A man identified as “an Auckland businessman” plans to spend up to $450,000 on a march to protest the Government’s decision to ignore the deeply flawed smacking referendum. He’s been endorsed, of course, by the same far-right christianist group that’s been moaning the loudest about the referendum. The march idea is silly, and the nearly a half-million dollars would be better sent on preventing child abuse. Still, it’s their democratic right to waste their money on yet another stunt if they want to.
However, they can’t expect to spout utter nonsense and not be called out for doing so.
Their promotional material reads: “In the election 45% of votes counted for John Key. In the referendum 87% of votes counted for nothing.” Bad grammar aside, this is a double deception.
First—and most importantly—what they’re referring to is that 87.4% of people who voted cast a pro-smacking vote. However, what the activists are hiding is that the voter turnout was only 56.09% of eligible voters. That means that fewer than 48.98% of all eligible votes actually voted the way the activists claim. If you’re feeling generous, you could say that “about half” of New Zealand voters voted “no” in the referendum, but constantly using the 87.4% figure is deliberately deceptive and misleading, meant to imply overwhelming support where it never existed (see also my previous post on the results).
Second, there’s absolutely no direct link between those who voted for the National Party in the general election and those who voted “no” in the referendum: In fact, we have no idea how many voters of any party voted in the referendum or how they voted. We can make some educated guesses, but a direct correlation, as the activists imply, simply does not exist.
A companion piece on the christianist group’s website reads “Should a kick in the guts as part of responsible government go unanswered?” Intended as a play on the wording of the referendum, it’s also deliberately confrontational. If less than half of New Zealanders supported the activists’ position, how is it a “kick in the guts” if the government recognises that there’s no mandate for change? The referendum question was deliberately written to be confusing and counterintuitive. It’s not a stretch at all to assume that some of the “no” voters actually favour the law as changed and don’t back activists’ position.
So what we have are activists who were backed by fewer than half of all New Zealand voters, but who are still trying to force their agenda on everyone. The government is right to ignore them. Let the activists spend their half million dollars on a vanity rally if they want to—at least it’s not taxpayer money this time.