The Government will consider adopting a Green MP’s bill to prevent confusing and ambiguous referendum questions, Prime Minister John Key said today. …
Today Green MP Sue Bradford said she was hoping her bill to prevent confusing questions would be drawn out of the next ballot.
The Citizens Initiated Referenda (Wording of Question) Amendment Bill required the Clerk of the House to allow only referendum questions which were “not ambiguous, complex, leading or misleading”.
Where a question was not allowed a person would be able to re-write it until it met the criteria.
Firstly I am suspicious about all this sudden concern in the wording of referenda questions. There have been far more ambigious questions in the past. I suspect this is politicians finding reasons in advance to ignore the result of the referendum – because they know the public do not like the new law.
But putting aside the suspicious rationale, it is worth considering the merits of Bradford’s bill. On the face of it, it would make referenda more useful and hopefully harder to ignore.
But it does give huge powers to the Clerk of the House. Now the Clerk is not the sort of person who would abuse such powers but Bradford’s bill is asking her to make subjective judgements, not objective judgements. It is very subjective as to what is leading or misleading. Any decisions made by the Clerk could lead to political attacks on that office – and that would be regrettable.Tags: Clerk of the House, referendum, Sue Bradford