Referenda and Human Rights

So recently I stumbled across a site advocated binding citizen-initiated referenda. This is an issue I’m really conflicted over. Basically, they want multiple referenda each year that the government is required to follow on contentious issues- so most of the issues that are today considered a conscience vote, where MPs do not have to vote along party lines, would instead be put to referendum.

On the one hand, I believe that in terms of experimenting with economic policy and social initiatives, public opinion is a very useful guide, and overwhelming public opinion should be respected. This is part of why a proportional system like MMP is so important to New Zealand politics- it ensures that the values represented by the various parties are as close to proportionally weighted in parliament as they are in wider society. It is also excellent that the select committee process is so much more important under MMP, and that citizens have the opportunity to point out flaws in legislation that MPs may have missed, or are simply more evident to specialists in a particular field. This wider consultation benefits everyone. Continue reading