Vote NO – or NO vote?
It’s a shambles. I have just got in my mail today a voting paper from a government agency suggesting that I vote in a $9 million citizens initiated referendum, when Prime Minister John Key has effectively said not to bother because my opinions don’t matter and my vote will be disregarded. In a recession, too.
The question, “should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand” is not the best – but it is no worse than earlier referendum questions. Historically, citizens initiated referenda have been dismissed as irrelevant by Governments. But this one is different as it is the only time a Prime Minister has so publicly stated that my vote does not count before the voting papers have reached my letterbox, while funding promotion of a particular viewpoint through my taxes. In effect John Key has said that should anyone vote, the Government will pay the postage and vote processing, and then ignore it. In other words, don’t bother.
Non-binding referenda are in effect expensive and toothless nationalised opinion polls that have yet to provide citizens the power to alter public policy – while petitioners are charged $500 per question. Making referenda binding won’t help either – very small numbers of people could impose their will. That is exactly what would have happened in 1994 under a binding Act. Just 28% of registered voters bothered to vote on a referendum on the number of firefighters. There would have been protests had the Government been bound by such a referendum - which had no mandate and was essentially a taxpayer–funded industrial dispute.
Some blame Sue Bradford for the current referendum given she initiated the offending legislation. Others blame Kiwi Party leader Larry Baldock and Family First director Bob McCoskrie for leading the referendum charge, when it was not even their question.
I`ll let you know who is the culprit. Tomorrow, probably. And like most sensible people, I`ll be voting NO.