Tim Watkin on “elected dictatorship”

Russel Norman is becoming tedious with his ludicrous claims that a non-binding referendum should trump an election. Apart from making a rod for his own back for when he finally makes it into government he is just being plain silly.

You know he is being silly too when lefty commentators call him out for his dumb comments.

Tim Watkin is certainly one of those, and although his post is TL;DR it does show up the rank hypocrisy and sanctimony of Russel Norman.

Driving home last night I heard Norman on Checkpoint, rejecting questions that National had won the election and therefore had the right, y’know, to govern. Norman said that people vote for an against numerous issues in an election, so it didn’t mean National had a mandate for partial asset sales.

“That’s not how democracy works,” he told Mary Wilson.

Except that’s exactly how democracy works. Elections are never single issue referendums and a party like National, which for two elections has been clear as a newly polished pane of glass on a summer’s day (with not too much light, but not much cloud either) about its intentions, has every right to, y’know, govern. To argue otherwise makes no sense. 

Russel Norman contorts his logic so as to hide it behind his shield of sanctimony.

[B]y Norman’s logic a governing party has no right to implement policies in its manifesto that don’t get a majority in separate polls. Well, that’s not how democracy works. If it was, you could look at this random measure from 2003 and say Labour had no right to cut us off from the Privy Council.

Indeed, republicans have never won support for New Zealand to cut ties with the monarchy in any poll ever, so by Norman’s logic it would be anti-democratic for any future Labour-Greens government to even consider such a move until it had won at least a few polls.

Russel’s logic is made to fit into sound bites.

Norman went on to say that we’re not “an elected dictatorship” and that Key must listen to the voice of the people. So let me go on with another couple of examples. Because by Norman’s rhetoric it’s surely more oppressive for National to have started implementing the Greens’ insulation scheme in its first term – at least asset sales were a clear part of National’s manifesto!

But fair play, if you want to isolate an issue and test the mandate of a single policy, then a referendum is your go-to tool. Just as the anti-smacking brigade did in 2009 with its push to amend the 2007 Crimes Act and the removeable of “reasonable force” as a way to teach your kids a lesson. Fully 88% of those who voted, voted against the Greens-driven law change.

Was it an example of “elected dictatorship” to ignore that referendum? No. Labour rightly decided it had the right to, y’know, govern when it was in government. But by Norman’s logic Sue Bradford’s amendment should have been repealed; and no he doesn’t get to say that one doesn’t count because he didn’t like the question. If you’re going to use rhetoric like “unelected dictatorship” you’d better be willing to stand by the principle, not just the examples you prefer.

When Russel Norman moves to repeal Sue Bradford’s law I think we can expect John Key put a halt to asset sales.

Happily, our referenda are non-binding. Norman should be careful what he preaches about, or he will find himself with ‘binders’ for friends, which I don’t think is where he wants to be. I certainly don’t want governments bound by referenda; I want them to have flexibility, to use their judgment and to, y’know, govern. They have a mandate to do just that; that’s how our democracy works and that’s exactly what any Green Party minister would say if he or she were in government one day.

Binding referendum is the territory of cowards. We have a representative democracy, we elect representatives…binding referenda bypasses all that and what you would get is the mayhem.


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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.  And 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 that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

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

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