No shame, no sense

Citizens’ Initiated Referenda were supposed to give members of the public an opportunity to influence policy.

The petition seeking a referendum on the partial sale of a few state assets has been taken over by LabourGreen politicians.

Within minutes of the announcement by Clerk of the House Mary Harris that the petition had too few valid signatures Labour’s SOE spokesman Clayton Cosgrove  issued a media release saying Labour will redouble its efforts to help get the remaining signatures needed to ensure a referendum on asset sales goes ahead.

And the Green Party co-leader Russel Norman sent an email saying:

We have just this afternoon heard that we need 16,000 more valid signatures to force a referendum to stop further asset sales.

I am contacting you straight away to ask for your help to protect our assets for all New Zealanders.

We are so close. Over 292,000 New Zealanders have had their signature counted and confirmed. We now have two months to get the last signatures, and that’s where we need your help. . . .

. . . These signatures need to be posted back urgently. Please collect what you can and return them to me:

Russel Norman MP
Freepost
Parliament Buildings
Wellington.

They have already wasted tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of dollars, on promoting the petition and soliciting signatures but failed to meet the target needed.

They have abused the CIR process by making this a politicians’ initiated petition.

In spite of the tens of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars spent on getting signatures they’ve mucked it up. They haven’t got enough valid ones.

Even if they got enough to force a referendum it would make absolutely no difference to the policy.

Continuing to seek signatures is an expensive exercise in futility.

In every argument there comes a time to accept you’ve lost. LabourGreen passed that point a long time ago.

They have shown no shame about wasting public money and are showing no sense in failing to accept the futility of continuing to flog this very dead horse.

20 Responses to No shame, no sense

  1. Dave Kennedy says:

    I know your blog has a blue tint, Ele, but some of these comments are a little extreme. Lets put some balance back.

    “Citizens’ Initiated Referenda were supposed to give members of the public an opportunity to influence policy.”

    I have no argument with this statement and I would support it by saying that the Select Committee process provides a similar vehicle. It was interesting that the Government chose to ignore the 1,421 submissions opposing the Mixed Ownership Model legislation and chose to go with the 9 submissions in support. The final vote was 61 to 60, which was hardly a clear majority. The European Union requires a 65% majority for any significant proposal and any constitutional change in New Zealand needs at least 75% support. You could also say that one of the votes, which probably carried the legislation into law came from John Banks who is largely in Parliament due to the support and leniency of the Prime Minister.

    “The petition seeking a referendum on the partial sale of a few state assets has been taken over by LabourGreen politicians.”

    I agree that the political parties had a significant involvement in organising the collection of signatures, but Grey Power and the CTU were very prominent in Invercargill and I know in many areas they were the dominant collectors.

    “They have already wasted tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of dollars, on promoting the petition and soliciting signatures but failed to meet the target needed.”

    According to the Crown Ownership Monitoring Unit the Government have spent $11.8 million on outsourced services to prepare for the share offers and $3.1 million on advertising. $15 million is a lot of money compared to a few thousand to organise and collect signatures for something that just provides a vehicle to indicate a choice. The result could very well support the Government.

    “They have abused the CIR process by making this a politicians’ initiated petition.”

    It is still a fact that the main organisations that represent our older citizens, our students and our unions are active partners. It is hardly an abuse of democracy when the result is giving an opportunity for people to clearly indicate a view that may in fact support the Government. The referendum question isn’t even a loaded one as some in the past: Do you support the Government selling up to 49% of meridian Energy, Mighty River power, gneiss Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?

    “In spite of the tens of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars spent on getting signatures they’ve mucked it up. They haven’t got enough valid ones.”

    Having already got almost 300,000 signatures, another 16,000 won’t take long. Remember also that the signatures were originally collected two months before the conclusion date. While disappointing it is just a speed bump and you could say that the legal actions and collapse of the mismanaged Solid Energy have provided speed bumps for the Government.

    “Even if they got enough to force a referendum it would make absolutely no difference to the policy.Continuing to seek signatures is an expensive exercise in futility.”

    Really? I would have thought if the referendum came out in support of the Government they would be rewarded with a much clearer mandate and it should silence most critics. If it came out strongly against the sales, and the Government ignored the result, it would provide a clear indication of how much value is placed on public opinion. It would certainly influence the following election.

    “In every argument there comes a time to accept you’ve lost. LabourGreen passed that point a long time ago. They have shown no shame about wasting public money and are showing no sense in failing to accept the futility of continuing to flog this very dead horse.”

    I guess you could have said the same thing for the Government when they have continued with the policy against largely negative opinion polls, legal action, Treasury concerns and the collapse of one SOE. Having to collect a few more signatures pales in comparison.

    The amount of many that will be spent on the referendum is a very tiny fraction of the money already lost on setting up the sales and revenue that the 49% of SOE dividends would have provided into the future.

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  2. Dave Kennedy says:

    Please excuse the typos, also in the last sentence above it should read “money” rather than “many”.

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  3. TraceyS says:

    Dave, in saying “… the signatures were originally collected two months before the conclusion date” are you suggesting that the collecting of signatures was not going on right up until the weekend before the petition was lodged?

    Was Russel Norman not sending out emails on 6 March saying “… [we] need every last signature so that we can make them all count…Even if your petition sheet only has one signature on it, send it today to freepost: Russel Norman MP, Parliament Buildings, Wellington”? The petition was submitted on 12 March.

    They were concerned about reaching the threshold.

    Why did they not leave it a bit longer to be sure of the numbers?

    Not doing that has risked the whole exercise being a waste of time and money.

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  4. Dave Kennedy says:

    Tracey, 12 months are allowed for collecting enough signatures to gain a referendum. It is my understanding that the petition was presented after 10 months of collecting and two months of time actually still remained. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Referendums_in_New_Zealand

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  5. Dave Kennedy says:

    Also there was some urgency to potentially have a referendum before the first SOE went up for sale. Judging from past petitions it was thought the signatures collected would be more than enough to counter the invalid ones, unfortunately we got it wrong.

    This is actually a really important issue for many people, when I was collecting signatures I found few people refused to sign and it was common to hear National Party supporters say that this was one issue where they stood against their party. There will always be grumbling until we have a clear vote in support or otherwise.

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  6. inventory2 says:

    Again the weight of numbers is against you Dave. Sure; the vast majority of submissions to the Select Committee were anti-asset sales, actively encouraged by certain political parties who communicated with their activist bases via social media.

    But 1421 submissions on a supposedly bell-weather issue? There were 2,257,336 party votes counted in the 2011 General Election. The 1421 submitters represent 0.063% of the total number of voters in 2011. Heck; it only represents 0.16% of the total number of people (862,309) who party-voted for Labour and the Greens in 2011!

    Now I appreciate the sincerity of those who submitted, but they hardly represent an overwhelming political voice, do they? It will be interesting, when the dust settles on Mighty River Power later in the week whether more than 1421 individuals have been sufficiently supportive of the Government’s agenda to have put their money where their mouth is, as I did.

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  7. Cadwallader says:

    OK, but why do this? The last General Election was won by National. In their policy statements the intention to sell state interests in state assets was vividly flagged. I do not routinely support National but this policy appealed to me. As a long-term taxpayer I have contributed to the acquisition and maintenance of state assets. Isn’t it only fair and right that when I receive the opportunity to buy into the future of these assets, that I can do so? I am proud to be a purchaser of a few shares.

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  8. TraceyS says:

    So you could have kept going for another two months, but chose not to for political expediency?

    There was never any way that the referendum was going to be actually held before the MRP partial sale. The proper use of a referendum was to give people a say, not to strong-arm the government.

    I read one estimate that up to 40% of signatures could be expected as invalid. So the 25% or so achieved was really quite good.

    But it does mean that the number of signatures to be collected this time is not just 16,500, but 22,000, because you can again expect 25% (5,500) of the signatures to be invalid.

    Because labour/green networks are now a mix of those who have signed and not-yet-signed, you will have to ask at least 10 people to get one valid new signature, maybe more. That means approaching at least 220,000 people, explaining things, checking if they have already signed, and convincing them to sign if they haven’t already.

    Good luck with that. You will need another year to achieve it, but by then the referendum will have finally lapsed.

    I do hope that we will see the labour/green movement continue with their own informal referendum at their own cost. What other choice is there?

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  9. TraceyS says:

    For goodness sake Dave, how many labour/green supporters would stand against certain policies of that alliance?

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  10. Dave Kennedy says:

    Three points, Inventory2:
    1) Each submission doesn’t always represent one person, may represented the collective view of groups and organisations. They would have represented the views of many more people.
    2) It is not really the numbers of submissions that is important but the value of the arguments that the submission’s contained. True consultation involves weighing up all contributions and then making measured and rational decisions and alterations to legislation that reflect these. There was no effort to do this in this case, the submitters were treated with obvious disdain and some rudeness. Todd McClay (the select committee chair) cut deliberations by six weeks before all oral submissions were heard and Treasury was asked to write the final report before all submissions had been heard or considered. The final vote was decided under urgency and was passed late in an evening session with a majority of one. All and all, a shocking process.
    3) Polls before the election showed 65-85% of voters did not report the sales and this has been ignored since. It appears that the Government is frightened of a referendum in case it comes out against their plans and is desperately trying to push the sales through regardless. Treasury has warned that selling the assets too quickly will devalue the shares and the Government is ignoring this.

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  11. Dave Kennedy says:

    Sorry in 3) should read “support”.

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  12. Dave Kennedy says:

    We actually collected over 20,000 signatures in one weekend, hopefully a couple of weeks should do it. The costs involved are actually insignificant when compared to the losses of Solid Energy and the costs of the poorly implemented Novopay. 😉

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  13. TraceyS says:

    Like I said, good luck. But you seem to be an intelligent man. Aren’t there better things you could be doing with your time?

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  14. Dave Kennedy says:

    You are probably right about the use of my time, Tracey, but I have found it refreshing to express views on a National supporting site that doesn’t resort to personal abuse. If people who come from the opposite ends of the political spectrum can discuss issues without resorting to personal abuse we would be in a better place today. I may not have convinced anyone with my arguments but there is value in having both sides presented in an open and reasonable way. Few issues are black and white.

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  15. TraceyS says:

    LOL Dave, I didn’t mean your time spent commenting on this blog! Rather the time you are going to have to spend collecting the remaining signatures. Hard work I imagine it will be.

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  16. inventory2 says:

    Bottom line Dave; do you believe that a democratically elected government should be able to enact the policies it campaigns on?

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  17. Dave Kennedy says:

    Both have value 🙂

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  18. Dave Kennedy says:

    I don’t agree with that because it is too simplistic. The democratic process should not end after an election. I do not agree with holding endless referendum but if you agree with Lincoln’s definition of democracy “Government of the people, by the people, for the people” consultation and listening to the people should be an ongoing process.

    I bet if you asked what people understood by “National Standards” in relation to education in 2008, you would get multiple and very different answers. It is important to vote for parties because of their policies but it is also important to allow further engagement when policies become more specific and refined. That’s why the select committee process is so important. Charter Schools are being forced through despite not being campaigned on and it was interesting that Lesley Longstone was employed (with a background in implementing these schools) before the Nat/Act coalition agreement.

    Good process and ongoing engagement with the public is actually useful for ensuring the smooth implementation of policy and gaining general acceptance.

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  19. TraceyS says:

    I will catch your opinion on one of those in a couple of months, provided you keep up the commenting activity. Where is a press release from Russel btw? Maybe the next one on this issue will be abandoning the petition…

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