The Press on referendum

December 16th, 2013 at 7:35 am by David Farrar

 editorial:

There was never any chance the present Government was going to take any notice of the latest one.

In any case a botch-up by the organisers meant it was delayed so that by the time it was held, the programme it was meant to influence was almost over.

Incredible they had such a high proportion of duplicate signatures.

The latest was not strictly a citizens’ initiated one.

Unlike earlier referendums – on the number of MPs there should be in Parliament, on the proper punishment for violent offending, and on smacking of children – it was not led by any great popular groundswell.

Instead, it was largely promoted by the Green Party.

It spent a significant sum organising the petition for it.

Not sure the Greens spent any of their own money on it. They used their taxpayer funded parliamentary budget. The main purpose of doing so was to collect e-mail addresses from the petition.

To the loaded, if muddled question, a clear majority of voters signalled their opposition to , although not in such large numbers as some had expected.

In all the previous referendums, the vote for the position supported by those promoting the issue has been won by majorities of at least four to one, and in one case (in the poll on violent offending) by nine to one.

In the latest poll the margin was two to one.

Considering the concerted campaign run by those supporting the no-vote, who would have been expecting better, it was not a striking result.

It was a confusing question. Some of those who voted no might want more than 49% of assets sold. Some might want four of the five companies sold, but not all five. And yes the margin was way less than most expected.

Referendums are a crude instrument for influencing public policy. They require simple yes-no answers.

Most political questions are more complex than that and involve trade-offs.

It is for that reason that few countries bother with them. The latest one was a prime example.

The issue it dealt with was decided with the result of the last general election. Whether voters are still happy about that will be properly judged at the next one.

Labour declared the last election was a referendum on asset sales. They were right.

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17 Responses to “The Press on referendum”

  1. duggledog (1,361 comments) says:

    This should serve as a warning to all New Zealanders how far the Greens are prepared to go for their ‘principles’.

    With your money.

    Come on National. Start the campaign early by publishing all the things the Greens want banned – and then add the fact they will possibly be round the cabinet table with Labour.

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  2. homepaddock (431 comments) says:

    The question asked if people were in favour of selling up to 49% of several companies including Air NZ. The government had/has no intention of selling up to 49% of Air NZ shares because it didn’t own 100% to start with.

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  3. Longknives (4,467 comments) says:

    “Start the campaign early by publishing all the things the Greens want banned –”

    This could be a fun game!

    Things the Gweens want banned (Off the top of my head)-
    Sausage Sizzles, Mining,Mines, Miners, Horse Racing, Alcohol Advertising, Alcohol, School Tuck Shops,Cigarettes (*Note NOT their ‘Sacred Herb’ Cannabis) Contact sports, Rich people, Any salary over 200k, Any kind of foreign investment whatsoever, Diary farming,Diary farmers,Cows, Partial Asset sales…..

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  4. slightlyrighty (2,496 comments) says:

    When I heard that the No vote was 67%, I was pleased. While this may not be seen as an endorsement of the policy taken in isolation, a 2 to one against in votes cast.

    When compared to the total number of votes in the last general election, the total no vote is 39.65%

    To put that into some perspective, the total vote of Labour, Green and NZ First at the last election was 44.64%

    While it might have been nice to keep these assets, with the rebuild of Christchurch, and other infrastructure projects that need funding, the state has other priorities. What those on the left fail to realise is what is being built as a result of asset sales, are more assets.

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  5. Graeme Edgeler (3,267 comments) says:

    Referendums are a crude instrument for influencing public policy. They require simple yes-no answers.

    So do bills. Should an MP who supports selling all of the various SOEs covered have voted for or against the third reading of Mixed Ownership Model Bill? It required the same simple “aye”-”no” answer.

    [DPF: Wow Graeme has forgotten about select committee and committee of the house stage where you can vote on amendments]

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  6. Jimbob (640 comments) says:

    Simon Mercep’s interview with Cunners this morning was pathetic. He throws in the towel as soon as the interviewee argues with him. How did he get that job. Cunners repeatedly told porkies and wouldn’t answer the main question about buying the assets back.

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  7. In Vino Veritas (136 comments) says:

    I voted no precisely because I want 100% of these businesses sold, so I could not agree with 49%. And I know of several others who did the same. The “victory” being claimed by the Greens and Labour is a joke.

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  8. peterwn (3,164 comments) says:

    Jimbob

    This is probably the only basis they can obtain interviews with left leaning party leaders. Similar philosophy to the operation of the ‘Standard’.

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  9. Paulus (2,503 comments) says:

    Mercep was a limp wimp as Cuntliffe talked over him – although he let Cunners say the obvious crappy lies, he did without objection.

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  10. Nigel Kearney (864 comments) says:

    Number who voted Labour/Green/Winston in 2011: 1,009,313
    Number who voted no in the referendum: 895,322

    So they don’t even have the support of their own voters, or is the shortfall maybe due to Daljit Singh being preoccupied with other matters?

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  11. ChardonnayGuy (1,136 comments) says:

    Here’s the problem that I have with slagging off Labour and the Greens with this. Go into coalition with the Conservatives next year, and given that their bottom line is neverending continual binding referenda from apparently bottomless taxation revenue funds, that whole line of fiscal responsibility argument is negated. They’ll recognise that sooner or later.

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  12. Fentex (867 comments) says:

    It was a confusing question

    This is why I have no time for these referenda – they are largely pointless because the questions are generally imprecise.
    We certainly could never consider such logically challenged statements to be binding on anyone.

    Though I do like the idea of referenda as an option for a public veto on government excesses, they just need to be tightly defined – a simple yes/no on whether one (or more clearly listed) bills should be permitted to pass into legislation (or having done so be repealed).

    That way exactly what a vote means is clear and unarguable and the effect of success or failure clear to everyone.

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  13. Fentex (867 comments) says:

    Labour declared the last election was a referendum on asset sales. They were right.

    They were wrong, and such desperate efforts to invoke something people didn’t want failed them for the over-arching reason they lost the election, I think, the public just didn’t find them credible as governors.

    They certainly haven’t done much to change that perception since then either.

    That election, like every other one, involved more than a single policy and while being in government does empower the selling of assets and everyone knew that’s an ambition of National it isn’t true to say, as has been adequately demonstrated by polls, discussions and referenda (in a wussy kind of way) that this policy was accepted by the majority and even likely by everyone who when the crunch came preferred to toss Labour.

    The very idea of ‘mandates’ is generally nonsensical – elections decide on who gets authority but it’s childish to think that means every responsible citizen who cast a vote agreed with every policy of the party they, on the balance, selected over others.

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  14. Graeme Edgeler (3,267 comments) says:

    [DPF: Wow Graeme has forgotten about select committee and committee of the house stage where you can vote on amendments]

    Clearly I haven’t. My point was to take issue with a common criticism of referendums – that they simplify matters into a yes-no proposition. This criticism is often made about all referendums, and it doesn’t fit.

    The same yes-no debate ultimately happens with all bills as well. There is nothing fundamentally different from a legislative standpoint whether than final yes-no vote is undertaken by members of Parliament or by the wider public – they are asking themselves the same question – is this, in the form it is currently in, worth passing into law?

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  15. bc (1,334 comments) says:

    In Vino @ 8.20am
    That seems like a pretty stupid thing to do. All that means is that your vote gets lumped in with the others who object to asset sales. In other words, your vote makes a statement that is the exact opposite of how you feel.
    It would have better to not vote at all, if you felt that you could not vote yes.

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  16. RRM (9,471 comments) says:

    Would it be any different if we were talking about giving SOEs a light smack on the bum, as part of good parental correction? ;-)

    Interesting that it’s only natural that the Gubermint ignores some referendums, but it’s appalling when other governments ignore other referendums…

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  17. Nigel Kearney (864 comments) says:

    Interesting that it’s only natural that the Gubermint ignores some referendums, but it’s appalling when other governments ignore other referendums…

    They should be free to ignore referendums that have a significant budgetary impact. Similar to members bills. Otherwise governing is impossible, especially as people’s economic preferences are inconsistent. The govt could be required to stop selling assets, increase spending, lower taxes, and not borrow so much.

    Referendums on non-financial matters should generally be followed.

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