When the act allowing for citizens initiated referendums to be held was passed in 1993, it provided that they could only be started after a petition to Parliament signed by 10 per cent of registered electors within 12 months.
The provision was designed to be, and has been, an effective deterrent to single-issue cranks getting their pet obsession on to a ballot paper. It means that anything that does make it to a referendum has some public support already.
It has not, however, prevented the four referendums held so far from being a waste of time and money. All four have produced the answer their proponents wanted and all four have, quite properly, been ignored by the governments of the time, both Labour and National-led.
People should keep asking those who claim a CIR should trump an election, when they will vote to amend the anti-smacking law in line with the 87% vote in that referendum.
The referendum is even more pointless than usual. Not only will it have no influence on the Government’s stance on the issue, it is also on a matter on which the Government undoubtedly gained a mandate at the last election – the fate of state assets was one of the foremost issues of the election campaign. The partial sale of state assets is, furthermore, an issue for which the Government will be answerable at the general election just over a year from now.
That is how it should be. You put up a policy at an election. You keep your word and implement it. You get judged on your record at the next election.