Green Party of New Zealand Crowdsources Question Time on Social Media

Question Time is a central feature in many parliamentary democracies around the world; it provides an opportunity for Members of Parliament (MPs) to ask questions of and seek clarification from government ministers. In April 2015, recognizing that citizens deserved an opportunity to hold their government accountable on issues relating to climate change, greenPartythe New Zealand Green Party (Greens) introduced an initiative to crowdsource climate change questions using social media. Announced by Green Party co-leader MP Dr. Russel Norman in a video uploaded to YouTube, Norman indicated the party’s motivation for the initiative, saying, “In the age of social media, there’s no excuse why the public shouldn’t be more involved in asking questions of those in power, who are making decisions which will affect us all.[1]

Using the Twitter hashtag #myclimatequestion and the party’s Facebook page, the Greens empowered citizens to tweet or post any climate change questions they wished to have answered by ministers between April 24, when the initiative was announced, and April 27.[2] After the nomination period, the party identified the “top 10” questions and set up an online poll to select which questions they would ask in Parliament.[3] When Question Time was held on April 29, Norman included eight questions that had been submitted and selected online by citizens during his “Questions for Oral Answer” of the Honorable Simon Bridges, the Acting Minister for Climate Change Issues.[4] After Norman’s contributions at the start of Question Time, #myclimatequestion became a trending topic on Twitter in New Zealand, with @TTMobile_nz reporting that it had trended as high as sixth place.[5]

On its own, Parliamentary Question Time is a mechanism through which MPs — especially members of opposition political parties — can hold the government accountable on behalf of their constituents. The Greens’ decision to crowdsource questions on social media from concerned citizens and to put those questions to the government, demonstrated how social media’s interactive format can shape politics. Recognizing that climate change is a large-scale issue with far-reaching consequences, the Greens hoped that citizens’ voices would prove influential with their colleagues in Parliament and the government.

Key Takeaways

  • Social media’s interactive communications capacity has the potential to connect citizens more closely with politics, parties and the government, and could revolutionize civic participation;
  • By utilizing both Twitter and Facebook, the New Zealand Green party increased its audience and facilitated a real discussion, illustrating the utility of these social media platforms; and
  • The online poll allowed citizens to identify those issues most important to them and gave them the opportunity to prioritize those questions brought up by other party members.

[1] Stacey Kirk, “Want to hold the Government to account on climate change? Now’s your chance,” Stuff, April 24, 2015, accessed April 29, 2015, http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/68039399/want-to-hold-the-government-to-account-on-climate-change-nows-your-chance.

[2] “My Climate Question,” The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, accessed April 29, 2015, http://action.greens.org.nz/myclimatequestion.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Questions For Oral Answer: Climate Change Policy – Commentary,” New Zealand Parliament, April 29, 2015, accessed April 29, 2015, http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/pb/business/qoa/51HansQ_20150429_00000001/1-climate-change-policy%E2%80%94commentary; Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand Facebook, accessed April 29, 2015, https://www.facebook.com/nzgreenparty; “#myclimatequestion,” Twitter, accessed April 29, 2015, https://twitter.com/search?src=typd&q=%23myclimatequestion.

[5] “‏@TTMobile_nz,” Twitter, April 29, 2015, accessed April 29, 2015, https://twitter.com/TTMobile_nz/status/593468877260103681.