- Date published:
5:56 pm, April 26th, 2009 - 40 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, democracy under attack, democratic participation - Tags: capitalism vs democracy, david farrar, kiwiblog, supercity
David Farrar, head of the Free Speech Coalition and renowned democracy fighter, has outlined the Right’s reasons for opposing letting the people of Auckland decide whether they want the Government’s proposed supercity. The post contains a bizarre level of personal abuse against Phil Goff but all that does is highlight the weakness of the actual arguments against a referendum.
Farrar’s first substantive point is:
“Labour still has no policy on what it wants for Auckland. Despite setting up the Royal Commission, they are now al [sic] over the place in terms of any coherent vision for the future.”
Wrong. Labour’s policy is that the people of Auckland should have a referendum on the structure that the Government proposes. Incidentally, that’s the Greens’ policy too but for his own reasons Farrar chooses to focus his post purely on Labour and Goff. Regardless, the policy of both parties is to give the choice to Aucklanders.
“the Royal Commission itself said a referendum is only superficially attractive and is plainly unsuited to complex and wide-ranging recommendations.”
Wrong. The Royal Commission made one passing mention of the need for a poll within the context of the normal Schedule 3 process for merging councils. That process is to be overridden by the Government’s special legislation but there is no reason that legislation cannot include the referendum. The Royal Commission does not say referenda are unsuitable for complex issues – it says that the consultation process in Schedule 3 has already been effectively dealt with by the Royal Commission. At no point does the Royal Commission rule out having a referendum and it would be wrong if it did.
“The Royal Commission was of course right on this point. Referendums are suitable for simple singular propositions, such as changing the term of Parliament from three to four years. The reform proposals have dozens of elements to them – one Council, an executive Mayor, local boards, composition of Council, powers of Council, powers of Board, ward boundaries, etc etc etc. What would people be voting on?”
Simple. The people would be voting on whether they accept or reject the structure that the Government has legislated for in the Auckland Act – eg “Do you support the abolition of and the creation of a single council for Auckland in their place with the structure described in the Auckland Act?”. That structure is complex but the question is simple – do you support it? Yes or No. We’ve had referenda on other complex issues in the past, the electoral system springs to mind, and it’s not been a problem. Let’s not forget that it is normal practice to have referenda when councils merge. Nobody argues its too complex in those cases.
“Is Goff really saying that he wants it to be a choice between doing nothing and the Government’s proposals? That there should be a poll, and if it fails then the status quo endures and all the work of the RoyalCommission is wasted? Because a referendum is not something that allows you to modify a proposal, like a select committee process. It is a stop or go process.You don’t like the bathwater and indeed the baby goes out the window also.”
Yes. That’s called democracy. The solution for the Government is to present a structure that the people of Auckland will vote for. If the people prefer the status quo to the choice the Government offers then they should have it. That’s called democracy. Let’s not forget that the work of the Royal Commission is already wasted – the Government tore up the report and substituted its own, very different, structure.
“Also consider the further practicalities of a referendum? What do you do if voters in six Councils vote yes, and one Council votes no? Do you then have a new Auckland Council with a big hole in the middle of it? Do you give veto power to the voters of the smallest Council that represents around 2% of the Region?”
Again, that’s the normal practice. If the people of a council don’t want to merge with another council, it doesn’t happen. Even if the people of the other council vote for it (happened in 1999 – Hastings voted for amalgamation, Napier against. No amalgamation.). That’s called democracy.
There’s only one real reason why Farrar and others on the Right are arguing against a referendum – they know that either the public of Auckland will reject the undemocratic structure for the supercity that the Government has proposed or the Government will be forced into designing a structure that doesn’t unfairly favour business interests over the rest of the community. Everything else is just an excuse.