Rodney Hide on referenda

Rodney Hide discusses the pointlessness of referenda.

Oh it was such a good idea. People upset about this or that Government policy could organise and force a vote. It would give people a direct say in running the country.

Well, that was the idea back in 1993. Five citizens’ initiated referendums have since made it through to a full vote. Each has proved a total flop.

The referenda held so far are:

  • Firefighters’ Union promoted referendum on firefighter numbers – 88 per cent of voters saying no to cutting firefighter numbers. Politicians ignored it, cutting firefighters by a third.
  • Minimum sentencing and hard labour for criminals.  85 per cent support. Helen Clark’s government made violent criminals eligible for parole after serving just a third of their sentence and ordered judges to impose “the least-restrictive sentence that is appropriate in the circumstances”.
  • Cut the number of MPs back to 100. 85 per cent support. yah turkey’s never vote for an early Christmas.
  • Referendum opposing anti-smacking legistation. 88 per cent of voters vote that a smack as part of “good parental correction” should not be a criminal offence. Ignored by politicians. 

Rodney notes:

Contrary to popular political wisdom, there has been no electoral consequence to politicians ignoring the result of the referendums.

None whatsoever…National should just ignore the referendum.

Now we are all to vote on whether or not we support selling a part of five Government businesses. The trouble is that National won the last election promising to do just that. The opposition parties campaigned against the sale and lost.

For National to reverse its policy on asset sales would mean breaking its election pledge. John Key has made it plain that the referendum won’t affect Government policy. Besides, the referendum doesn’t present the trade-offs involved in not selling state assets. The asset-sales referendum has one advantage over the others: we know it’s a waste of time before we vote. It won’t make one bit of difference.

The Greens and Labour will huff and puff about democracy.

But neither party took any notice of the smacking vote. Labour and the Greens only agree with the results of referendums when they suit them and, to date, they haven’t.

Time to can this silly legislation and the reason justifying it would be the asset sales petition…complete and utter waste of time.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.