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Baldock's 2011 Election Bid

1 comments | 9:15 am | top |

Petitioner, Larry Baldock in 2007
The petition asking "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand" was put forward by Focus on the Family employee Sheryl Savill, however it was the initiative of ex-United Future list MP, Larry Baldock. The petition was signed by over 390,000 Kiwis and was supported by people from a wide range of backgrounds and political parties. However as the 08 election got closer, questions began being asked about what the petition was all about. This is covered in more detail in my Christian Voting guide for the 08 election but in summary involved a new political party forming on the back of the petition, followed by an unprecedented breach of privacy of the personal details of the signatories to the petition. Then on 5 September the Kiwi Party announced their second petition, this time calling for referendums on a law change to be binding. This is not only a knee-jerk reaction to the National Government's ignoring the 87.6% No vote response to the smacking referendum, but also an attempt at creating a platform from which to relaunch the Kiwi Party into the '11 election - and this time it's even more blatant. The Kiwi Campaign for Democracy website and the Kiwi Party's own website contain identical articles, not to mention a striking similarity in the name - and this despite Larry's denial at a recent Christchurch meeting that the campaign was being run by the Kiwi Party.

However today the Legislation Advisory Committee which is headed up by former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer has come out saying the petition must not be allowed to go ahead as it would contradict the fundamental purpose of the Citizens Initiated Referenda Act 1993, which provided for non-binding referendums - NZ Herald. Petition initiator and Kiwi Party leader Larry Baldock fairly responded, "they're trying to shut down democracy". Simeon Brown of NZ Debate observed that "if they have a right to veto it, we should have the right to veto parliament". The fact of the matter is, there are no legitimate grounds on which to prevent the petition from going ahead. The CIR act was established to ensure that citizens could have their say if they thought they were being ignored - on any issue apart from one which had been the subject of a prior referendum question. The Committee raises many very good points as to why the aim of the petition is at conflict with the way New Zealand's electoral system works. Palmer states that, "It is doubtful that Parliament contemplated that such a referendum could be held under the authority of the Act". However if this were the case, why does the law specify various prohibitions for what petition questions may relate to (Section 4), but neglect to rule out questions relating to the operation of the CIR process itself? He comments further on in the Herald's article,

"The second question that arises is what does binding mean? Does it mean that the content of the referendum is capable of displacing or amending an Act of Parliament directly? As a matter of legal drafting, that cannot be the case. It seems quite impossible for a citizen's initiated referendum to contain professionally drafted amendments that would be legally effective.

Palmer here identifies one of the key problems with the Kiwi Party initiative to amend the CIR Act. A simplified petition question can firstly, not adequately address the plethora of issues surrounding a proposed law change, and secondly, acting on the results of a binding referendum would be extremely difficult as referendum questions never specify the exact changes that should be made to a particular law. As such, referendums are at their best, valuable tools for gaining an accurate gauge on public opinion on a specific issue. According to the guidelines around obtaining a referendum, the Clerk of Parliament has until about 14 Jan to come to a decision on whether or not the petition will ultimately be able to go ahead. The public have had their opportunity to make comment (in the 28 days from 16 Sept to 14 Oct), and we are now in the three month period during which the Clerk may deliberate on the final wording of the question with input from the key parties concerned.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Ross Calverley said...

Ok, use referendum instead of select committee process... joke. Why don't the politicians do that crap then everyone has the final vote.

5:45 pm, November 17, 2009 

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