Monday, April 30, 2012

A chance to choose

The New Zealand Labour and Green parties are cooperating on an attempt to get a Citizen Initiated Referendum on the ballot to ask, “Do you support the Government selling up to 49% of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?” I think this is a great idea.

The current National Party-led Government has claimed they have a mandate to sell off state-owned assets because it was an election issue in the last general election, and they (barely) won that election. That’s nonsense for a lot of reasons, not least the fact that only about three-quarters of New Zealanders even bothered to vote.

But let’s suppose that National is right, and New Zealanders DO back the party’s plan to sell off those assets. A referendum would then prove they’re right. I suspect the real reason they don’t want to the public to have a say is they know they’d lose (polls consistently show that vast majorities do NOT want the assets sold).

This petition effort is important because it will give New Zealanders a chance to have their say on whether or not state-owned assets should be sold. However, it’s also possible that we’ll have an early election, which will also give voters another way to say what they want.

I learned through this process that anyone can circulate the petitions, but only registered voters can sign them. In my native Illinois, only registered voters circulated petitions (as well as signed them), so it’s quite different in New Zealand—not surprising in such an open country, but different. This means that energetic young people, too young to vote, can help circulate petitions. I like that!

The Labour Party is running a campaign website (where the accompanying graphic came from) called Not Yours To Sell which has downloadable petition forms.

To be clear, I heartily endorse this campaign.

No comments: