A key policy plank for NZ First and the Conservative Party has been given a boost after two thirds of voters said they believed citizens-initiated referenda should be binding on a Government.
The Herald DigiPoll survey showed 66 per cent of respondents agreed such referenda should be binding while 22 per cent said they should not.
The results were taken as vindication by NZ First leader Winston Peters, who said it was clear most voters backed the longstanding policy of his party. However, he stopped short of saying it would be a bottom line in post-election talks, despite having a critical role in have citizens’ referendum introduced in the 1990s.
The Conservative Party has adopted the policy that a referendum should be binding if more than two thirds of voters support it.Conservative Party leader Colin Craig said the results warranted his stance to make it a priority in any post-election coalition talks if his party made it into Parliament.
“It is clearly farcical to have a system whereby you can have a referendum and then the Government just ignores it if it doesn’t suit. Five out of five have been ignored.”
Mr Craig did not believe there should be provision for a Government veto on fiscal grounds, but if there were significant fiscal implications the question should address that and how it would be paid for. Mr Peters said any referendum result could only be overruled by a significant majority in Parliament.
There have been five such referenda since the Citizens’ Initiated Referenda Act was passed in 1993 and all have had a result of more than two thirds voting one way. If the two-thirds majority threshold applied, the Government would have had to halt its partial asset sales programme, a referenda aimed at halting the anti-smacking bill would have been binding and Parliament would only have 99 MPs. Mr Peters said that in recognition of that second referenda, which was voted on in the 1999 election, his party policy was to reduce the size of Parliament from 120 to 100 MPs.
Others that got more than two thirds support included giving greater rights to victims and requiring serious offenders to do hard labour, and a referenda to boost the number of professional firefighters.
Herald DigiPoll survey
Q: Should the result of a citizens’ initiated referendum be binding and therefore require the Government to change the law if the outcome of the referendum decrees it?
Yes: 66 per cent
No: 22 per cent
Don’t know: 12.3 per cent
Poll of 750 eligible voters has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 per cent
New Zealand citizens-initiated referendum, 2009
|New Zealand corporal punishment referendum, 2009|
|“Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”|
|Source: The Chief Electoral Officer|
Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?
Voter turnout was 56.1%. 87.4% of votes answered ‘no’. The result of the referendum was non-binding and the New Zealand government did not change the law in response to the outcome.
The petition for the referendum was launched in February 2007 in response to the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Bill, which would remove parental correction as a defence for assault against children. The petition was organised by Sheryl Savill with support from Kiwi Party’s Larry Baldock. The wording of the petition was approved by Clerk of the House David McGee on 21 February 2007.