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Government policy on referenda a mess

The Government’s policy on referenda at the next election is contradictory, confusing and a mess, National’s Electoral Law Spokesperson Nick Smith says.

“New Zealand’s democracy deserves much better than this Government’s shenanigans on the different referenda being considered for Election 2020.

“We have Ministers contradicting each other and accusing each other of acting in bad faith. It is particularly galling that the Government has introduced a Bill that gives Cabinet the power to have whatever referendum it likes at the next election and set the wording, saying ‘Parliament can’t be trusted’.

“The Government is saying that Cabinet alone will decide on the referendum for recreational cannabis use, but takes a difficult stance on whether there will be a referendum on euthanasia or abortion. These differing approaches have everything to do with the internal politics of the Government, rather than what is best for New Zealand or a good decision making process.

“The Government is not giving the public any opportunity to have a say on the wording of any of the referenda, despite every previous referendum held at a general election since 1853 having a robust process for public input.

“The question I sought to ask of the Minister of Justice was perfectly reasonable and deserves an answer. I wanted to ask; Why does he support a referendum on euthanasia, a sensitive issue at the end of life, but not on abortion, a sensitive issue at the beginning of life?

“It is disgraceful that the Speaker blocked me asking this question and then removed me from Parliament when I objected.

“The Government is playing fast and loose on referenda for political reasons. The issue of what referenda are held at elections and the wording needs care and a robust process that includes public input.”

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