Tuesday, March 12, 2013

An affront to democracy

Later today, the Keep Our Assets referendum petition will be presented to Parliament. It is the largest referendum petition ever, with ~392,000 signatures. And for the second time, the government has announced that it will ignore it, no matter what the outcome.

No matter what your political persuasion, this cannot be seen as anything other than an affront to democracy. The referendum question isn't loaded. It's not misleading, vague, or meaningless. It will give a clear indication of whether the public support the government's partial privatisation programme or not. And there's therefore no wiggle room for the politicians to ignore it.

(Similarly, its not an attempt to deny or deprive people of human rights, which is about the only other reason I can see for a referendum to be ignored. But as I've long made clear, that should be done up front, in the acceptance phase, by checking all referendum proposals for consistency with the BORA and rejecting those which are inconsistent).

Our referendum legislation has always been half-hearted (too high a threshold, half-arsed questions, no requirement for the government to even respond to a vote, let alone obey it), and our politicians have never been keen on it, viewing us as dirty peasants whose grubby paws need to be kept off the machinery of power. And this has become a festering sore on our democracy. To fix it, we need to reform the CIR Act to give it teeth, to allow us to restrain our politicians when they get out of control. I've got some thoughts on how to do that here and here.

Meanwhile, National has once again shown its contempt for democracy. We need to hold them accountable for it, otherwise they'll never learn.