|Critics of the Prime Minister's refusal to hold the pro-belting fanatics citizens referendum have highly selective memories. Or have they forgotten the late seventies? Or the mid-eighties?
Fundamentalist pro-belting advocates are complaining that now that they allegedly have enough signatures for their referendum, they want it held at the next general election. I would note that they only have their own co-religionists to blame for the signature authenticity check process, given that the Coalition of Concerned Citizens massive number of forged or ineligible signatures for the petition against homosexual law reform back in the mid-eighties. Even then, they are not the ones who "own" the logistical requirements of organising one, which cannot be done in the space of a mere few months before the next general election.
What did I mean by selective memories, though? Ah, well, it's funny about this whole referendum thing, especially when there is massive liberal sentiment against an ill-advised repressive piece of legislation, and the current Prime Minister is a repressive social conservative authoritarian instead. When the pro-choice Repeal petitioners circulated and presented their own 300,000 signature petition to Parliament, the unlamented late Sir Robert Muldoon disregarded it. Yet, the anti-abortion lobby dare not go that route and call for a binding citizens referendum on that issue, becausethey know they'd lose heavily, and I suspect that they would have similar objections to an Oregonian BCIR for euthanasia reform and regulatory measures.
"Citizens" referenda are a crock. They seem expressly designed to pervert the democratic process through holding human rights and civil liberties captive to well-funded, populist lobby groups that want to overturn legislative safeguards for the vulnerable and marginalised. And how can anyone in the New Zealand LGBT community disagree with me on that observation, considering what is happening in California right now, where their Christian Right is trying to strike down a landmark court decision that desegregated that state's marriage laws?
New Zealand needs a written constitution, and a greater level playing field when it comes to democratic debate and intervention. We also need to repeal the Citizens Initiated Referendum Act 1993 before it can be used to attack any more vulnerable social groups. As the Californian example I cited shows, we may well be their next target.
David Broder: Democracy Derailed: Initiative Campaigns and the Power of Money: Harvest Books: 2001.
Richard Ellis: Democratic Delusions: The Initiative Process in America: University of Kansas Press: 2002.
Peter Schrag: Paradise Lost: California's Experience, America's Future? New York: New Press: 1998.
Peter Schrag: "Take the Initiative, Please: Referenda Madness in California:" American Prospect (1996): http://www.prospect.org/print/V7/28/schrag-p.html Craig Young - 29th June 2008