Turn New Zealand Around.
We, the First Nation Association of New Zealand, wish to see the ‘sovereignty’ that Parliament now claims, be given to us the people. Sovereignty as in the Oxford Dictionary, Supreme, and in this context Supreme over Parliament. i.e. the electorate “we the people” are Sovereign.
Representative Democracy as we know it is being steadily subverted by Parliament adopting laws from afar such as the UN, or unelected judges re-interpreting and /or expanding laws. Even councils look to appoint councillors (unelected) with full voting rights.
Professor James Allan in his recent book Democracy in Decline lays out this serious trend quite clearly.
The party system as we know it does not have the steadying hand of public opinion to offer better policy or even to correct policies or laws that obviously are stultifying progress in a timely manner or have been found to be obviously not working.
Further the party system of government has an inbuilt flaw in that the Leader or the Prime Minister is effectively in a position where with fear or favour, elected members of the party can be pressured to vindicate a Prime Minister’s own personal agenda.
An example of that was the recent Flag Referendum. The result was made binding on the government. We the voters decided to retain the current flag by a 56.6% majority versus 43.2% for change. Only 5 out of 59 National Party members of parliament who are supposed to represent the people voted to keep the flag. A miserable 8.5% to keep the flag and 91.5% for change. The National Party being the main driver for change and the Prime Minister the leader in this dubious effort.
We also have the example of the New Zealand First Party who like their leader voted 100% to keep the current flag.
Obviously neither of those two parties represented “we the people” in a fair manner.
The results show clearly the influence and power over the elected members that a party leader can wield.
It is clear that if the Flag Referendum had been non-binding we could have easily finished up with the government changing “our flag” despite the majority of us voting to keep “our flag”.
Hark back to the smacking/no smacking referendum (non-binding). The people spoke but were ignored by the government. Other areas of our life that are in need of urgent correction that could be addressed sooner rather than later by binding referenda are the Resource Management Act, or immigration, or Treaty issues.
Another major drawback of our current system of representative democracy is that Members of Parliament are constantly lobbied by minority groups with agendas, all too often to the disadvantage of the majority who just want to get on with life.
We believe there is one more step that we could take to improve on the democratic process and that is to adopt the system of Binding Referenda and Citizen’s Initiatives as is practiced today in Switzerland. Their system is used at both national and local level with the effect of encouraging politicians to take the people with them or risk embarrassment. That is, in other words a form of polite discipline reminding them of whom they represent. Not the party, not the lobbyists, but we the people.
The Swiss have had the Direct Democracy system at both local and national level as part of their constitution since 1848, with amendments 1874, 1891, 1921 and 1977. They the Swiss have maintained and adapted the system to their needs over the years but significantly never abolished it.
The Swiss have used Direct Democracy to vote on very diverse issues.
Since 1990 they have held Referenda on a variety of subjects, including
- Banning construction of nuclear power stations
- Building new alpine railways
- A new Federal constitution
- Controlling immigration
- Abolition of the Swiss Army
- Joining United Nations
- Shortening working hours
- Longer paid vacation (voted no)
- Voted against legalisation of cannabis (had to sneak that one in)
As you can see, these are not frivolous subjects.
Switzerland tops the rankings for the 6th consecutive edition of The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive Report.
I quote from that report;
“Switzerland owes its success to a combination of factors. Among these are its stable, transparent and effective institutions; sound and healthy public finances; an attractive tax regime; excellent infrastructure and connectivity; a world-class education system; relatively peaceful relations among social actors within a flexible labour market; the highest level of business sophistication; and, most importantly, an exceptional capacity for innovation.”
Therefore our (First Nation Association of New Zealand) belief is that the system of binding Referenda and Citizen’s initiatives over a long period of time has been a significant factor in the Swiss top rankings as shown in the above report.
Therefore, our aim would be to have New Zealand compete with Switzerland for the top ranking by the World Economic Forum and my belief is that the Swiss system of government is the most powerful driver of their success and we see no reason why it would not do the same for us.
A wealthy country has more options and that is the way we would like it.