New Zealand passes Plain Language Act for making bureaucratic language easy to understand


The New Zealand Parliament has passed legislation that bans the bureaucracy from using inexplicable jargon and complex language while communicating with the public.

The passage of the Plain Language Act aims to make democracy, the government says, more inclusive, especially for non-native English speakers, people with disabilities, and those who are under-educated.

“People living in New Zealand have a right to understand what the government is asking them to do, and what their rights are, what they’re entitled to from the government,” MP Rachel Boyack, who presented the bill, said.

The law was based on the United States Plain Writing Act of 2010 which requires the US Federal Government to produce public documents in a ‘clear, concise, well-organised’ manner, the lawmaker said. The legislation will now be sent for the Royal Assent.

The bill got the support from the Labour, Green and Māori parties, while the National Party vowed it to repeal if elected next year.

As per the Guardian, National MP Simeon Brown on Wednesday said that it was “a solution looking for a problem” and added that the law would create new layers of bureaucracy in the form of plain language officers.

But Boyack argued that it was “common sense” to move such a law as it would make engagement with the public sector simpler for New Zealanders.

“It will require the Public Service Commissioner to issue plain language guidance to government agencies, helping them explain things in a way that is accessible to all New Zealanders

“Much of the information we receive as members of the public from government departments uses complicated language, jargon, and unnecessary acronyms. This is a common-sense change that will make engaging with the public sector simpler for New Zealanders.”


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