Real Issues – Referendum

Real Issues – Referendum

Friday, 26 June 2009, 9:24 am

Real Issues No. 344 – Referendum

Maxim Institute – Real Issues – No. 344 25 June 2009


The continuing debate over the referendum on child discipline took a turn for the surreal this week, with politicians from across the spectrum lining up to attack the referendum question as nonsensical, saying things like ‘the law is working’ and ‘the question is weird.’ The question we are supposed to answer does not seem hard. ‘Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?’ Committed to his brokered ‘compromise’ John Key can’t afford to admit the law is not working. Phil Goff can’t afford to offend elements in his own party, ideologically committed to the ban on physical discipline. And neither of them want to ignore the large majority of Kiwis who keep telling pollsters they support a good parent’s right to make disciplinary decisions. So, they pretend contempt for the question, and count on a low turnout. This in itself is a damning indictment. The growing popularity of referenda and public distrust in politicians, are the products of people feeling that the government is distant, that they don’t care what we think. Regardless of the merits of the question (whose limitations are unavoidable given that it must be a yes/no question) the gist of the referendum is clear to both the Yes and No campaigns, and the public should have their say on it. Contempt for the democratic process is far too general across the spectrum–from Parliament, when it abuses urgency, to leaders when they disregard the feedback they are receiving from constituents. Luckily for the country, our democracy does not belong to them alone–it is a precious right belonging to all of us. From the end of July, we should all do our duty and value the imperfect but vital process of democracy–especially when others are not.

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