public submission

Directory of Official Information / Te Raranga Whakaatu Whakahaere Kawanatanga, Ministry of Justice, www.justice.govt.nz/justicepubs/reports/2001/dir-of-info-2001/index.html

Published Resources

The Joy of Lobbying - Campaigning to Influence Government Decisions and Public Attitudes, $25. A practical 'how-to' guide by Deirdre Kent. Available from Gateway Lobbyskills, email deirdrek@paradise.net.nz


Making a submission to a Parliamentary Select Committee
Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives,
Parliament House
Parliament Buildings
Wellington
Phone: 04 471 9999
Website: www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz

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Last updated: 13/05/2005