Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The referendum bill

Yesterday the government introduced a Referendums Framework Bill to the House. The bill does what it says on the label: provides a framework for referenda - presumably on cannabis legalisation and end of life choice - to be held at the next election. The rules, including spending limits and advertising rules, largely follow those in the Citizens Initiated Referenda Act 1993, with a few tweaks to allow for the fact that the referenda will be held at the same time as an election.

This is all good, and its great to have some rules for government (as opposed to citizens) initiated referenda. But there's a problem: the bill applies only at the next election, and repeals itself after that. But this is an ongoing need in our political system, with a government-initiated referendum on something (the electoral system, the flag, and now these issues) every couple of elections. At present, each of these referenda requires its own specialist legislation, taking up a chunk of valuable parliamentary time. Wouldn't it be easier to just do that once, to give us a framework Act which would be used in future, rather than having to start from scratch each time?