And it’s all wasted time.

So, for those of you who don’t follow the news, we now have assurance that because the S59 amendment act is working properly, even our current government is willing to continue supporting it, and even they acknowledge the uselessness of the question.

This certainly brings up issues around our referendum process- for instance, there’s no requirement to state the question in a certain way, so often we have referenda where the desired answer from the groups that supported a referendum is actually “no” rather than “yes”, like the current referendum.

While I’m not a big supporter of referendums in the first place, (I think they’re usually either useless or they get used for majority groups to step all over the rights of minority groups) if we’re going to spend nine million dollars on a referendum, it might as well be a good one.

I think there are three good criteria to a referendum process we’re currently lacking in New Zealand:

  • It shouldn’t be harder to initiate a referendum than it is to win a political campaign. (Currently, it takes twice as many voters to initiate a referendum as it does for a list-only party to enter parliament)
  • It should be very clear what the status quo is.
  • There should be a very clear proposed change, rather than an ephemeral goal to be met. (Such as “hire more fire fighters” vs “allocate $2million to hire additional fire fighters”)
  • Referenda results need to either be bound directly into law or introduce legislation into the house of representatives to be useful. (Under the current system the results are mostly ignored)

There are already some good posts on other sites- Kiwipolitico comes to mind- that suggest viable alternatives. My personal favourite is the suggestion that groups actually have to submit a draft law, and then uses the purpose statement or explanatory note in the referendum question. Then you just need to figure out exactly what sort of majority you want to see before you consider the law implemented.

2 Responses

  1. […] Truckin had a story today called “And it’s all wasted time” and also runs our […]

  2. Interesting to see the left squeal when it doesn’t suit them. All the more reason to cast my (non-binding) vote.

    I will acknowledge that the current CIR contains a loaded question, but this doesn’t mean the YES or NO vote is ambiguous. The question only makes it more clear so place your vote on whether you agree with Bradford (YES) or not (NO). Pretty simple, isn’t it? Just do it, or forever whinge.

    On the bigger picture I think a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer is always required for referenda – you just have to accept the public at the LCD. The key is in the wording. For binding referenda it must not be loaded and it must be fair. We achieved it with MMP so why not again in the future? Not difficult when minds are put to it (and on the current anti-smacking one, Norm Withers one, and Jim A’s firefighters one, I believe the point was to send a clear message to our politicians, not so much to directly change the law).

    Anyway it is important that the initial threshold for referenda is maintained so that the looneytunes don’t get a foothold in a binding referenda environment. I think it is currently at 10% of the voting population or 300,000 signatures. Seems a fair start to me.

    I can foresee future referendum being that of national value, rather than direct political. I am referring to how we govern ourselves, including such questions as “should we become a republic”, and ” should we update our flag”, and ” should we have an upper house” etc. Maybe, just maybe, some future government will have the guts to address these issues, but sometimes direct democracy is the only way. Binding CIR has its merits, but yes, it must be defined carefully.

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