Outside The Box Media and Democracy: Binding referenda — a human right?

Out of the Box articles are independent of the Otaki Mail

“We actually need binding referenda to fulfil our human right (and responsibility) to self determination”

Opinion by Pete Young

F_NO15_democ-Binding-referendum.jpgRemember that Herald DigiPoll, last year, that: “Two thirds of voters believe citizens-initiated referenda should be binding”? (Herald — 27 August 2014)Lots of people are sick to death of our political system.“Let the People decide!” Such slogans seem obviously right — but also very frightening for folks from both “Left” and “Right”. Why is that? Well, some on the “Right” might like majority-rule on, say, smacking, but certainly not on fracking, or other issues with “fiscal implications” (TPPA for example?). Meanwhile, the “Left” might win a direct vote on an issue like fracking, but issues like smacking banish any thought of favouring direct democracy (at least, not before the intelligentsia can seize power and “re-educate” us all.) Result: (drum-roll please..) the very longstanding consensus(!) between all established political parties and movements, is that the People must NOT be allowed to decide anything (of any real importance).

Even the Conservatives and NZ First are included. Remember Colin Craig bending over, approaching the last election, to reveal there “could be” a fiscal veto to his policy (receiving immediate back-warming action from John Key). Then too, Winston Peters has always stipulated — a “significant” majority of MPs must over-ride the public. This seems a little “Claytons”-like. Suppose we wanted to vote on MPs salaries, to make them a little more “representative” of us ordinary folk.

Our massive disenchantment is matched by our feelings towards the media. Naturally, one might think, in a “democracy”, the media’s primary role would be to inform and facilitate our participation in it (the “democracy”, I mean). Laugh or gurgle if you can.

I do actually want to say something positive. There is actually a solution to this puzzle about binding referenda. believe it or not!The trick is to find the “just” basis for referenda to be binding. It can’t just be that “the majority is always right”, because we know that’s wrong.The happy solution? We actually need binding referenda to fulfil our human right (and responsibility) to self-determination. Based on human rights, there must, of course, be this limitation — we can’t ever justify running roughshod over the human rights of others.

So, yes, we really do need to make citizens-initiated referenda binding. But only on the issues which affect us all equally – not on any decisions in which the majority would simply run roughshod over the human rights of others. Sooo… Yes, binding on fracking. But… No, not on smacking (or hanging, or Te Tiriti).Am I just being theoretical? Well no, just look at Switzerland where the People have had binding referenda for many generations now, within a carefully crafted constitution to safeguard human rights and minorities.

Does it work? Well, Switzerland is ridiculed for its boringly stable politics, which has seen it grow into perhaps the most scientifically advanced and richest country in the world (that doesn’t just dig stuff out of the ground). Fears about it? LGBTs may know, the Swiss voted in 1938 to decriminalise homosexuality, and the law came into force in 1942 (although a discriminatory consent age continued until 1992). Workers — Switzerland has an adult unemployment rate of 3 percent (youth 3.5%). Activists — the Swiss People can demand the final say on international agreements like TPPA, overriding the Government.People do get sick of me whacking my dictionary about Switzerland, but you can be sure about one thing – your political and media elite want you to know as little about its political system as possible! About Pete: Pete has formal qualifications in law and philosophy, but says — putting letters after your name is like how slaves had to take their master’s surname. Freedom is when you can leave all that behind.

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