Asset sale petition – what happens now

From the New Zealand Parliament website:

Petition requesting citizens initiated referendum – what happens next

On 12 March, a petition requesting that a nation-wide referendum be held was presented to the Clerk of the House of Representatives.

The petition proposes that a referendum be held on the following question:

Do you support the Government selling up to 49 percent of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?

Under the Citizens Initiated Referendum Act 1993 the Clerk has the role of certifying whether the petition has been signed by at least 10 percent of registered electors as at the date received. If this threshold is met a referendum must be held.

Scrutiny of petition

The Clerk is responsible for scrutinising the referendum petition and has two months to certify if the petition has enough signatures.

If a preliminary count of signatures indicates that at least 10 percent of eligible electors may have signed the petition, a sample of signatures is checked. The sample to be checked is determined by the Clerk with the assistance of the Government Statistician.

The Clerk then gives the sample of signature details to the Chief Registrar of Electors, who checks them against the electoral roll and reports the result of this check to the Clerk. The Clerk, with the assistance of the Government Statistician, then considers the results of the check and determines whether the petition has enough signatures to succeed.

Resubmission of petition

If there are not enough signatures, the petition is certified as having lapsed and returned to the promoter, who may, within two months, resubmit the petition to the Clerk for another check to be made.

Presentation of successful petition to the House

If the Clerk is satisfied that a petition or resubmitted petition has been signed by at least 10 percent of eligible electors, it is certified as correct and presented to the House on the next sitting day. The petition is then referred to a select committee for consideration and report.

Holding a referendum

The presentation of a successful referendum petition to the House leads to the holding of an indicative referendum on the question set out in the petition. In principle, the referendum must be held within 12 months of the presentation of the petition to the House, unless the House passes a resolution postponing the referendum that is supported by 75 percent of members.

The referendum may be conducted by personal voting or postal voting. The decision on how the referendum will be conducted is made by the Governor-General by Order in Council within one month of the presentation of the petition to the House.

Green abuse of CIR could be more insidious

The Green party has been criticised for spending tens of thousands of dollars collecting petition signatures.

Greens know the referendum will be too late.
They now it will probably be ignored (as they have done in the past).
Why are they spending so much?

Are they investing in something bigger? Like planning on using $millions of taxpayers dollars on their 2014 election campaign?

A story that went round the blogosphere three weeks ago was picked up by the NZ Herald this week, on Green Party use of parliamentary funds to employ petition signature gatherers.

Greens spend taxpayer cash to fight asset sales
The Green Party has used $75,000 of taxpayer money to pay signature-collectors for a referendum opposing asset sales.

‘Pay it back’ calls over Greens’ payments
The Greens’ use of public money to pay signature collectors was permitted by parliamentary rules, but it was believed to be an unprecedented use of the Leader’s Office fund.

Finance Minister Bill English criticised the spending during parliamentary question time yesterday.

“It is a bit odd that Greens used to support citizens-initiated referendums, whereas now we are paying for Greens-initiated referendums.”

Editorial: Greens’ use of public cash for petition wrong
The Greens are wasting their time, as well as our money, trying to put the issue to a second test. Their effort can only undermine the system of citizens’ initiative yet again by forcing another poll that the Government would safely ignore.

Most, like the smacking referendum, have produced results Governments can ignore. The citizens’ initiative still awaits an issue of such resounding importance, and official neglect, that the country can compel Parliament to act.

Every time a referendum is demanded as a recourse for parliamentary defeat, those demanding it run the risk that Parliament will decide the whole system is a waste of money and repeal it. That likelihood looms larger if parties are going to use their parliamentary allowances to hire signature-gatherers.

This is criticising Greens for using parliamentary funds to abuse the Citizen Initiated Referendum process. They have turned it into a Politician Driven Petition – so far.

But…Greens (and Labour) must know that even if they get enough signatures for the petition to force a referendum that will come far too late to stop the start of the part selling of assets. And they know that when the referendum eventually happened the results can be ignored, like they ignored the smacking referendum.

So what is their intent here? One possibility is that it gives them a means of continuing a lost election campaign, funded by the taxpayer. But what is the real purpose of a seemingly futile referendum?

Comments on previous posts here suggests a longer game:

June 19, 2012

The Greens are managing these issues perfectly. You can’t catch them. They’ve learned alright! You won’t ping them on the referendum support either. The public will regard you as sniping if you try to portray the Greens as they see National, Labour, NZFirst, Act and UnitedFuture. Go for it though, Pete!

June 19, 2012

The referendum will reflect the country’s real feelings and will come at a time when it counts – just prior to the election. Perfect. Bye bye Mr Dunne. Bye Mr Key. Sayonara.

Wasting tens of thousands of dollars of  parliamentary resources in hijacking Referenda from Citizens is bad enough.

But has the Green Party also planned to co-opt millions of taxpayers dollars on a referendum with the intention of using it as part of their 2014 election campaign?

Rodney Hide was politically crucified for having a (legal) taxpayer fling with his girlfriend.

Is the Green Party flinging principles – and our dollars – out the window in a quest for power at any cost?

Severely flawed referendum promoted as filibuster

Russel Norman has tried to force a hold on the Mixed Ownership Model Bill until the outcome of a referendum is known.

A referendum that we don’t even know will happen or not.

I’ve also been asked about this on blogs, in this case by “John M”:

Is this why you don’t support even arguing for holding off on the sales until the result of the referendum (as a compromise to Dunne pulling the pin on the legislation)?

I’ve replied:

We don’t even know if there will be any referendum. It would be ridiculous to set as precedent of holding off any legislation pending the possibility of a referendum.

Apart from making a nionsense of our democratic process it would encourage even more abuse of CIR as a means of massive filibustering.

If we had a Labour/Green led government do you think they would put CGT legislation on hold for a couple of years to wait for the possibility there could be a referendum that could indicate majority opposition that they could ignore anyway?

Do you think any government legislation should be put on hold if a referendum is promoted as a possibility by opposition parties?

I think it would make a mockery of our democracy.

If the Greens got into a position of pivotal power would they delay addressing “child poverty” until a referendum had been held? Did Greens and Labour wait until the results of a referendum to decide how to vote on a “smacking” bill?

They are playing politics. And abusing taxpayer money to fund an extended election campaign, as illustrated in this comment yesterday from Robert Guyton:

The referendum will reflect the country’s real feelings and will come at a time when it counts – just prior to the election. Perfect. Bye bye Mr Dunne. Bye Mr Key. Sayonara.

The referendum looks like it has been hijacked by opposition parties using it as a massive taxpayer funded campaign tool for 2014.

That is highly unethical and a a cynical and hypocritical abuse of both taxpayer money and the Citizen Initiated Referendum.

Green democracy bum about face

The Green Party seems at times to have reverse ideas of practicing democracy.

They seem to view our democracy and parliament as something to server their amibitions and ideals, rather than them serving the ambitions and ideals of their constituents.

They are strong supporters of a List MPs only approach, claiming that the issues they champion apply to the whole country therefore apply to a country wide constituency (although I suspect if they had a realistic chance of winning any electorates they’d change that view).

That’s fair enough, under our MMP they can focus on whatever way they like to participate in parliament.

But I wonder if this approach leads them to reverse democracy, where they think everything revolves around their policies and they can cherry pick a constituency that agrees with them and then try and apply them to everyone.

Shouldn’t a whole country constituency involve representing as many people as possible? Or do the Greens have such strong belief in the their policies that they should apply to everyone?

An overconfidence in lefteousness can appear as an arrogance of ideals as they blind themselves inside their own made bubble. Where they think the people must listen to them rather than them listening to the people.

To me that is democracy bum about face.

This is further illustrated by their approach to parliamentary process, where they think Parliamentary Services are available to them to run campaigns, as indicated by Green Party use (and abuse?) of “support staff” and Greens are using taxpayer funds for CIR petition.

Here they have been seeking employees (taxpayer paid) to run an extension and escalation of their election campaign. A comment from Kiwi in America:

The issue is that the taxpayers are not supposed to be on the hook for the political campaigns of political parties aside from the transparent grants they get for campaign spending. Are you blind to, or just blithefully ignorant of, history?

The whole Labour Party pledge card rort revolved around this issue. Labour used tax payer funds meant for running Labour’s parliamentary offices (received from Parliamentary Services) for campaigning purposes – something forbidden by the Electoral Act.

The Greens are using their Parliamentary Services bulk funding (that taxpayers pay for) to pay the wages of people hired for a specific political campaign purpose – in this case raising signatures for a CIR about the partial SOE share floats. How much more blatantly political can you get?

Greens seem to think resources are available for them to campaign on their issues as they see fit, rather than to represent the people.

They seem to think a Citizen Initiated Referenda is a tool for them to oppose Government policies – I thought it was more intended as a means of citizens to lobby parliament, not for parliamentarians to lobby people to build suport for their opposing campaigns

Greens seem to me to have democracy bum about face.