Red Alert

Effective select committee submissions

Posted by on August 19th, 2010

Today I’m in Auckland all day with the Local Government and Environment Select Committee. We’re hearing submissions on Rodney Hide’s latest attack on local democracy. We’ve got a bit of a marathon session today, running pretty much non-stop from 9am to 9pm. Even then each submitter only gets 15 minutes to highlight their key points and engage with MPs on the committee.

Reading through the papers last night it struck me how some people or groups are far better than others at getting their points across in a conscise manner. There are literally thousands of pages of submissions for us to work through. I’ve made an effort to look through all of them and I have to say I read some 2 page submissions that were far more comprehensive and valuable than others that were 40 odd pages or more.

I also appreciate those submitters who come well prepared, highlight the 2-3 points that are most important to them and then spend the rest of their allotted time discussing issues with the committee. I’ll never understand why people feel the need to spend their whole 15 minutes reading their submissions aloud leaving no time for real discussion.

I now sit on several select committees and I find the work involved really satisfying and interesting. I admire people and groups who take time to submit and appear before select committees, but I do wonder how we can encourage them to be more effective in the way they do it?

10 Responses to “Effective select committee submissions”

  1. There isn’t a lot of guidance about how Select Committee hearings work available to the average person.

    I went to my first the other day and wrote up something just to explain how it worked so that people would have some idea of what to expect.

    How to encourage people to be more effective? One obvious approach would be to get Parliamentary Services to write up some advice and give it to everyone who will be submitting.

  2. How to encourage people to be more effective? One obvious approach would be to get Parliamentary Services to write up some advice and give it to everyone who will be submitting.

    The Office of the Clerk has made a booklet for just this purpose. You can download it here

    It could probably give a few more tips and hints though.

  3. Phil Lyth says:

    Colin Jackson recently blogged his observation of the Commerce cttee on the copyright bill –

    Graeme, the booklet says on page 13, don’t read it out. Yes, could do with more tips. But the OoC staff are constrained by the need to be neutral.

  4. Giarne says:

    I’m not sure people fully understand the process and if they don’t hear the blurb at the beginning of the meeting (some people only come for their part) then they aren’t necessarily aware of how the Chair will approach their submission.

    I think the secretaries for ALL the committees should respond (from my experience, one did, one didn’t) by email or mail including the submission they have for you (to confirm its correct) and a run down of how submissions go, and send the booklet with tips.

    That should be able to be done in a very neutral way. Even regular submitters can do with a refresher probably :)

    I also think some might find it an intimidating experience if they aren’t big political types.

    I’ve made a face-2-face oral and a teleconference oral submission: I didn’t read mine, I skimmed main points, covered some extra stuff and waiting for questions, bless her only Maryanne did ask a question – I wanted the chance to take questions! *sigh*

    It would be nice if the committee could make sure they ask each submitter even just one question, Maryanne’s was affirming and less of a question than a statement but made me feel that she had read and digested my submission which I appreciated.

  5. What Bill are you guys hearing..?

  6. Spud says:

    I feel sorry for them having to come up against NACT :-(

  7. Richard says:

    Spud, your point being?

  8. Kate Sutton says:

    What advice you get depends on what select committee it is. Some of the select committee staff is very good at explaining how long you get, how long you should aim to speak for in that time, that you should speak to key points not just read your submission. Others don’t do any of that – consistent advice from select committee staff would be a good place to start.

    It would be good for staff to send a one pager (people wont read a longer one) on making a submission to people when they get their submission confirmation email. Some local government and community groups do training for groups on how to make a submission and these are good but often not well attended.

    I remember by first oral submission – I was very nervous and although I didn’t read my submission verbatim I remember that I didn’t add anything new to what the MPs could have read – BUT I wanted to be there to show how important the issue was to me.

    I think many submitters think that turning up is important to show that they are willing to take precious time out of their day to make submissions on an issue that’s vitally important to them – and that, in a way, is enough. MPs need to recognise that the process of making a submission and turning up is a superbly big deal for some people and should be an indication to the extent of the feeling around the issue. Not everyone is going to be able to give definitive suggestions about changes to bills etc.

    Some select committees I have attended I have thought that the MPs needed guidelines or training on how to treat the public (not yesterday Chris which I thought was very engaging). There is nothing worse than presenting to a bunch of bored looking people who seem like they just want to get out of there.

    I always try to make my submissions interesting as I want to enjoy the process but I also want to get my point across. I also think answering questions is very important and when you don’t get asked questions it feels like the MPs have already made up their mind and we are just “going through the motions”.

    I think you raise an interesting question and I am not sure the select committee process works as well as it could do. Sticking people in a room for 12 hours can’t help people make good, clear decisions. I am not sure if other ways of running these committees, like maybe a more inquisitorial or collaborative approach, have been considered.

  9. Spud says:

    @Richard – NACT don’t listen to them anyhow :-(

  10. Arandar says:

    I wish SC work was televised so we could all watch and learn.