How a 30-year-old biscuit tin helps maintain New Zealand's democracy

New Zealand has a proud democratic tradition and our Government maintains that tradition in the most quintessentially Kiwi way - through lucky dip from a 30-year-old biscuit tin.

This humble bit of kitchenware got involved in lawmaking as a way of maintaining fairness in how certain draft laws, or bills, are selected for debate in parliament.

There are four main types of Bill:

  • Government bills - which the Government drafts and introduces.

  • Members bills - which any MP who is not a Minister may draft and introduce.

  • Local bills - which the MP for the local area affected usually introduces.

  • Private bills - which any MP can introduce on behalf of the individual person affected.

There's only space for eight Members' Bills to be discussed at a time. Once one of them is resolved, a ballot is held to determine the next bill to be debated. For the past 30 years, this lucky dip has been drawn out of the same biscuit tin.

Each MP is given a token representing their Bill. The tokens are put in the tin and then drawn by a parliamentary office worker with no official political affiliations.

Any member who isn't a minister can propose laws to be put in the biscuit tin ballot, ensuring MPs outside of Government get their chance at changing policy.  The random draw keeps everything impartial.

Some laws that have come from the tin include alcohol law changes for the Rugby World Cup, allowing same-sex marriage, decriminalising prostitution, and the End of Life Choice Bill, which is currently being debated.

The Bills drawn in the lucky dip are announced in Parliament and move through the standard series of readings.

As for the biscuit tin, it's been hard at work for the past three decades and Newshub Nation has been told it won't be retired any time soon. 

Newshub Nation.

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