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Binding referenda are a bottom line — Craig

Colin Craig says binding referenda is his party's bottom-line and he'd want that from National in return for confidence and supply.

The Conservative Party leader's pledge is potentially problematic for National.

Last year, 67.3% of those who participated in the Citizens-Initiated Referenda on asset sales voted against the proposition "Do you support the Government selling up to 49% of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?" The government ignored the result, maintaining the National and Labour government tradition over the past two decades of ignoring referendum results.

Mr Craig's stance could diminish John Key's enthusiasm for cutting a deal in East Coast Bays — where he now also faces the potential complication of Winston Peters standing in a bid to embarrass the government over its number of "dirty deals".

In any case, both Mr Craig and his competition on the right, ACT leader Jamie Whyte, say their parties are looking to be on the cross-benches and avoid a formal coalition with any National-led government

Both parties promise to be tough on crime, but ACT rejects the death penalty. Mr Craig personally doesn't support it but would follow wishes of a referendum.

Mr Whyte says ACT doesn't expect ministerial posts in government.

“I mean there’s a lot of advantage in minor parties not going into formal coalitions. My real goal after we get re-elected to parliament is to rebuild the ACT Party.”

Mr Craig says he’s confident he could beat Winston Peters if the NZ First leader stood in East Coast Bays

“I don’t think he will because I don’t think he’ll want to get a hiding to nothing," he says.

Watch Colin Craig and Jamie Whyte interviewed on The Nation here.

What do you think? Vote in our BUSINESS PULSE poll: Should Citizens-Initiated Referendums be binding?


RAW DATA: The Nation transcript: Lisa Owen interviews ACT leader Jamie Whyte and Conservative leader Colin Craig

Lisa Owen: Both of you are relying on the good grace of John Key here and you would have heard Winston Peters there Jamie Whyte saying you are weak if you need a ladder to get over the wall. So are you weak Mr Whyte?

Jamie Whyte: Well Winston’s personal views are irrelevant to me. We are going to win Epsom. We’ve won Epsom for many years now and I hope the Prime Minister will endorse us but I don’t even think we need that as some of your commentators earlier said the people of Epsom are happy to elect and they’ve been doing that for years I expect them to continue to do so this year.

So you don’t need a deal?

Whyte: I don’t – I mean I think the Prime Minister probably will do a deal I suspect though that even if he said absolutely nothing, if he said nothing at all I think we’d still win Epsom.

All right, Mr Craig I want to – you would have heard there, Murray McCully, the suggestion is he’ll fight tooth and nail to hang on to that seat. And the good money is that National is on - National not giving you a deal. Winston Peters is now saying he is not ruling out standing in East Coast Bays. Can you win against him?

Colin Craig:  Well look if Winston wants to stand in East Coast Bays I’d welcome the challenge. I don’t think he will because I don’t think he’ll want to get a hiding to nothing. Our campaign -

So you’re saying you can beat him? You can beat him?

Craig: Our campaign has always been 5 percent. We got more than half way there last time in five weeks. We know that we’re in a very good position to get over 5 percent and I mean this discussion really when it comes down to it, is about numbers. And it’s a fine thing to make up a government. I mean 8-thousand votes is all that made National government last time. And hey we got 87 and a half thousand New Zealanders giving us one or both votes. We got more than ACT and United Future put together so it’s a-

I’m asking you if you can win that seat against him, you’ve admitted on the show that you can’t win against Paula Bennett, you couldn’t win against Murray McCully -

Craig: No I haven’t, I haven’t said that -

So could you win against Winston Peters?

Craig: I’m sure I could beat Winston Peters but look whether Murray McCully stands or not is not my decision, it’s a decision for National. Our campaign is 5 percent, always has been. We got more than half way there time, 87 and a half thousand New Zealanders giving us one or both votes, we only need another 40-thousand, that’s do-able. And those who don’t think it is need to do a bit more work.

Why would National give you a deal though if Winston Peters wades into that electorate? He’s just turned it into a lottery and you can’t really guarantee that you could win?

Craig: Well look as I say

Why would they give you a deal?

Craig: Well that’s up to National, it’s not a discussion that I can have, I don’t know what National’s thinking is. But I do think it’ll be down to numbers. And it’s about locking in a percentage for us.

So what’s your thinking?

Craig: Well look my view is this, we’ve got last time as I say 87 and a half thousand New Zealanders one or both votes, that’s a lot of votes. And as I say 8-thousand in it last time, if they’d gone to Labour instead of National we would have had a Labour government.

Ok let’s say that an opportunity to - arises that, if it arises, would you actually want to be in a formal collation deal with National?

Craig: We’ve always said we’ve got a bottom line which is referendum to become binding and for that we’re willing to offer support for a party to become government. That doesn’t mean being in Cabinet.

So what does that mean? Supply and confidence?

Craig: Yeah ultimately supply and confidence is what you need to do to be able to have a secure government.

Let’s drill down into that then. So what do you think will happen with a deal like that? Will you sit on the cross benches and vote bill by bill? Spell it out for me.

Craig: I think we could do that. I think what we need to remember though is that the voters -

So what will you do though?

Craig: The voters are going to give us a mandate and dependent on how much they decide to support us will depend on the way that we approach forming a coalition with any other party. If we have 3-percent compared to 8-percent there’s a very big difference in how you approach it. So some things, I’m pleased to say are dependent on New Zealand voters who we know support our policies.

So you might not actually have a coalition with National, that’s what you’re saying?

Craig: It’s possible that we won’t. It’s possible that National will decide not to make an accommodation to us. That is in their court. Whether or not we can work together is surely a discussion.

But what would your choice be? What would your first choice be?

Craig: Well our first choice is to support the highest polling party that is National, we’ve always said that and we’re not changing that our tune. So that’s our first choice.

So if you’re not in a formal coalition, no ministerial role for you, nothing in housing, not in economic development?

Craig: We’re not making that any condition in terms of support for National.

I’m just wondering why having a confidence and supply agreement rather than a formal coalition, are you trying to make it easier for John Key to make a deal with you, putting some distance between you?

Craig: It may well make it easier for him but that’s not why we’re doing it. We’re simply doing it because we as a party want to be very clear with the public what our bottom line is. It’s not about what position I might hold, it’s simply about whether or not referendum count in this country, that’s out bottom line. National can give us our bottom line without having to concede other things and that may make it easier for them and if it does that’s fine.

All right, let’s bring Jamie Whyte back into the conversation here. Mr Whyte, would ACT expect to have a minister if they were in a deal with the National government?

Whyte: No not necessarily, like Colin’s saying we might just do confidence and supply and not seek any kind of ministerial position. But again as Colin said it would be –

So you wouldn’t necessarily want to be a formal coalition partner, you’re saying?

Whyte: Not necessarily no - ah that’s a – I mean there’s a lot of advantage in minor parties not going into formal coalitions. My real goal after we get re-elected to Parliament is to rebuild the ACT party to be a real force in New Zealand politics and that can sometimes be easier done when you’re outside a formal coalition.

I’m just wondering with both the Conservatives and Act vying for the affections of the National party, are you allies or are you competitors?

Craig: Well I think we have slightly different constituencies.

Can we just let Jamie answer this first? First to Jamie are you allies or competitors?

Whyte: Well I really don’t see it like that. I’ve been asked a few times would I be willing to go into a coalition that contained the Conservatives and I you know I answer that I would be on the whole because I mean compared with most of the other parties around they’re pretty reasonable. Um however we disagree strongly on various issues. In fact you misrepresented us; we have a very different tax policy. But we disagree on issues and in that sense we are rivals. And you know my preferred outcome would be one where the National didn’t - required on only ACT to govern, it didn’t require the Conservatives.

So allies or competitors?

Craig: Well I think we compete for a different vote.

Whyte: Well we’re not allies.

Craig: Look libertarian is how I see the ACT party. You mentioned some of the differences; I mean their approach to drugs in our society we’re poles apart on that. But we could work together on some things and we could both support a National-led government. And I think that might be what Jamie’s saying. We’re not really enemies; we simply have a different constituency that we’re after.

Jamie Whyte you mention tax, Conservatives say you should get your first 20-thousand tax-free and then a flat tax rate of 25-percent after that. You want flat tax as well but you’re saying you’re –

Whyte: Yeah but that’s not a flat tax. If you have 20-thousand first tax-free most of the tax is paid down in those levels, if you take that all out of tax revenue you’ve got to have a very high flat rate after that. Um I don’t believe they’ll get it at 25-percent by the way, I think it would have to be more like 35-percent. So we want a flat tax for dollar one.

In fact based on his tax policy, based on Colin Craig’s tax policy you inferred that he was a wealthy buffoon who couldn’t count, didn’t you?

Whyte: Ah well we calculated the figures and ah yeah I thought that it was – the flat tax after 20-thousand on our calculations would have to be higher than the top rate is now. So these are very different policies. You’ve got a huge step in Colin - so you pay no tax and suddenly your tax jumps. That violates all good theory about how tax rates should be set.

Mr Craig how are you going to pay for that policy because it’s going to cost about 6-billion dollars?

Craig: It’s not going to cost that much. First of all I don’t think it goes against what a lot of people think tax rates should be. The UK in New Zealand dollars 20-thousand tax free, the Australia a bit over 18-thousand dollars tax free. This is a commonly held view that you give relief at the bottom of the pile, to those who are struggling to get by. Now I realise we have a point of difference with ACT on this. But I’m very comfortable that we do have to have some differentiation in our tax system to help those at the bottom end. Now you know we differ with National. National gave the tax cut at the top end. We think the tax cut should have been at the bottom end. And we say that because actually those at the top end didn’t need the help. But I do believe those at the bottom end do. And we have to, in my view, have a society where we’re compassionate and willing to help those at the bottom end. And that does mean a different, some departure from a purely flat tax and that’s why we have that policy.

Whyte: You shouldn’t use the tax system to redistribute wealth.

Let’s move on to law and order. The ACT party says that it is the only party campaigning on being tough on crime. Is ACT right?

Craig: No, they’re not right and look Winston Peters was on your programme earlier on and he’d tell them they’re not right as well. A number of parties hold that position. And I think that it’s a very valid position to hold given that violent crime is on the increase and New Zealanders voted overwhelmingly for a tougher approach on law and order.

So Mr Craig, what’s your personal view on capital punishment then?

Craig: Well personally I don’t think New Zealanders want it and therefore I don’t think it’s on the table for New Zealanders.

But what’s your view? I asked you what your personal view was.

Craig: Well my personal view, I’m not a supporter of it. I think there’s a risk inherent in it with innocent people. I do think though that there are some people who should be away for a very long time and probably never come out if the crime’s that heinous and I think New Zealanders support that view.

Well you want hard work for prisoners, so what do you mean by that?

Craig: Well look I think there are many prisoners who could benefit a lot from working. Some of those less dangerous offenders could for example be working on farms, growing their own food, learning skills that they can actually use when they get out again. That’s a very sound approach. And I think that’s something New Zealanders gain, voted overwhelmingly for and would support.

What do you think of that Jamie Whyte because it sounds like a sponsored government work scheme doesn’t it?

Whyte: Yeah well I – yeah I’m not too keen on that kind of thing because the problem is you’re getting people with no choice in the matter, prisoners to compete with other labourers. So I’m not entirely comfortable with that. To be honest we haven’t really looked into that. I should say on the death penalty there is another reason not to have a death penalty that a lot of people overlook which is that if the population isn’t in favour of a death penalty, what often happens is that juries will find people innocent even when they’re guilty because they don’t want what they deem to be an unfair punishment imposed on them. So I don’t think anybody toying with death penalty is being very sensible.

All right thank you for joining me this morning.

 

Comments and questions
13

Clearly Dr Whyte is the more capable prospect. But Ah! Dr Whyte what about allowing juries who have all the facts before them decide the kind of, and the severity of, punishment? Jailing as the only choice, does not work, and never has worked.

Binding referenda don't work because they have no balance. When you vote for a political party they have to balance their promises against the costs and get challenged by other parties on that. Voting on individual policies though most people would happily votes more money for themselves but never votes to pay more tax to cover it.
You can also end up with the tyranny of the majority, look at the religious polls in Sweden. Realistically, you just can't trust the general population to vote in the interests of the whole country rather than just themselves.

The proper way to get balance is to have a constitution that protects individuals and minorities and binding referenda that protect the majority from rule by minority interests.

Craig's insistence of binding referenda as a bottom line will be the stumbling block to getting over the 5% threshold, and probably buries any chance of a coalition with National.

Colin Craig is definitely a loony if he thinks he has any leverage with National

Quite frankly they don't need him and even if it's marginal that they might need him he will only get in if National gift him a seat.

So then how can he dictate anything - he simply can't and national are not stupid enough to entertain such an idea

He is transparent and holds bottom line values and principles. Compare that with Mana/Internet, NZ First and Labour who will do and say anything to get into power. If Craig is loony, what does that make the others?

Binding referendum would stuff the country. They have crippled the Californian state government making it incredibly difficult for elected officials to do their job. We already have a voting system that forces majority parties to partner with smaller political parties on the edge, this kind of agreement would make our political system worse.

Switzerland has had referendums for over a 100 years and they appear to be a pretty contented lot and prosperous - quite conservative you would say and no evidence that the Swiss have used Referenda to disadvantage a minority. Likewise California has Referenda and it is being used to control the huge debt acquired by previous state Governments against its voters wishes and they are now facing reality or would you rather allowing debt to increase to the point of Bankruptcy? If elected state Governments don't like what Referenda impose on them they can always try and persuade voters to change things or alternatively resign - something that seems to be a rarity in the Western world!!

The Swiss have given the world the perfect example of how binding referenda (note the correct plural) work well in a modern democracy. As a nation the Swiss are better informed than most and referenda gives citizens more control over the political process.

Electronic voting will lower the cost of referenda and may even encourage more of the population to partake in the process. While most thinking people are unlikely to support Craig the clown, we have nothing to fear from binding referenda. Unless you're scared by the concept of true democracy.

There's good info in this piece from Swiss Ambassador Dr. Marion Weichelt Krupski.

http://www.nzcpr.com/switzerland-where-the-people-co-govern-via-referenda-and-popular-initiatives/

Well that's the end of any chance either of their parties had of getting my vote.

A referendum gave us MMP, and a later referendum chose to keep it. That should warn of the dangers of Craig's proposal.

Excellent point, I will vote for the party that stops referendums!

The party that either limits non-binding CIRs to specific circumstances or abolishes them altogether will get my vote. Hello? Where's the money for these potty populist plebiscites going to come from?