Don’t ditch CIR, fix it

A Dominion Post editorial is highly critical of Citizen Initiated Referenda after the Green and Labour hijacking. I agree that the asset sale referendum was a Waste of Money.

To listen to Labour and the Greens one would think the Government had no choice but to begin buying back state assets following the referendum on state asset sales.

According to Labour leader David Cunliffe the people “clamoured” to have their voices heard and they have “spoken” against the partial sales of Mighty River Power, Meridian Energy and Air New Zealand.

According to Green party co-leader Russel Norman the referendum has shown the prime minister is out of touch with mainstream New Zealand.

There is only one problem for Mr Cunliffe and Dr Norman. The referendum on state asset sales was not the first held under the Citizens Initiated Referenda Act 1993. It was the fifth.

…except that on each previous occasion a citizens-initiated referendum was held, the government of the day also ignored its outcome.

The asset sale petition and referendum was too cumbersome, too expensive, too late to make any difference. Easy to ignore.

The citizens-initiated referendum experiment should be abandoned. It is an unnecessary add-on that has contributed nothing but cost to the political system.

I agree that CIR are a failed experiment. Designed by politicians to be impotent, then ironically hijacked by politicians.

But giving up and abandoning is not answer.

What we should do is replace CIR with something that is effective – and not controlled by politicians or Parliament.

Something that is fast enough to express public opinion before legislation is debated and decided in Parliament. A system of public information, debate and opinion measurement that can contribute to MP knowledge of public opinion. If it is timely it will have more influence.

The citizens-initiated referendum experiment should be abandoned. It is an unnecessary add-on that has contributed nothing but cost to the political system.

I agree that CIR are a failed experiment. Designed by politicians to be impotent, then ironically hijacked by politicians.

But giving up and abandoning is not answer.

What we should do is replace CIR with something that is effective – and not controlled by politicians or Parliament.

Something that is fast enough to express public opinion before legislation is debated and decided in Parliament. A system of public information, debate and opinion measurement that can contribute to MP knowledge of public opinion. If it is timely it will have more influence.

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