Smack referendum next year, says Clark

NZ Herald June 26, 2008

Prime Minister Helen Clark says a postal ballot in 2009 is the best course for a potential referendum on the anti-smacking law because having it on election day would cause voter confusion and slow down the vote count. Helen Clark yesterday said the Government had accepted advice for a postal ballot in 2009 from chief electoral officer Rob Peden, who said holding it in the 2008 election “will inevitably lead to voter confusion, congestion in polling places and put at risk the timing of the parliamentary count.” The decision has disappointed petition organiser Larry Baldock, who has threatened to re-ignite the issue and organise protest marches if it is not done on election day. “Hiding behind Ministry of Justice advice is cowardly. She should tell the truth and admit that it is her intention to do all she can to avoid this referendum at the election for her own political reasons.”

National Party leader John Key said Helen Clark was “arrogantly out of touch” and “running scared” on the issue. “Her government does not like the New Zealand public being able to express their view on democracy. They are about to be stopped from being able to exercise their democratic view through a referendum on the anti-smacking legislation at the election … Why does the Prime Minister not just admit she finds the voters of New Zealand an annoyance?” He said it was bad use of taxpayers’ money to hold a stand-alone referendum when it could be done with an election.