New Zealand Needs Binding Referenda
16 December, 2019
Those of us who call New Zealand home generally appreciate not just the beauty and diversity of our natural surroundings, but the atmosphere and culture that allows us to try new things and work to our strengths.
This is provided within the framework of western civilisation which is based on Greek democracy and objective morality, giving us a set of rules to live by and a framework to discuss those rules and how we would like them applied.
Our parliamentary system is meant to provide the checks and balances to make sure that no one individual or group forces their beliefs or ideology on the nation as a whole without proper consultation and agreement. Unfortunately without any upper house or constitution, once elected the government has absolute control and apart from anarchy and rebellion, the population have no real means of holding the government in check between elections.
When the government introduced CIR (Citizens Initiated Referenda) Sir Douglas Graham claimed that it was unnecessary to make it binding as no government would be foolish enough to ignore the voice of the people. Unfortunately he was wrong, and no CIR has ever been honoured by any government even when gaining up to 90% support.
Do not let the flag referendum confuse you, that was not CIR. John Key never met the requirements of CIR, he just arbitrarily called a “government initiated” referendum.
Currently our government contains just 28 people who were personally chosen to represent us. The rest are list MPs, and these people require no formal qualifications, no trades, not even level one NCEA credits to hold their position.
The list MPs are not accountable directly to a constituency and therefore their beliefs, values, and backgrounds are not exposed to the same level of scrutiny as an electorate MP.
More frequently we are seeing laws introduced without proper consultation and against the will of the majority of New Zealanders. This is not democracy.
These laws are also often arising from matters that were not reflected in policy at the time of the election, so voters have not had any opportunity to influence their representatives.
Parliamentarians are elected to represent the people. They sit in the “House of Representatives.” It is not their role to dictate or control, but to be representative of the people in a parliament whose role is to protect, enable and encourage.
Binding Citizens Initiated Referenda gives the population the ability and power to hold politicians to account for decisions that are unpopular and contrary to the will of the majority. It should never have to be used, as a representative government should not be passing legislation that is clearly contrary to the will of the majority.
The possibility that the actions of our legislators would be exposed to public outcry and a referendum should be enough to encourage politicians to consult, engage, educate and ensure that the law passed is reflective of the will of the people.
I recently heard a quote, although I am unsure of the source, which went along the lines of, “We can discuss with words, or we will discuss with force.” No one in New Zealand wants what is happening in Hong Kong to take place here, and binding referenda would allow all voices to be heard.
Nor do we want a situation like in the UK where the result of a referendum on Brexit was overruled by politicians, and the people had to be given another opportunity to make their voice heard through a snap election. And they did. Overwhelmingly so.
New Conservative proposes lowering the threshold required for a petition forcing a referendum to 5% of those who voted in the last election, with a clear majority of 66% for a resolution to pass.
Whatever we do, we must allow the people of New Zealand some tool that will hold government to account when they disregard democracy to push their own agenda.
New Conservative believes that Binding Citizens Initiated Referenda is the right tool to achieve government accountability.
Leighton Baker, Party Leader