The Green Party are promoting a petition for an asset sales referendum. They – and other groups in the Keep Our Assets coalition including the Labour Party – are using the Citizen Initiated Referenda process to continue campaigning they began during the last election.
It’s easy to make an assumption as per Wikipedia “The Citizens Initiated Referenda Act 1993 allows for citizens to propose a referendum“, that a CIR is a means of citizens petitioning MPs in parliament. So why are political parties (and MPs) so heavily involved in this petition?
Of course MPs are citizens too – but they have their own ways of influencing parliament, they are Members of Parliament.
Greens and Labour had said that they were only a part of a citizen based coalition, but they seem to be more open about their involvement now.
The latest Green Party newsletter says:
Over the winter months, the Green Party and our coalition partners have collected over 240,000 signatures on the Keep Our Assets petition.
That’s an outstanding victory in itself, but we now need to finish the job off.
Today we launched The Spring Collection, our month long push to get the last remaining signatures to force a referendum to stop the asset sales.
We need your help one last time.
We. We. We. That shows clearly it’s a significant Green Party campaign.
And David Shearer’s weekly newsletter is along similar lines:
Your MPs will be out working in our regions and local communities next week, with Parliament taking a break from sitting. It’s a chance for us to make another big push to get the signatures we need for the asset sales petition.
Both parties have taken clear ownership of the petition. It seems like a case of political parties hijacking a means for citizens to influence parliament.
The petition for the referendum has at times been promoted as simply a chance for ‘the people’ to have their say. The petition wording is:
To the House of Representatives, we, the undersigned, pursuant to the Citizen Initiated Referenda Act 1993, ask that an indicative referendum be held on the following question:
Do you support the Government selling up to 49 per cent of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?
It is bizarre that MPs are petitioning themselves as members of the House of Representatives.
It mightn’t be so bad if they were genuinely trying to determine the will of the people so they could represent that. But that is far from the case.
Green leader Russel Norman has just been reported as saying:
Co-leader Russel Norman, speaking at a rally in Auckland yesterday, says there’s “a real possibility” the Mighty River Power share float will be pushed back to March next year.
“A referendum on asset sales could be held early next year, before any of the power companies are sold,” he said.
“It’s only fair a referendum is held as soon as possible to give the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders who oppose asset sales the chance to cast a vote against them.”
The Greens and their partners have gathered 240,000 of the 310,000 signatures they need for a referendum.
That is clearly promoting his own and his party’s agenda.
And David Shearer (in his newsletter):
We’ve collected 240,000 signatures so far, and with your support we will force a referendum and make John Key listen to the people.
Labour failed to impress the people during the election. Labour and Greens failed to make John Key listen in parliament. So they are using a referendum to try and use ‘the people’ to make John Key listen to them in this on going tax payer funded extended election campaign.
Members of Parliament should represent the people.
They should not use the people, and Citizens Initiated Referenda, as a tool for negative campaigning in Parliament. This represents a major abuse of the CIR system.
And it is an almost certainly futile exercise – if a referendum is held it can and probably will be ignored. That will be an expensive waste of taxpayer money.
I’m ambivalent about the proposed share floats (they aren’t even ‘asset sales’). I don’t care if court cases and market conditions cause some or even all of the floats to be delayed or cancelled.
What I care about, passionately, is the cynical abuse of citizen’s democratic processes, the cynical misuse of parliamentary and taxpayers funds, and the sad misuse of extensive MP time and efforts – and yet more taxpayer money – in trying to extend failed campaigns.
This post is a CIR – one Citizen’s Indignant Rage at this blatant abuse of our democracy. As a citizen I ask to Keep Our Referenda.