Citizens Initiated Referendum

I had 20 minutes to wait after my meeting for the bus, so I took the opportunity to canvas for signatures for the petition calling on the government to let the people of NZ decided whether to allow smacking.
Several things I learned in the process:
  1. People are ready and willing (not surprising, polls consistently show at least 80% of us want things the way they are).
  2. I needed to come up with a quick way to grab attention and distinguish myself as not Greenpeace, Amnesty International or Hari Krishna.  The question I came up with that works was:
    • Do you believe the politicians should be allowed to take away the parental right to smack?
  3. Once people were on board, the dual nature of the petition had to be explained.  There are two parts to this petition:
    • The top portion requires the Government to ask the population about smacking (rather than making a blanket decision on our behalf).
    • The lower portion requires the Government to look into deeper causes of abuse.  (This is an acknowledgement that there is an abuse problem, but the top portion makes it clear that we don’t believe smacking is the root cause.)
  4. I only had one refusal, because she agreed with the way things were headed.  However her comment was instructive.  She thought that as representative politics, it was perfectly legitimate that 61 politicians should make this decision on our behalf.  To which I replied that would be true, if Labour were not voting in bloc, rather than allowing a conscience vote.  She had to agree with me on that point.
  5. If I had wanted to, I could have gone on to argue that signing the petition also serves her purposes, because the petition asks the people to make the decision.  The petition doesn’t attempt to dictate a position one way or the other to the public.



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