Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Steve Baron: We need the power of veto over new laws
Here are my first three predictions so you can judge my remarkable powers. 1. Grey Power and its collaborators will collect enough signatures within the next twelve months—probably much quicker, to trigger their citizens’ initiated referendum in the hope of stopping asset sales. 2. The vast majority of New Zealanders will say ‘no’ in this referendum—therefore rejecting asset sales. 3. More than $10 million taxpayer dollars will be wasted, when yet again, another supercilious government will ignore the results of a citizen’s initiated referendum.
The government can do that because in New Zealand, unlike Switzerland and twenty-four US States, referendums are not binding. The people of New Zealand can simply be ignored as inconsequential minions—only to be pandered to on one day every three years.
Like all governments before them, this government thinks it knows what is best for New Zealand and only their policies can fix New Zealand’s woes. We will hear all the worn out phrases; voters knew what we stood for; we have a mandate; it’s the governments’ responsibility to act in the best interest of all New Zealanders; an election is the best referendum. These arguments are arrogance personified and they don’t hold water.
Representative democracy may have its advantages in that someone has to do all the donkey work of politics, very few would want to do that day in and day out. But the weakness with this political system is that it’s a package deal, all or nothing; voters can’t pick and choose the best policies from all political parties. Voters have to take all the policies the government of the day offers—even if the majority of New Zealanders didn’t support that government on election day.
As joint referendum campaign spokesperson and CTU President, Helen Kelly said; “The Government does not have the mandate to sell our strategic assets and it is time the public had their say”.
While many citizens’ initiated referendums in the past have been ambiguous, misleading, biased and confusing, this cannot be said about the current referendum which is straight to the point, ‘Do you support the Government selling up to 49% of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?’
What irks me about this referendum is the hypocrisy. We now see the Greens and Labour jumping on the bandwagon because it supports their cause—this time. Neither of these parties support referendums being binding on the government—anyone remember the Greens anti-smacking Bill under a Labour government? In fact the only two political parties of any consequence at the last election who do support binding referendums are NZ First and the Conservative parties.
The question we need to ask ourselves as New Zealanders is what sort of a democracy do we want? If the government of the day is not prepared to listen to the majority of citizens on important and contentious issues, all we have is a tyranny of the minority. As the old saying goes, two heads are better than one and the collective wisdom of over three million voters is better than the collective wisdom of just 121 MPs. It’s time politicians bowed to the people and not the people to politicians. It’s time New Zealanders had the right to reject new legislation, or changes to old legislation, in a binding veto referendum—a political tool not at our disposal yet.
Just for the record, this clairvoyant voted against the smacking referendum and will vote for asset sales. That is democracy and I simply accept being in the minority!
Steve Baron is a political columnist, published author, former businessman, independent political candidate, Mayoral candidate and Founder of Better Democracy NZ. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science & Economics.
at 7:12 PM