“The anti-smacking referendum – which resulted in an overwhelming rejection of the law yet the government being able to simply ignore the electorate’s wishes – set the stage for a horrendous waste of $9m of taxpayer’s money and nothing to show at the end of it. Since then, the government has been able to ignore a referendum on state asset sales, and earlier referendums,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“Ironically, the recent 2-question $22m Flag referendum was binding – because of it being the then-Prime Minister’s pet project.”
“Only 48% turned up for the first vote on the government-initiated flag referendum – which was binding. But 56% participated in a citizens-initiated referendum on the anti-smacking law which was non-binding and which the government could ignore. The anti-smacking CIR also had to gain almost 300,000 signatures to even be considered for a vote. This is a flaw with democracy in New Zealand when a stronger and more credible vote can be ignored simply because the government didn’t initiate it.”
“If important family issues can pass the very high threshold of almost 300,000 valid signatures and then, for example, a greater-than-2/3’rds majority after the public debate, then parliament should be bound by the result. Unfortunately, politicians have been able to simply ignore the views of NZ’ers on issues such as law and order, parenting, state asset sales, and the number of MP’s,” says Mr McCoskrie.
“Government accountability should be able to happen regularly and on individual issues – not just once every three years.”
(An independent poll of 1,000 people in 2011 found 2:1 support in favour of binding referenda. 53% favoured making CIR binding on Parliament, with 28% against and 19% unsure or refusing to say. Family First NZ supports binding referendums with a 2/3rds majority when voting.)