Democracy Policy (Full)
"The vote of the people is essential in any modern democracy. It is used to elect representatives to Parliament and to choose and reject Governments.
New Zealand’s Governments have extensive powers, yet our political system contains few of the safeguards against the abuse of the power of the executive that exists in other countries.
The ability to force a referendum against the wishes of Government would help provide that security."
— Source: The Royal Commission on the Electoral System.
Along with binding referenda, New Conservative recommends an electoral system where every vote counts (no discarded votes). We also recommend a parliament with fewer sitting MPs, honouring the rejected referendum result calling to reduce the number of MPs in 1997.
Referendum (BCIR) Policy
New Conservative sees Binding Citizens Initiated Referenda (BCIR) as a means of adding a safeguard to our democracy. We see it as a tool to rein in government when they seem to be ignoring the wishes of the people who elected them.
New Conservative is committed to making Citizens Initiated Referenda binding on the government when there is more than two-thirds (66%) majority response in favour of a referenda proposal, and at least one-third (33%) of registered voters participated in the referenda. Where a Citizens Initiated Referendum contains multiple parts for decision, each part will stand as a separate question requiring a simple “Yes” or “No” answer.
New Conservative would reduce the threshold of signatures required to trigger a referendum from 10% of registered voters to 5% of those who voted at the last General Election.
New Conservative is the only Party that believes the will of the people must be implemented.
New Conservative would increase the maximum expenditure allowed to promote a petition from $50,000 + GST to $100,000 + GST and index it to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
After a referendum has been triggered, participants involved in educating and informing the public on the referendum choices will be entitled to spend $100,000 (CPI indexed) plus $0.50 per voter signature acquired in the petition + GST.
New Conservative would ensure that wherever possible referenda would be held in conjunction with local body elections and general elections to save costs.
No Conscience Votes
New Conservative would replace parliamentary conscience voting with Binding Referenda. While MPs are in the house as representatives, they are elected on the basis of policy, not conscience. It is unreasonable to expect them to represent their electorate on matters of conscience.
It may even be dangerous as an MP’s ability to be true to his/her conscience is vulnerable to being affected by the opinions and expectations of others, particularly party leadership.
Matters currently requiring a conscience vote are usually matters of morality. The voting public should be the ones who set the moral code of the nation, not 61 MPs.
Freedom of Speech
New Conservative upholds and defends the current definition in New Zealand that:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.”
We will uphold the spirit of true democracy and ensure that free speech in New Zealand remains free. We will uphold people’s right to deliver, hear and engage in robust ideological debate, in order to make properly informed decisions.
The New Zealand curriculum states that one of the goals of education is to produce critical thinkers. This can only happen when children are given all the arguments on any issue so that they can form their own opinions. We want our children taught how to think not what to think.
Controls and restrictions on communication must be carefully considered. The role of government is not to dictate to individuals on what is subjectively viewed as acceptable or not. Censoring will only occur when addressing criminal offending.
New Conservative would link any adjustment to MPs' salaries to the change in the average wage in New Zealand. It would remove the responsibility to set MPs' salaries from the Remuneration Authority, and link their salaries to the annual change of the average wage.
If MPs perform well and the country prospers as a result, they too will prosper. If they do not perform well and the country does not prosper, neither will they.
New Conservative believes the current threshold for representation in parliament is higher than ideal for fair representation. Up to 10% of votes for minor parties are discarded at general elections. Democracy would be better served if as many voters as possible were represented in parliament.
We will remove the party vote threshold so that every party with enough votes for a seat will be represented in parliament.
List MPs Go Home
New Conservative will honour the result of the 1997 referendum in which over 80% voted to reduce the size of parliament to 99 MPs.
Legislative Standards Act
New Zealand’s Parliament has the power to make any legislation governing our country, regardless of any conflict with previous legislation. Such conflicts arise with regularity and include conflicts with the New Zealand Bill of Rights, the Bill of Rights 1688, and the Magna Carta. This has given rise to laws that breach individual or community rights without any recourse to New Zealanders other than repeal by Parliament, as the New Zealand Courts have already ruled that Parliament is supreme. In effect, any government has absolute power over New Zealand. The opportunity and temptation for abuse by any government is immense.
What is lacking is the requirement for legislation and regulation to meet standards that ensure that individual and community freedoms and rights cannot be overridden. We propose ensuring two declarations that are already part of the legislative framework in New Zealand, be rendered inviolate. The Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights 1688 enshrine individual and community rights and are New Zealand legislation that is routinely ignored by our Parliament.
New Conservative will introduce and pass a Bill entitled the “Legislation and Regulation Standards Act” that:
Acknowledges that two documents, the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights 1688 are fundamental declarations that form the basis of New Zealand law (“Declarations”);
Any New Zealand citizen can make an application to the Supreme Court of New Zealand to review any New Zealand legislation or regulation.
The Supreme Court must then review the relevant legislation or regulation to determine if the legislation or regulation is in conflict with the Declarations.
If the legislation or regulation is found by the Supreme Court to be in conflict with any of the Declarations, the Supreme Court must rule that such legislation or regulation is null and void.
The Supreme Court cannot amend such legislation or regulation, it can only make it null and void.
Parliament may then amend any such new or existing legislation found to be null and void by the Supreme Court so that it does not breach any term of the Declarations.
If parliament subsequently does amend such new or existing legislation that has been found to be null and void by the Supreme Court, it may be reviewed again by the Supreme Court upon application by any New Zealand citizen.
Any amendment to, or repeal of, the “Legislation and Regulation Standards Act” or the Declarations may only be made by a two-thirds majority of sitting MPs and ratified via referendum.