We can claim back democracy.
It is in the strong interests of politicians at large to thoroughly ridicule this concept.
But it works.
It is workable – the most successful country in the world has it, and we must now start to claim it.
This concept encompasses three requirements:
– When any legislation is passed by Parliament, a 100 days scrutiny period must ensue for the country to examine the implications of what is proposed.
– There must be an obligation on any state-owned, that is publicly funded, media to present both sides of an issue in debate fairly, and objectively. This did not happen with the media hysteria surrounding the man-made global warming beat-up. It is not happening with the government’s Emissions Trading Scheme. It never happened with Prime Minister Helen Clark’s determined push to destroy the New Zealand Air Force’s combat capability.
– However, there must be provision for governments to act in time of emergency.
New Zealanders themselves claiming back democracy through the 100 days provision – in order to scrutinize legislation passed by Parliament – does away for any need for an Upper House. Any argument for this necessity avoids the reality that it would be either stacked with, or chosen by, politicians.
Nor is there any need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars investigating and/or installing yet another complicated voting system.
Nor is there any need for that suggested group of “eminent New Zealanders”- inevitably including those who have arguably already caused a great deal of damage to this country – to decide our future directions for us, and to load us with their version of a constitution – ominously, including already the greatly distorted references to the reinterpreted Treaty of Waitangi, loaded with its now racist provisions.
New Zealand’s future directions must embrace all New Zealanders on an equal footing, regardless of colour, gender, race or creed, owing allegiance to the democratic inheritance and civilized values of our Western forebears. “A House divided against itself cannot stand”.
Neither can a country, and already the signs of social disintegration are increasing.
We can, we must claim back New Zealand. The 100 days concept is an idea whose time has come.
What will the objections be?
1) That it’s unworkable?
This is nonsense, of course, and around the world new democratic directions are being debated. Dissatisfaction is widespread with what is now regarded as too often the moral incapacity of parliamentarians, both collectively and individually, to the point of being essentially simply opportunistic, rather than representing the interests of those who are forced to let them. Tax dodges, perk contrivances, including air travel for MPs and their partners; especially generous MPs-only superannuation provisions – other perks, contrivances, home allowance fiddles, credit card elasticity: all of these even restructured provisions have helped alienate members of parliament from the public they are supposed to represent.
2) That the public would get issues wrong?
Possibly, but then could the public get more issues wrong, than the political parties have done in recent years? The last Labour government under Helen Clark and Michael Cullen caused huge damage to the economy. Both were enthusiastically endorsed and supported by the present Prime Minister John Key – whose finance Minister Bill English is now desperately trying to see what he can rescue from its ashes.
3) The public can get issues wrong?
True – but a public that begins to understand that it has a real input into the issues of the day inevitably begins to be more confident about its role in decision-making – and to be more aware of the consequences of getting it wrong. The public can also reverse its decisions – just as Sweden reversed its disastrously liberal pro-cannabis stance when its damagingly real consequences became obvious.
MPs will persistently tell you that they are in a superior position to the general public to decide on the issues of the day.
Yet, as historian Barbara Tuchman noted, in The March of Folly – governments get most issues wrong.
How often do we see our politicians, our political parties admitting they got issues wrong – and revering their decisions?
What happens during the scrutiny period?
Very possibly, nothing, if legislation passed is not perceived as damaging to the interests of New Zealanders.
If it is, as in Switzerland, there would be provision to call for a referendum to be put if 50,000 request this.
If the country votes against the legislation, that’s that. Its results are binding. The people have spoken.
4) Wouldn’t this continually hold up legislation? One MP has claimed it’s unworkable because he gets to vote on 27 issues a week.
Wouldn’t it be a good idea is more legislation was held up? MPs admit that they often vote the way they do because they are told to by the party leader. The majority do very little reading or research around an issue they are required to vote on. Constant traveling, answering correspondence, liaising with staff, time spent with their own colleagues and in their electorates detracts from time needed for analysis and reflection. As for list MPs – with the National Party now pre-empting the electorate committees’ right to select candidates for the list, list MPs owe their loyalty to the party leader – rather than to the country.
5) We aren’t Switzerland, nor can we ever hope to be.
No, this remarkably successful country is so well based on the principles of direct democracy that the name of its current president is probably unknown – from the governing council of seven representing various political parties, members simply hold office, each, for a year. Legislation, far from being imposed on the country tops-down, has to be advanced from the communes and cantons. Far from constantly passing legislation, parliamentarians hold down day jobs as businessmen, farmers, and so on, meeting once a week only on parliamentary business. Parliament itself meets only four times a year.
We owe a debt to many intelligent, and thoughtful New Zealanders who have so long argued (and do argue) for democracy to be made workable in this country and for the provision for binding referenda.
However, successive governments have simply held the electorate in contempt with the ignoring of citizens initiated-referenda to date.
The pre-eminent advantage of establishing the 100 days moratorium on all legislation passed by Parliament (except in time of crisis) is that it considerably reduces the legislative burden, and puts a stop to the opportunism of radicalized activists such as former MP Sue Bradford, whose initiative intruded on the rights of good parents to diminish their authority over their children.
In Switzerland, the tail does not wag the dog, as we see constantly happening in this country, where manipulative and even bullying minority parties call the tune accommodated by a vote buying majority party.
The knowledge of the potential for that 100 days scrutiny period for all legislation brings a reality check to, and put a halt on, vested interest groups’ ability to manipulate parliament. Far from important legislation being constantly held up, when initial polling reveals that the country is strongly against a minority pushing for its own advantage, any support for such legislation stops right there.
There are in fact two main kinds of referenda in Switzerland – the facultative referendum – where the country has the opportunity, after the 100 days scrutiny period for 50,000 citizens to call for a referendum – with the results binding on government.
The second, citizens-initiated referendum takes place when suggested legislation comes from the people themselves – to be debated by the country.
For the moment, what needs to be recognized is that to reclaim democracy – to claim back New Zealand – New Zealanders’ best opportunity for doing so is to support the campaign for the 100 Days provision to be passed into law.
Watch this space.