Monday, May 06, 2019

Binding means binding

Over the weekend National leaked a Cabinet paper showing that the government was considering making the 2020 cannabis legalisation referendum non-binding. The government's response? Rather than saying that they stand by their earlier promise of a binding referendum, Justice Minister Andrew Little instead decided to muddy the waters over what "binding" means:

Justice Minister Andrew Little has guaranteed that next year's cannabis referendum will be binding, but says he will explain "what binding actually means" when the next details are announced.


Mr Little told RNZ the government stood by its commitment to hold a binding referendum alongside the 2020 election, but he suggested the word "binding" could have several interpretations.

"We made the decision at the end of last year for a binding referendum. That decision remains," he said.

"[But] once Cabinet has made its decisions, and we're in a position to announce the next phase ... we'll be able to explain what 'binding' actually means."

FFS. Binding means binding. We've held binding referenda in the past - most notably over MMP - and we know how to do it: pass a law and have commencement depend on the referendum result. If it passes, the law comes into force; if it doesn't, it doesn't. Labour has made a commitment to both the Green Party and the New Zealand public to do this. For them to be getting cold feet now and demanding that we be satisfied with a politicians' promise does not engender trust, or encourage participation. Because we all know what a non-binding referendum means: that the government has no intention of respecting the result.