Parliamentary Select Committee Submissions 101

This guide will provide some general advice to writing a submission to a select committee on a Bill before Parliament. Anyone can write a submission, you don’t have to be a lawyer or an expert!

What is a submission?

Select committee submissions are an opportunity for the public to provide input on a Bill. You can find a list of Bills open for submissions here:

A Bill is a piece of legislation that is making its way through Parliament. It isn’t law yet, but if a majority of Parliament votes in favour of it, then it will become law. Sometimes Bills would create new laws, but often they simply make changes (“amendmemts”) to current laws.

Before a Bill becomes law it goes to select committee. A select committee is made up of politicians from the different parties in Parliament, and they are meant to work together to improve the Bill before it becomes law. They do this by reading the Bill, and talking to experts, people and communities that are affected, and also to members of the public. 

This is where your submission comes in. Your submission should try to convince the select committee of what you think should happen with the Bill.

Before you start writing

Understand what the Bill does or what effects the Bill would have

Generally if you are writing a submission to the select committee you already have some idea what the Bill does, but it can help to do a little bit of reading:

  • Look for media coverage and what other people are saying about the Bill.
  • Find the Bill on the Parliament website. Most Bills will have a section at the start called an “explanatory note” which sets out in plain language the purpose, goals or intent of the Bill, and explains what each section of the Bill does. Warning: the explanatory note is not neutral. It is likely to have a heavy bias towards the views and ideology of the party/MPs who want the Bill to become law.
  • Check if there is a “regulatory impact statement” for the Bill, linked from the Parliament website. These can be very dense and not easy to read, but they often have research, evidence and data on what impacts the Bill would have.

Decide what you want to say.

This can be as simple as knowing whether you support or oppose the Bill, or whether you think there are things in the Bill that should change. With more complex Bills you might want to support some parts and oppose others. Or perhaps you can offer alternatives to the approach taken by the Bill. It’s up to you!

Think of reasons to support your submission.

These could include:

  • Experience – do you or anyone you know have any relevant experience or expertise? Would this law change affect you or the communities you are a part of? Submissions from people with lived experience are often the most effective and powerful.
  • Values – does this change to the law align with your values, and the things that we value in Aotearoa? Consider things like Te Tiriti, fairness, justice, human rights, safety, equity, freedom or empowerment.
  • Evidence – is there any research, data, expert opinion or other evidence to support your submission?
  • Practicalities – would the Bill actually achieve what it is trying to do? Would it have any perverse effects? Could it be enforced? Does it conflict with any other laws?

How to write your submission

All submissions are published and publicly available on the Parliament website

Only include information that you are happy to have made public. Do not include your contact details in your submission. You will enter your contact details separately in a form on the Parliament website so you can be contacted about your submission. Only your name will be published from this form.

1. Introduce yourself

Start with any information about yourself that is relevant to the Bill. If there isn’t any, go straight to writing your introduction. Relevant personal information might include:

  • Your job or the sector you work in,
  • Your family, background or life experience,
  • Organisations you are part of,
  • Communities you are part of,
  • Any other personal information that might make your opinion on this Bill more relevant.

e.g. My name is John Smith, I am a student studying Law and Arts and Victoria University. I volunteer at a charity that supports marginalised and at-risk youth, and I have whānau who have been in and out of prison most of my life. These experiences have informed my submission.

2. Write your introduction

This should be a few sentences that clearly state your position on the Bill, and summarise your reasons. You can bullet point your reasons if you want to.

e.g. I am writing to voice my strong opposition to this Bill. It is racist, ineffective and will further perpetuate cycles of harm and violence in our communities.

3. Write the body of your submission

This is where you go into detail to support your opinion on the Bill. 

One way to do this is to use each of the reasons you have thought of as a heading, and write a few sentences or paragraphs about each. Explain and justify your reasons, describe any relevant experience, discuss any data or research you have, and discuss any recommendations or alternatives if you have them.

Another option is to use specific clauses from the Bill as headings, and write about each one. This is something you might do with more complex Bills where you support some parts but not others, or if you have specific recommendations for how the Bill should be changed.

Include anything you think is relevant in the body of your submission, but remember to keep your submission focused on the Bill. Anything not related to the Bill will be disregarded, wasting your time and making it less likely that committee members will read your submission in full.

If you have mentioned any data or research, say where you got it from.

4. Make recommendations

If you have any recommendations, add a “Recommendations” heading after the body of your submission and list them as bullet points. Even if you have mentioned or discussed your recommendations in the body of your submission, restate them here.

5. Write a conclusion 

Write a few sentences to restate your opinion on the Bill and your reasons.

e.g. Once again, I strongly oppose this Bill. I hope the committee will consider the information, evidence and experiences I have discussed in this submission, and will recommend that this Bill not proceed any further.

Upload your submission

The final step is to visit and find the Bill you want to submit on. Scroll down to the green button that says “I am ready to make my submission” and proceed through the form:

  • Select whether you are submitting as an individual or on behalf of an organisation,
  • If you also wish to make an oral submission on this Bill select yes, otherwise select no. Oral submissions are similar to written, but involve speaking at a select committee meeting either in-person or via Zoom. They are more effective than written submissions. If you select this options, someone will reach out to you to make a time for your oral submission, but you can decline if you have changed your mind.
  • Fill in your contact information on the next page. Only the name will be published, feel free to use a pseudonym but remember that the select committee may want to contact you about your submission.
  • On the next page you can upload your submission, or alternatively you can copy and paste it into the boxes provided.
  • The next page lets you review the information provided. If it all looks good, check the privacy statement box and hit submit.
  • Congratulations, you made a written submissions to a select committee!

Final considerations

Your submission doesn’t have to be long. Focus on making a few points well rather than trying to cover absolutely everything. Shorter submissions are more likely to be read in full.

Try to put things in your own words as much as possible. If the select committee receives a large number of similar submissions, they will be lumped together and treated as a single submission. If you have a template submission, it is much more effective to read the template and the write your own submission using some of the information provided.

Don’t use ChatGPT to write your submission for you. It is important that your submission is genuine and authentic. Always remember that these services don’t actually “know” anything. Content taken from generative AI will be very abstract and impersonal, might not be relevant to the Bill, or might have inaccuracies that could undermine your submission. It will also look very similar to any other submissions written using ChatGPT, and might be disregarded or combined with them.