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Make voting compulsory: former PM Palmer

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 6/04/2017

Voting should be compulsory and non-voters fined, former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer says.

The former Labour leader described western democratic government as in some sort of crisis in a new interview series with former prime ministers on state broadcaster RNZ.

"I have reached the conclusion we need compulsory voting. I have come to the conclusion the Australians are right about this," he said.

He has suggested New Zealand take on Australia's compulsory voting system where all eligible citizens must enrol to vote in federal elections, by-elections and referendums.

"If you are going to live in a democracy which is supposed to be conducted by the people for the people, then the people should have some duties," he said.

"They should participate and vote."

Australian's who don't vote without good reason face fines between $20 and $180.

Sir Geoffrey also described New Zealand as being in a state of "constitutional ignorance" because people don't know there is a constitution.

"And the difficulty is they can't find it, it's in so many different places you cannot locate the New Zealand constitution in one place," he said.

"I don't blame the New Zealand public for not being concerned about their constitution because they can't find it.

"If you don't keep your constitutional machinery in good order and condition you will find that your democratic rights slowly ebb away."

Sir Geoffrey has been a prominent supporter of a constitution for New Zealand.

Last year he and constitutional lawyer Andrew Butler produced a draft to stimulate debate around the issue.

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