Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A waste of time

Its official: the referendum on the child discipline bill is a waste of time. The Prime Minister has said that the government will not change the law regardless of the outcome of the vote:

"I think it's important that governments listen to the public, but the test I've had is that if I don't think the law is working I will change it," he said. "To date I have not seen any evidence that it is not working."
The child-beaters have only themselves to blame for this. They deliberately loaded the question with motherhood and apple pie and hidden premises in the hope of directing the outcome. But by doing so, they allowed the government wiggle room to ignore the response. If they'd simply asked "should the child discipline law be repealed?", the government would have no such excuse.

And that said, while the referendum isn't going to affect policy, I think it is still worth voting. Because its not just about sending a message to the government - but also to the child beaters.

Meanwhile, this is another example of why we need tighter restrictions on referendum questions. In other countries, they require a referendum to be a yes/no vote on a particular law or amendment to law - whether it should be passed, or (if it has already been passed) whether it should be repealed. This gives both a clear question, and a clear signal to government of what is expected of them, and it seems like a damn good idea to me.