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Key’s principled stand

Written By: - Date published: 9:27 am, June 27th, 2008 - 46 comments
Categories: cartoons, child discipline, john key - Tags: ,

A good cartoon by Mike Moreu this morning about Key’s confusing stance on the smacking referendum.

Though of course, as a_y_b pointed out yesterday, this approach isn’t at all confusing if all you’re trying to do is to win an election by accentuating and exploiting negative perceptions of your opponent.

46 comments on “Key’s principled stand ”

  1. andy 1

    Will Key complain that he is being misrepresented by MM?

  2. Tane 2

    Funny you say that andy, apparently he was talking about the Australian smacking referendum.

  3. gobsmacked 3

    Moreu has got it exactly right. This focus on the date of the referendum, while ignoring its purpose, is nonsense.

    So there are two possibilites here. Maybe a visiting rightie (of the sane variety) can explain it for me.

    Either 1) Everybody knows that the referendum date is not the real issue, but it’s a useful stick to hit Clark with, and so why not use it, all’s fair in love and politics, etc. In other words, a tactic, not a principle. Not important, all part of the game.

    Or 2) People genuinely, passionately believe that the referendum date DOES matter, because then pressure can be put on an (expected) incoming Key government to repeal the Section 59 law before 2009.

    Which leaves two further possibilites:

    a) Key is lying about leaving the law alone. He secretly plans to change it.
    b) Key sincerely means what he says, but the law’s opponents are confident he will immediately flip-flop under pressure, as soon as becomes PM.

    Neither a) nor b) is much of a recommendation for our “future Prime Minister”, is it?

  4. “if all you’re trying to do is to win an election by accentuating and exploiting negative perceptions of your opponent.”

    Isn’t this exactly what Labour is trying to do ( but by the poll numbers failing to achieve.)

    [no, every other party campaigns primarily on it’s own policies. remember when National had policies? SP]

  5. andy 5

    Key is lucky, to the average punter the whole referendum timing and status in law is quite fuzzy. He is playing to that! I was trying to explain it to a an average punter last night and I confused myself, then we gave up and moved on to the cricket (BTW NZ you looked like poor winners).

    The incumbents will always be looked at poorly in these situations i.e. Not listening to the voters/out of touch…

  6. higherstandard 6


    Not sure why this is worthy of debate – it’s a pretty simple public relations/political opportunity for Key as Bryan and Andy point out.

  7. gobsmacked 7


    I’m sure you’re right. And it will work, short-term.

    Long-term, it’s a disaster. Raise expectations which you don’t intend to satisfy. Very, very foolish strategy – especially when you’re at 50% in the polls and you don’t NEED to do it.

  8. Vanilla Eis 8

    HS – it’s interesting because of the repercussions if he does win the PM’s office, and also because it paints an interesting picture of Key. Is he sincere or not? If he’s merely grandstanding for votes but doesn’t intend to do as he says, what does that say about the preferred candidate for PM?

  9. monkey-boy 9

    Helen Clark is aware and is on record as saying that the referendum timing is crucial to her own success at the polls. Fine.
    It has been suggested that to go with a referendum at a later date would cost more money. Ok then.
    Helen’s point is that the referendum although costly will be timed for sometime next year, for logistical reasons, and some feel that this is just an avoidance tactic to minimise possible polls damage.
    Key has indicated that the law is working fine. – so he is exactly in line with the s.59 reform supporters, but at the same time he is happy is to indicate that he is open to what some people have to say.
    Now, how he would act upon receiving the results of the referendum, is a completely different issue, isn’t it?
    The fact is there will be a referendum if the signatures hold up – that is the law.
    But some appear to be under the misapprehension that laws are changed or even written by referendum. This isn’t strictly true, although it has happened on occasion. In fact, if he were to do nothing Key would be ignoring the will of ‘some people’ not ‘the people’.
    Funnily enough, here at the Standard there is a strong advocacy in favour of listening to the will of ‘some people’ under the MMP system, but, here, if Key indicates that he is in tune with that concept, you seem to see that as evidence that he is an anti-democrat.
    Personally I think the s.59 amendment, like the EFA like the ETS, like the Anti Terrorism Act are well conceived in principle, but evidently clumsily written by people who are vainly trying to punch above their collective weights when it comes to consulting, drafting and administering their own laws. This is probably why the referendum was called for in the first place.

  10. gobsmacked 10


    Let’s say that 75% vote “No” to the referendum question, “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”

    What should happen next?

  11. sonic 11

    The way the question is written is so unclear any government could just ignore it.

    If they had written a question such as “do you wish to restore s.59” then it would be pretty clear cut, but the question as it stands is pretty meaningless.

  12. Matthew Pilott 12

    Monkey-boy, where do you get that people at “the Standard” are in favour of listening only to “some people” under MMP? And where do you get the idea that people here think it’s anti-democratic for Key to think the same?

    Could you elaborate on those points, I wouldn’t want to accuse you of lying or making statements up without giving you a chance to explain yourself. Given you wrote it, I’m sure there are a few examples you can base your comments upon.

    It has been suggested that to go with a referendum at a later date would cost more money. Ok then.

    I gather that depends on the extent of advertising and such. A postal ballot negates the need for polling booth staffing, and has the added benefit of not confusing voters. There’s an important election going on, you don’t want people to be hung up with a terribly written question!

    This is probably why the referendum was called for in the first place.

    If the reason the referendum was called was to attack poorly written law, don’t you think it’s ironic that it’s being countered by an even more poorly-written question? God (and the bible bashers) works in mysterious ways, huh?

    Sonic – that wouldn’t be nearly as emotive enough, and most people would probably ask “Why?” to your question – they don’t want that. They are after a symbolic victory that means nothing to those who understand the details but a fair bit to those who maybe are a bit peeved about the law and don’t care for the intricacies of referenda.

  13. monkey-boy 13

    Gobsmacked – I don’t know, but your question does inadvertently endorse the wisdom of Key for not committing himself before the event, doesn’t it?
    I mean, what if 75% say ‘Yes’?

  14. gobsmacked 14

    Monkey Boy

    Eh? Have you read the question? Is there a “Sue Bradford for PM” campaign sweeping the country?

    Let’s live in the real world – the referendum is designed for only one answer, and it will get it. The word “good” is the giveaway.

    So again, what should PM Key do? If the answer is “back his own judgement”, then the referendum is just a giant charade.

    And if the referendum is a charade, who cares when it’s held?

  15. monkey-boy 15

    gobby –
    Eh? I thought I was already ahead of you re ‘the real world’ in my first post. Maybe you should read it again.

    Matthew – I was honing in on the reference to ‘the people’ in the cartoon, and extrapolating from that, given that it was endorsed in the original thread. The other stuff was a reference to sometimes vitriolic defence of MMP v. FFP that sometimes arises in these pages.

    In this instance Key gives the impression that he trusts the electorate to express its opinion now, which is the important advantage to have before an election – Clark’s approach indicates mistrust, and in this respect, I think that Key has scored quite well.

    Matthew you even endorse this with your reference to ‘Bible Basher’ – it is a reductionistic and lazy dismissal of the situation IMO.
    It’s not as if Key was against the legislation in the first place is it? As Helen enjoys reminding us: “Well he voted for it.”

  16. Brownie 16

    Rules are rules boys,

    They get their numbers, a referendum, no mater how dumb we think it is (and I don’t agree with it), the it’s gotta take place.

    However there is plenty of time to hold it, even if Labour call an election slightly earlier (which I think Aunty H may do the worse the polls look for the party). Lets at least hold this ref so it’s $9m cheaper to you and I, the taxpayer?

    Democracy and our pockets all win!

  17. gobsmacked 17

    Monkey-Boy, I’m just trying to get a straight answer.

    Let’s assume: There will be a referendum. The vote will be “No”.

    Those are two pretty fair assumptions, aren’t they?

    What should happen next?

    Clark’s answer: The law should not be changed.

    What is Key’s answer?

    There are only 2 possible answers:

    a) Same as Clark.

    b) Change/repeal law.

    If the answer is not b), then WHAT IS THE REFERENDUM FOR?

    Sorry to shout, but FFS – if it’s not about changing the law, what is it about? A hobby for bored United Future ex-MPs?

  18. Anita 18


    1) It’s not cheaper to hold it concurrently with the election. See, for example, here.

    2) There is no time to hold it. MoJ’s advice was that they would need to start planning in April, and they recommended against that given the petitions had not made the threshhold at that stage (and they still haven’t).


  19. Brownie 19


    The principles of democracy means that all should be heard – not just the ones we don’t like.

    I think its dumb to but you ccan’t put a price on freedom of speech. It allows you to put your opinion here on the blog.

    They have met the rules (at this point in time anyway) and therefore should have their day to be heard.

    A day may come when you might have a minority view but the same right should be affordeed to you.

    Don’t you think that this is fair?

  20. Brownie 20

    Thanks Anita,

    Where do your numbers come from? I admit I hadn’t seen these.

    And does that mean that it will be more expensive that what the PM said or only slightly cheaper.

    And who are the MoJ to say whats controversial and whats not – they are an independant, apolitical organisation, arn’t they?

  21. Lew 21

    I agree with Brownie. it’s probably an irrelevancy in legislative terms, but if people can raise the requisite 10% signatires they’re entitled to a referendum, and this lot should have one within the allotted timeframe of a year. If they get that, they have quite literally nothing to complain about: the process is working.


  22. Anita 22


    To be a pedant for a moment…

    The petitioners don’t want to repeal anything, perhaps they want to unrepeal section 59 which was repealed already. So perhaps they are asking to reinstate the old section 59.

    That said, I’m not sure that’s what they want as many agree that the old one was a bit unclear and maybe didn’t do what they wanted anyway. So perhaps they actually want a new piece of legislation, although if they do I don’t know what they want it to say.

    Anyhow, they don’t want to repeal anything, and they really truly don’t want to repeal section 59 🙂

  23. Anita 23


    Those numbers are out of the MoJ briefing paper to the Minister in March, which includes their recommendation for a postal referendum.

    MoJ are apolitical experts who can very sensibly say that a particular legislative change might prove controversial. If it’s controversial the amount of work they’d need to put in would be significantly higher, and the chances of it passing in a timely fashion are lower, as are the chances of it passing at all. All Ministries have to assess the likely public impact of any proposed legislative change to see what the likely cost and chance of success are.

    “Controversial” is not the same as “politically sensitive”, which would be a less comfortable call for MoJ


  24. Brownie 24

    Sorry all for the bad spellin, its pretty cold here in ChCh today and I find I’m getting dyslexic fnigers.

  25. gobsmacked 25

    Brownie, absolutely, yes. If they have the signatures, they have a referendum. Even if the question is “Do you think NZ should invade Mars?”, if they have the signatures, then there’s a referendum. 100% agree. They meet the rules, all is fair.

    But of course we would not invade Mars. Now I assume this referendum has a purpose. Therefore the politicians’ response to the referendum is what ultimately matters.

    I do not think the petitioners are planning to win a referendum and then say “Woo hoo! Game over, we won”.

    So Moreu’s cartoon has summed it up perefectly. The people must speak, then they must be ignored. Why then is the date on which they shall be ignored so important? It’s a charade, it’s transparent, and I’d rather John Key stopped insulting our intelligence.

    And as I’ve said up-thread, he is raising expectations about the outcome, and since (probably) he’ll be PM by then, he’s buying himself a very angry majority, who voted “No” in the referendum … a referendum that HE is talking up.

  26. Matthew Pilott 26

    Monkey boy – referring to people as bible bashers wasn’t a serious attempt to define the initiators of the referendum, but if it was I suppose you’d be right. Let’s not deliberately mix things up, though, shall we, I didn’t even say they should be ignored!

    You still haven’t managed to explain listening to ‘some people’ in any meaningful way. If you’re refering to FPP vs MMP, well, it’s a democracy and by definition will happen as such under both systems, unless there’s a 100% vote in favour of something. That doesn’t happen unless there are guns involved.

    So we have no problem with listening to some people, that’s democracy. The difference is that Key is talking about not listening to anyone. In these circumstances, listening to ‘some people’ will be meaningless, since the referendum will be useless in terms of giving something to listen to. So I pretty much support Key’s stance – let’s look at how well the law is working (no problems there, right?) instead of putting weight behind a loaded and subjective question.

    Key isn’t saying he’ll listen to some people, he’s saying he won’t listen to any number of people. Yet he attacks Clark for not listening to the people. You don’t see the dichotomy?

  27. Brownie 27

    Thanks Anita,

    This is good stuff. However I think that the increase in budget to allow the CIR to cope with a 2008 election timing along with the increase workload is justified given the difference in price with the postal option 2008 (and they have they right to be heard immediatley) and also why would it slow the polling booths on election day? it will take an extra 20 secs for me to vote and the machinery for processing is allready there?

    But then again I’m not the CEO. Perhaps this is just too much pressure for Mr Peden given the amount of extra time and money that the EFA has placed on his shoulders?

  28. Brownie 28


    You said “Therefore the politicians’ response to the referendum is what ultimately matters”

    Missing the point here, it’s OUR opinion that matters. We are telling the politicians what we want – the ultimate expression of democracy. For them to tell us what matters plays into Nationals hands as far as the “nanny state” argument goes and is, by in large, a dictatorship in disguise!

    And it’s not what Key is talking up, it’s the principles of democracy something we should all be talking up.

    I take it you believe that democracy is a good thing?

    And why would he want to “buy up” an angry majority? It doesn’t make sense.

  29. gobsmacked 29

    Bill English, interviewed on Morning Report yesterday:

    “Most of Parliament voted for the current legislation, but the referendum is not actually on the legislation.’

    He is correct. But how many of the people signing the petition know that? For example, see Moreu’s cartoon above: “… if the public voted to repeal the law …”

    They are not doing what they think they’re doing. This is the will of the people?

    I’m sure Prime Minister-elect John Key will explain it to them, after they’ve voted, and celebrated. Good luck with that, John. In short: shit meets fan.

  30. Anita 30


    Various numbered points to make up for my scattered thoughts 🙂

    1) They have a right to be heard within 12 months, no-one is suggesting that is under attack.

    2) I agree that it would only take me a couple of extra seconds. But MoJ’s advice is that you and I are not representative of the majority of NZ – their experience with previous concurrent situations was that it was much more complex and confusing, and did cause significant delays in both voting and counting. I’m happy to trust their expert advice – it’s what we pay them to know 🙂

    3) The EFA is mentioned in the briefing, the CEO was concerned that the differing campaign spending rules for referenda and elections would cause extra confusion. His advice seems sounds, and intuitively right 🙂

    4) Finally, no-one’s mentioning there are actually two referenda in play at the moment. While we know the last possible decision date for Savill’s I think the one for Baldock’s is probably 3.5 months later (if it doesn’t make the numbers it gets another two months to collect then another two months to count – tho that is based on a set of possibly flawed assumptions). It’d be crazy to run one with the election if the other had to be postal.

  31. gobsmacked 31

    Brownie, I care passionately about democracy, I’ve worked for it all my life. That’s why I hate to see the language of democracy being used fraudulently. And people’s confidence in democracy will be further undermined when they don’t get what they THINK they voted for (see 1980’s and 1990’s).

  32. Brownie 32

    Nice post, Anita. Cheers.

    GSmacked: have you signed a petition before? I’ll assume you have and remind you that the petion is headed by an explanation of what they want in the CIR. I didn’t sign it so I can’t say however to have a proper and legal petition, one must have an explanation as to what they are petitioning about and one needs to assume that at least 95% of those signing have a general ability to read.

    It’s not up to Bill, John or even Helen to explain it to them, its up to them.

    Its a logical argument. Anything else is just s##tstiring or getting hysterical over an argument or issue thats not there.

  33. gobsmacked 33

    Brownie, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I point you to Moreu’s cartoon again. Intellligent people think it’s about changing Section 59. Larry Baldock & co certainly sell it as such.

    If the government (whoever it is) says it wasn’t about that, and so there’s “No change” after the referendum, that’s their problem.

  34. Anita 34

    The petitions didn’t have any explanation, just the questions.

    This is from when the two petitions started being collected on the same sheet, I don’t think they had any more than this when they were being collected separately.

    BTW for anyone who’s missed the second petition (you can see it on the bottom of the page on that link), isn’t the question appalling?! 🙂

  35. Brownie 35

    Fair enough, GS.

    It’s not a left or right issue – supposing Labour forms the next govt? They still have to go ahead with a referendum at some stage. Will the argument stay true for them as well?

  36. Brownie 36

    Sorry Anita, Should have made myself more plain, they are asking a question of the country which is the raison d’etre for the petition. from there they would hope to launch an attack on the legislation (hopeless in my view). Anyone signing this will know what it’s about. They assume that a lot more people agree with them. Big assumation, I’d say given the recent stats put out.

    I agree, the last question is appalling as they couls twist it to mean just about anything even if we all answer yes.

  37. gobsmacked 37

    Brownie, if Labour get back in I suspect they’ll have a late referendum and then Clark will dump it all in Goff’s lap!

  38. Anita 38

    If Labour wins and both petitions clear the threshold, then both referenda are held and gain majority support, then Labour will argue

    a) The legislation as it stands does not criminalise a smack as part of good parenting.

    b) That child abuse is bad and they will do everything they can to stop it.

    Then they will go on with whatever they were doing before the referenda.

  39. Brownie 39

    I completely agree, but the forms and convention have to be observed even if you and I disaggree and think they are valuless and pointless.

    GS – LMAO nice one

  40. Anita 40


    As it happens I think CIR should have huge value to us as a society and a parliamentary democracy.

    I think the use of poorly drafted questions undermines their usefulness. I’m disgusted by parliament’s contempt for them when parties treat them as a part of a parliamentary game rather than considering them as a way of developing a genuine engaged democracy. That disgust transfers to organisations which, similarly, use them to game the parliamentary system rather than for the purpose for which they were designed.


  41. monkey-boy 41

    gobby sorry for the late response – it’s pretty obvious that the referendum is an attempt to embarrass Clark and Bradford et-al and remind people that the law was enacted in the first place.
    Don’t shoot the messenger, but the reason the referendum idea got traction is because sufficiently enough people were annoyed by this.
    This could be because they don’t understand the issues, or they feel taht they are well enough qulaified to raise their own kids as they see fit, and that the law change affects this. I really don’t know. Actually do not care.
    However, the existence of the need is what interests me.
    I suggest that the call for a referendum, reflects a general dissatisfaction with the way this has been handled.
    That is largely down to those who handled it in the first place. It was a strategic mess, and may have been the thing that sunk Labour’s election prospects.
    For those who do not like that idea, I suggest they stop trying to victimise or belittle those people who are dissatisfied and go back to basic and get in touch with the mood of the country instead of trying to intellectualise their way out of the situation.
    Because most people are not intellectuals, and are certainly not career politicians, they are just ordinary types struggling to feed and raise their kids in a world which they feel has increasingly gone to the dogs.

  42. Draco TB 42

    I think the use of poorly drafted questions undermines their usefulness.

    Except that the two questions asked by the referenda linked to on this page aren’t poorly drafted. One has been quite specifically designed to have a ‘no’ answer and the other a ‘yes’ answer.

    IMO, CIR have two problems:
    1.) the average person doesn’t have a clue as to how to run a country and most assuredly hasn’t read the required information needed to make informed decisions. The latter is why the usual right-wing assertion that ‘you know how best to spend your money, not the government’ is complete BS and nothing but a red herring.

    2.) The organizations that put together the questions for the referenda usually have their own agendas that are different from what they’re telling the people signing the petition. This can be seen in these two referenda which, quite simply, have meaningless questions.

  43. Paul Robeson 43

    can you see why people may get hacked off if you say (as you imply above) we are taking your money because you are too stupid to understand how to use it?

  44. Paul Robeson 44

    This cartoon shows the rot started at the Herald when they did away with their jester, and hired a tame Australian to do the job instead.

    Kiwis have a proud history of political cartooning (not having studied it in depth I guess I’m mainly thinking of David Low and what I remember growing up).

    Cartoons are effective. A great way to make a simple comment and show the emperor without clothes.

  45. Draco TB 45

    can you see why people may get hacked off if you say (as you imply above) we are taking your money because you are too stupid to understand how to use it?

    No where did I say or imply that anyone was stupid. What I said was that most people don’t have the information needed to make informed decisions on how to spend the money needed to run the country. That’s not stupidity, that’s ignorance and ignorance is curable if the ignorant have the time and inclination to become informed.

    I used to think that way as well (yes, I was even a National voter) then I thought about it a bit and started doing some research into how parliament worked, how our money was spent and when that turned into a second full time job and there was no way I could keep up with everything that was going on I realised that there was a very good reason we had a central government that spent our money – they’re better at it because they have better information available to them.

    Stupidity is when you believe you can make better decisions without knowing anything about why the decisions are even being made.

  46. Remember also that most government spending is what people want but can’t afford themselves. People want a road system, so we pool our money through the government and build one. Education the same. Health can be seen through this prism or as a form of collective insurance. The rest of what the Government does is essentially a redistribution of income that goes a small way to countering the inequities inherent in captialism.

    Tax is the price of a civilised society.

    (and remember that a healthy educated workforce is good for the wealthy as well as the poor – you could get big tax cuts if the government didn’t pay for health and education systems but you wouldn’t be able to get healthy, skilled workers for your business)

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