A gentle reminder, Muriel

A gentle reminder, Muriel

Congratulations to all those involved in the Coastal Coalition’s Citizens Initiated Referendum. And especially to Muriel Newman, former act MP and founder of the New Zealand Centre for Political Research (NZCPR) – with her fine organizational skills and indefatigable fundraising.

As Muriel notes, “…it is time that the main Parliamentary parties recognized their responsibility to strengthen the democratic safeguards available to the public”.

However, we all know that they have no intention of doing so. So it is especially to the credit of Muriel, Hugh Barr and others involved in the organization of this highly important Coastal Coalition’s Citizens Initiated Referenda – a form of referenda known as CIR – that they have undertaken the mammoth task of acquiring 400,000 signatures of registered voters within 12 months.

United Future Leader Larry Baldock, too, for months travelled with his wife the length of the country, showing up at every possible public gathering, particularly in the media-neglected rural areas, to acquire the necessary number of signatures as a much-needed democratic protest against the arbitrary and infamous anti-smacking legislation which John Key personally took it upon himself to inflict upon the country. We can recall that Key apparently either buckled under pressure from Helen Clark, or that a certain amount of deal-making went on behind the scenes in order for him to so blithely walk past the wishes of over 85% of the country to introduce legislation to criminalize good parents, removing their rights to use their own judgment with regard to the disciplining of naughty children.

In light of the fact that Key later said, “If I see good parents getting criminalized for lightly smacking their children for the purposes of discipline, I’m going to change the law… If we start seeing that situation breaking down – good parents being hauled before the courts – then I’m going to do something about it”.  *

We well know now that we would be very foolish to trust any assurances that John Key makes.

We can also note in passing the number of I’s in this sentence *.  Prime Minister Key apparently confuses democracy with autocracy – exhibited in this and other instances of diktats by this National Party leader whose feelings of self-worth are sufficiently high for him to ignore the rest of us – and to overrule his Cabinet. Moreover, in an astonishing about-face, John Key  subsequently woke up to the fact that “the anti-smacking law is a complete and utter dog’s breakfast, badly drafted, extremely vague.”

Well, really? Since then things have gone from bad to worse, with pop psychologist Nigel Latta airily reassuring parents that they could relax. The Latta review has since been exposed as lightweight, misleading, and missing out or ignoring important information.

We don’t need to go any further into the mess this law promoted by John Key has created, the damage done to parenting and to worried families, and the undoubtely sinister appearance of police within some schools checking whether children have been smacked at home.

We should have learnt our lesson. Key evidently hasn’t. The Marine and Coastal Area legislation quite shockingly balkanizes the country even further along the racist lines for which the Maori party have been working so relentlessly to advance their own and their neotribal supporters’ interests, rather than working for the good and unity of the country as a whole.

What is equally shocking is that we already know that neither this present National government, nor the Labour Party, will have any interest whatsoever in taking any notice of the CIR petition that Muriel and her supporters are hoping to present to Parliament. Moreover, the necessary number of signatures, 400,000, should well and truly sufficiently indicate (as with previous CI R petitions) that they are representative of great concern being felt by majority New Zealanders about a particular issue. They are also an utterly excessive number to have to raise to call for MPs (apparently now our masters, rather than our servants…) to graciously allow the country to vote in a binding referendum, to indicate the directions which majority New Zealanders want the government to take.

Majority New Zealanders, that is. And the catch is that under MMP, the majority of New Zealanders have well and truly lost out. National and Labour have both been so anxious to put the agenda of minority parties like the Maori Party and the Greens ahead of the wishes of the majority, that manipulative individuals such as Tariana Turia can get away with complaining about “the tyranny of the majority”. Ms Turia needs to be enlightened that this is what we call a democracy – that is, a system whereby what most people wish for carries the day. Ultimately, this is the most defensible and reasonable system of government.

Although the Coastal Coalition’s petition will need 400,000 signatures to be gathered in this small country – (an utterly unreasonably number to be required  before it can be put to the electorate) –  to then duly be ignored by the government –  in Switzerland, the democratically most successful country in the world, with nearly twice our population, only 100,000 signatures are needed for any CIR proposition brought forward by the people to be presented by the government to be voted upon – and if successful, to be bound in legislation.

This is where some clarification seems to be needed. Muriel has referred both to the Coastal Coalition’s Citizens Initiated Referendum which her New Zealand Centre for Political Research is spear-heading, with Dr Barr  –  and to the 100 days  provision in Swiss law – which is an entirely different referendum process.

This is causing some confusion. The 100 Days – Claiming Back New Zealand movement of which I am convener, and which can be found at its website  of www.100days.co.nz  – is working for an entirely different referendum process.  It has no affiliation with the New Zealand Centre for Political Research – and is not associated with, nor promoting, any other movement or political party.

The aim of our movement is to stop in its tracks any legislation which Parliament passes against the wishes of the country at large, by providing for a 100 day period when the legislation passed cannot be acted upon.  During this time, if concern is raised, a call goes out – (in Switzerland to gather  50,000 signatures, not 100,000,  as with a CIR referendum) –  to require a vote to be put to the country. It is obligatory for the government to do so, and, when the country has spoken, the results are binding on the government.

This quite different referendum process is called a Facultative Referendum. Proportionately the number of signatures that would be needed in New Zealand to call for such a referendum would be only 26,000.

The 100 Days – Claiming Back New Zealand  movement to entrench Facultative Referenda is a quite separate initiative from that of Muriel’s group, promoting  Citizen’s Initiated Referenda.  Valuable as their initiative is in enabling concerned citizens to mount a protest against legislation which the government has already passed, contrary to the interests of the country – or in calling for legislation to redress wrong directions, the far more direct process of Facultative Referenda, of that 100 Days provision, actually stops Parliament inflicting legislation on the country with which the country disagrees. It is the most effective method of all for ensuring that a country can claim to be a genuine democracy.

Our own movement was officially launched – and under way onwards  – at the Summersounds Symposium of 2009, which has traditionally involved New Zealanders from across the political, academic, business and senior media sectors and overseas guests – particularly from Australia – senior media, analysts, historians – and last year, a good friend and long-time Summersounds  supporter, Greig Fleming, who came back from Zürich to give us a detailed analysis of the effectiveness of the 100 days provision in Switzerland. It is this 100 days moratorium (or scrutiny process) which was finally adopted when the Swiss people realized that, although they were the most democratically responsible country in Europe, they still did not have effective control over their politicians. It was  their brilliant conception, this check-this-out period after the passing of legislation to enable careful consideration of what it actually meant to the country, which put a cap on Switzerland as a direct and very real democracy.

As I had already written for some time on this concept, and had previously spoken on the 100 days concept of Facultative Referenda at two previous symposia,  with growing awareness on all sides that New Zealand was no longer even a representative democracy (MPs no longer represent their electorates but do as their party tells them), it was decided that our 100 Days – Claiming Back New Zealand movement into which the Summersounds Symposium then morphed, should now be officially convened to begin its campaign.

This was publicly announced, and its core group of good supporters has grown and is now spreading around the country. It was good that Muriel was present at this launch, to become informed of our directions – and good to see her taking note of the thinking behind it which explains why ultimately it is the most practicable way forward for putting a stop to the encroaching part of the state – and the power grab of autocratic party leaders.

However we made it plain at the time, that we were not going to become affiliated with any other group, no matter how good its intentions – or well-meaning its directions. We agreed that to become associated with any political party in particular would polarize the movement and alienate the support of those who with good reason do not trust political parties. We can only speak for ourselves and have no other agenda – except to see that democracy once more becomes a reality in this country.

The success of our 100 Days – Claiming Back New Zealand movement is the best hope of achieving this,  and will undoubtedly eventually do so.

But it is important that there is no confusion, and, for this reason, we must point out that this movement is not the one that Muriel’s NZCPR is involved with – and remains entirely separate.

 In the meantime, some confusion has arisen, with Muriel’s recent post again referring to the 100 Days – but no doubt inadvertently omitting to let her readers know that this movement is not being managed by Muriel’s organisation but has already been claimed and officially convened – as our 100 Days – Claiming Back New Zealand movement.

We hope that no further confusion arises, and that in future, when this 100 Days concept  is again raised on the NZCPR website, unaware readers will be notified of, and sent to support our movement, already well under way and attracting a great deal of grassroots support.

Full details are on our website, www.100days.co.nz – together with posts which outline strategic directions for the way forward – and a number of excellent articles. We’ll be adding to these, to make it very easy to choose the most effective way to make sure political parties are not given what they most want at this coming election. The result  – the real beginning of the fight back for a genuine democracy.

Do pass this message on, to inform others. And we love you subscribing to our newsletters! Don’t miss out…

©  Amy Brooke