One with a gun or twenty with clubs

Would you prefer to have twenty people bash you to death with clubs, or one shoot you until you died? Either way you’re still hurting and dying. This principle is why I really don’t get people who say it’s okay to take away people’s rights so long as we do it by referendum- whether it’s the Māori seats, a child’s right not to be hit in an abusive manner under a defense of correction, the right of any two people to marry regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation- whatever.

The point is there is no difference between a totalitarian regime imposing a specific injustice because of the word of Dear Leader, and 50+% of us deciding to rob some portion of the rest of human rights. In matters of protections from abuse or entitlements to civil rights, the people who will actually be affected should also agree they aren’t needed before we start talking about a referendum at all.

And, to the current specific case before us with the upcoming referendum: seeing we don’t enfranchise kids, perhaps we should be even more careful about taking away their legal protections over some populist whip-up with no real weight of argument behind it. Let’s be neither the twenty with clubs nor the one with the gun, when we could instead so easily be a society of parents and other caregivers who realise that “corrective” violence, even when it starts off not hurting, just isn’t worth it. ๐Ÿ™‚

(Cross-posted from G.Blog)

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.

Vote Yes

For those truckers who don’t follow me on G.Blog, here’s a cross-post:

Just a reminder to everyone who supported Sue Bradford’s Bill to repeal ยง59 of the crimes act and extend full protection from assault to children- there is a referendum coming up that is designed to undermine that decision, even though it passed overwhelmingly and attitudes (not only to abuse of children, but also to physical discipline of children) have already changed dramatically since the implementation of the new law.

There’s a great non-partisan campaign to support the current law on at http://yesvote.org.nz/. The site is very rigorous and straightforward in its facts, doesn’t overreach, and has excellent talking points for the current policy and why it needs extra time to be successful. In short, their main thrust accords with the Party’s reasoning for supporting the bill in the first place: It draws a line in the sand and uses that to motivate slow change towards a society where physical discipline is largely abandoned and unnecessary.

If you can get out and help spread the word that people supporting our current, sensible laws regarding assault against children, please do so. Their recommendations for supporting the “Yes” campaign are here1, and you can find resources for grassroots campaigning here.

1 Basically, they recommend writing your local MP and keeping up with news from the campaign.

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