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Colin Craig hints binding referenda a bottom line for coalition with National

Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has indicated his party will make binding referendums one of its bottom-lines if it enters coalition negotiations with National after the 2014 election.

Asked on TV3's Firstline, "Are there some absolutes you would go to National with and say ‘We’re not coming on board unless you give us this?’”, Mr Craig replied “One of the things we’ve always been very clear about is when you’ve got a strong result in a referendum, we don’t think in a democracy the government should just be able to throw it out. That’s something I do think needs changing.”

There have been four questions put to the popular ballot since the Citizens' Initiated Referenda Act (1993) was passed. All four have seen a decisive result, and all four have been ignored by successive National and Labour governments. 

The next referendum, on asset sales, will take place via a postal vote November 22 to December 13 - although the government has already indicated it considers it has a mandate for partial floats, given its policy was on the table at the last election.

This morning, Mr Craig used the smacking referendum as an example of the will of the people being ignored. 87.4% voted against a parent hitting a child "as part of good parental correction" being made a criminal offence, but National reached a deal with Labour that saw the legislation passed.

The Conservative Party leader also said New Zealanders were "tired" of Treaty negotiations and settlements, and wanted the process wrapped up - a stance that puts him in conflict with one of National's current governing partners, The Maori Party. However, Mr Craig stopped short of making it a bottom-line policy in coalition negotiations.

Mr Craig indicated he would take a pragmatic stance overall, saying "It’s not a get what you want scenario, it’s a work with someone else scenario.”

A new 3News Poll shows National on 46.3%, which would deliver the party 60 seats - not enough to govern.

The poll has The Conservatives, on 2.7%, enough for four seats if Mr Craig wins the new seat set to be created in Auckland in the wake of the Census (the party got 2.65% of the vote at the 2011 election).

Some pundits have picked the seat will be created in fast-growing West Habour - which happens to also be an emerging power base for the Conservatives after Christine Rankin one a local board seat at the Auckland local body elections.

NBR political editor Rob Hosking says Mr Craig has several factors on his side, including his wealth, Auckland base, and relative youth. 

"Against Mr Craig are a certain awkwardness and lack of mongrel and a general air of not quite believing what he is saying. His pitch seems to lack an emotional core: there is an air of calculation and a feeling he has spotted a potentially lucrative political niche rather than being driven by genuine conviction," writes Hosking - who goes on to explain why these drawbacks will play into National's hands.

Comments and questions

Craig and this so called conservative party are typical of everything that comes out of NZ. A dollar short and a day late. From what I have read his opinions and therefore presumed actions if given a taste of power will be just a flip side of where Key pretends to be and a lot more left than Clark evidenced by his plan to steal private property via the public works act. I suggest Craig needs to get out more and come up with some real rightist and freedom policies such as is demanded by those of that label overseas.

Stupid move. Dont make anything a bottom line or it reduces your chances of getting in in the first place. Get in, make a few small wins and then demand more as you become more established.

He's just as bad as Winstone.

I can't think of anything more dangerous than a binding referendum. It certainly puts me off the Conservatives. Pop down to your local pub and listen to the hoi poloi. Would you really like to think those opinions could set policy or law?

What's wrong with democracy?
We have a referendum on who will be the Government every 3 years.
Do you want to stop that?
The people are more sensible than the politicians. Let the people have a say, bring in binding referendums.

Democracy gives us the govt. the majority have called for. Once elected they are there to call the shots. Many an M.P. has changed his or her tune after sitting on a select committee, where the facts are thrashed out. Sure,
I'd go along with binding referenda as long as voting was restricted to those who could demonstrate through examination that they had a full grasp of all facets of the subject, and were not merely mimicking the ravings of some talk-back host or similar.

The obvious problem with democracy is that there are so many stupid people in this country. For a start those that are on welfare are not contributing to society and shouldn't get a vote. Same with those in jail, with outstanding fines over a threshold, men who don't pay their child support, etc. long as the outcome of the last election is no longer binding.

Bottom lines at this stage of the game betray a concerning degree of political naivety. Craig needs to up his game.

I am for binding referendum, its arrogant for anyone in the position of governance to dismiss the wish of an overwhelming majority of voters, it also means your vote counts for something and my guess is that more people will be less apathetic when it comes to exercising their democratic right

I think it's a bit of a stretch to say "overwhelming majority of voters" with respect to a referendum. 10% of registered voters is a long way from any sort of majority, let alone an "overwhelming one" . I appreciate this is a factor of how these things need to be conducted (we all hope that eventually electronic / online voting will allow for grreater voter engagement) but right now I am not seeing a majority of voters agree on anything. (including the next government)

I would be concerned if a vocal minority was able to effectively force into law whatever issue has got them riled up while the apathetic majority (of which I am a part) watches it happen.

..crazy. We elect the pollies to get to grips with complex decisions - on our behalf. Joe Bloggs hasn't got the time, skill or desire to study complex issues in any detail - they rely on media sound bites as their reference material. Imagine if a multinational company made corporate decisions based on how the staff felt? A ridiculous idea.

Multi national companies (and all successful companies) are quite good at knowing how their staff feel, and knowing what their staff will and won't swallow.

In NZ, we have a government that has deliberately confused its dominant role in government for a mandate to sell, when the hard reality is that the majority of votes in the last 2 elections went to parties who opposed asset sales.

Since John Key is tyrannical misanthrope, he is of course free to pick and choose his battles according to his own agenda of self-advancement.

MMP decrees that dead rats do have to be swallowed from time to time.
BUT that doesn't mean you have to go into coalition with them.

Labour needs to make sure that everyone in New Zealand knows what Colin Craig is all about and what will likely happen if they vote National (i.e. end up with a far-right, conservative, Christian influenced government).

This racist, homophobic “rich prick” has no place in governing a country that prides itself on equality and human rights. He’s more suited to governing the likes of Texas or Mississippi.

Maybe referenda could become binding if supported by more than say 75 - 80% of the electorate.

I'm concerned that the wording of a moot could unfairly determine the outcome so I believe it needs to be well supported before being adopted.

Conservative party policy is to have it binding when it achieves a
2/3 majority, which is much better than the current "ignore 90%" approach.

Is that 2/3 of the electorate or 2/3 of the votes cast?

2/3 of votes cast.

If 46% of those voting, vote for a major party plus enough from minor parties is sufficient to form a government then 50% plus 1 vote is enough for referenda to be binding and thats after you have enough signatures requiring a ballot. Binding referenda is the easiest way to remedy the problems of minor parties or government passing legislation that was not voted for or voters have a changed opinion on and the discussion on the referendums question will educate voters on the issue details unlike a general election were candidates who are recognizable frequently get elected despite their lack of knowledge or ability.

I support binding referenda on the proviso that it be compulsory for every one over the voting age to vote, and that any binding referenda vote, be held on election day. (Simple fix really ).

But if you made people vote who neither cared about nor understood the referendum, then the outcome might be worse than if they didn't vote at all.

It is compulsory to vote in Australia.

I'm not sure if that proves or disproves your theory.

Binding Referendum are silly
A referendum for compulsory welfare for everyone and a compulsory reduction in taxation would get up, the morons don't understand the balancing act of the executive
Maybe the binding referendum should only be for smacking and other social justice laws but not for economic/nation management laws i.e. asset sales

He's got a point. It's tempting to use referenda as a direct expression of the will of the people.

But that's not always clear. For one example, the smacking question was very, very badly written, and contained catastrophic vagaries and ambiguities, mainly due to the phrase "as part of good parenting." Obviously, anything that's "good" should not be outlawed (whether that happen in fact or not).

Presumably, anyone would agree that smacking & other violent acts committed as part of bad parenting should be outlawed. And the PM showed a rare piece of insight and discretion in seeing through all that.

So binding referenda might be a good idea, but not in the current set-up, which allows foolishly and confusingly worded referenda to be put in front of people.

Strange how the only people who couldn't understand the smacking question were those who didn't like the result of the referendum.

When will people wake up & dump MMP !!!