Lowering voting age to 16 will be considered by Parliament

Kate Nicol-Williams
Source: 1News

Lowering the voting age to 16, tightening the rules on donations to political parties and allowing alcohol to be sold over Easter are among new legislation set to be debated in Parliament.

Three Members' bills were drawn from Parliament's 30-year-old biscuit tin - a ballot process for MPs that aren't ministers to suggest new laws.

They are ACT Party MP Chris Baillie's Repeal of Good Friday and Easter Sunday as Restricted Trading Days Amendment Bill, Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman's Electoral Amendment Bill and National MP Jacqui Dean's Increased Penalties for Breach of Biosecurity Bill.

The proposed Easter trading overhaul would see restrictions removed, including allowing shops to open on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Workers rights to not work Easter Sunday would be extended to cover Good Friday as well.

"As a small business owner, I know the pain that many businesses feel when they're forced to close over Easter, or are forced to have silly rules around whether you can have a pint with lunch," Baillie said in a press release.

The Democracy Bill is multifaceted, with reforms suggested off the back of Electoral Commission recommendations or in response to "recently highlighted shortcomings in the (Electoral) Act", the Bill states.

This includes enabling voters of Māori descent to change between being on the general roll and Māori roll for electorates at any time, extending the right to vote to those aged 16 and upwards, removing the requirement for Kiwis based overseas to need to visit New Zealand within the last three years to be eligible to vote and extending the right to vote to all prisoners.

At the moment, prisoners serving a sentence for life, preventative detention or imprisonment for a period of three or more years are disqualified from voting.

Ghahraman said New Zealand prides itself on its democracy, including being the first nation to give women the right to vote, but there's still "a bit of work to do" to strengthen that democracy.

She said successive governments have ignored the Electoral Commission's 2012 independent report, including that changes were needed with our voting system to increase the diversity of MPs.

On lowering the voting age, Ghahraman said young people were the least represented in democracy and the most affected by policies being made now, such as on climate change.

"Young people can work, leave school, drive cars but they don't have a vote," she said.

“If we engage one group while they're at school, they're more likely to become lifetime voters."

The purpose of the biosecurity bill is to deter offenders from bringing illegal items into the country, such as fruit and other food products, by increasing the fine and giving officers greater powers to refuse entry in some circumstances.