Editorial: Nothing to shout about

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 06:34 16/12/2013

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Politiciants should be keeping quiet over the result of the citizens initiated referendum on the partial sale of state asset sales.

It was obviously going to be a waste of money months ago yet no-one had the fortitude to stop it.

Both sides have now shown further disdain of the public as they have attempted to score points over the issue. By the time the question was put only one fifth of it was still relevant and National had said it would ignore the result anyway.

Voters will remember the latter point.

And they will also remember that Labour and the Greens went out of their way to use our money to score political points. Where they would have scored points would be if they had got together and, with Grey Power's agreement, called the referendum off.

But not a word. Because then Russel Norman would not have been able to have a gathering in his lounge with a cake saying "We did it" (did what exactly, use parliamentary staff to help gather signatures?); and David Cunliffe would not be able to say "Kiwis have clamoured to have their voice heard on asset sales" (really, 44 per cent return on a postal vote, clamour?).

Imagine the mileage they could have got out of proving how prudent they could be with our money, our $9 million.

That is the taxes of about 800 of us over a year (roughly the taxpayers of Pleasant Point); or 450 knee replacements.

Imagine what it would have been worth to politicians to be able to say they saved that much of our money.

That is an extra 450 knee operations, not 450 fewer.

Big difference.

That is the stuff that matters to people.

Voters are more influenced about how politicians go about their business, rather than the heady details of the business itself.

So Labour and the Greens missed an opportunity. This example prompts a rethink of citizens initiated referendums. The existing format is flawed, because they are non-binding.

Nothing substantive has really changed through the five we have had so far.

A binding referendum system would make us think a lot more carefully about whether we sign the petition in the first place and then how we vote in it, because it would mean actual change.

And it would take the politicians out of the mix.

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- The Timaru Herald

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