Flag Referendum Less Credible Than Smacking Referendum

Media Release 11 December 2015
Family First NZ, one of the promoters of the anti-smacking law referendum, says that the low turnout on the flag referendum shows that it has less relevance and credibility than the 2009 Citizens Initiated Referendum on smacking, and is calling for CIR’s to be binding.

“Almost 1.7 million voters (56%) participated in a citizens initiated referendum on the anti-smacking law[1] which was non-binding and which the government could ignore, but only 48% turned up for a government initiated referendum – which is automatically binding. 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,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“Labour and the Greens were frustrated when their asset sales referendum could also so easily be ignored. They should first be seeking to change the law so that referendums are binding on Governments. Doing this would also save millions of dollars of taxpayer money on pointless referendums with low public interest.”

“Ironically, the Greens and Labour were treated the way they treated opponents of the anti-smacking law. And their protests sounded hypocritical. But John Key also sounds hypocritical because he ignored a people’s referendum but his referendum is binding,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“If important 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 a rigorous 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, and the number of MP’s,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“Government accountability should be able to happen regularly and on individual issues where there is high voter interest – 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.)

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