From The Hood : That Referendum Thing In Plain English

The Financemeister is not a man to let fancy forms of democracy get in his way.
by Lyndon Hood

The referendum on the Government’s partial privatisation of state-owned assets saw more than two thirds of the vote returned against the policy. Werewolf did not speak to Finance Minister Bill English, but thinks it can guess:


Werewolf: Mr English, what is your response to the referendum result ?

English: Well it was clearly a political stunt.

Werewolf: You mean it was a referendum about a political question intended to achieve a political effect?

English: Exactly.

Werewolf: So what kind of referendum wouldn’t be a political stunt?

English: Um. Something about gardening? As long as it wasn’t a public garden. But my point is, this was all engineered by the Greens and the Labour Party.

Werewolf: But…

English: So I guess it couldn’t be an organic garden either.

Werewolf: But three hundred and twenty thousand people signed the referendum petition.

English: But look how few people voted.

Werewolf: One million, three hundred and thirty-two thousand?

English: Just a forty-three percent turnout.

Werewolf: That’s a bit more than the local elections.

English: Exactly. Remember the Auckland amalgamation process and what happened to Canterbury? This government was elected on a clear platform of not thinking local democracy counts either. Anyway, a lot of those people didn’t vote because they are content with what we’re doing.

Werewolf: But if the turnout had been say sixty percent and every one of those extra people had voted Yes, No would still have won.

English: It’s just an opinion poll.

Werewolf: An official opinion poll that actually asks the entire country.

English: See? Just like local elections

Werewolf: Was the Government trying to drive down turnout?

English: Only as part of our overall economic programme. We did everything we could – including just going ahead and selling most of the things the question was asking if we should sell – to make it clear there were more economically productive things people could do with their time than voting. Like driving around in cars or speculating in real estate.

Werewolf: So it was political, but what makes the referendum a ‘stunt’?

English: Well they knew we weren’t going to listen to it.

Werewolf: And whose fault is it that you didn’t?

English: Theirs, obviously. I mean it wasn’t a secret; we were ignoring the result before voting even started. It’s not like it’s binding or anything. The whole business is a waste of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money

Werewolf: So you don’t think we should have citizens-initiated referendums?

English: No, I don’t think we should have citizens-initiated referendums if the result is going to disagree with the government. I mean, what’s the point of that?

Werewolf: Well, we found out what a lot of people who care enough to vote think about a something a whole lot of people wanted to have a referendum about.

English: Look, it’s like this: this government’s programme is based on not wasting money on things we don’t think are good for the economy…

Werewolf: Like democracy.

English: That’s right… And only wasting money on things we can pretend are good for the economy.

Werewolf: Like assets sales.

English: Exactly.

Werewolf: Is there a reason you have to cast aspersions on the referendum, rather than just admit that it went against you but you’re carrying on anyway?

English: We’ll it’s got to be worth a shot. Might convince somebody. Anyway, we were thinking about stopping the Genesis sale.

Werewolf: Because of the will of the people?

English: Oh God no, don’t be ridiculous. Don’t want anyone thinking that.

Werewolf: Because you’ve realised it was a stupid idea in the first place?

English: Getting warmer. But we decided to carry on selling it anyway.

Werewolf: Despite the referendum result?

English: I guess. Or because of it. Frankly, we passed the pointof having reasons for things a while back.

Werewolf: I mean, this selling productive assets – you are kind of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

English: Now that’s a wild exaggeration and you know it. We’re selling the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Werewolf: Oh I see.

English: Hang on: we have a goose that lays golden eggs?

Werewolf: It’s just a figure of speech.

English: How much do you think we could we get for it? Those things must be worth a packet!

Werewolf: Mr English…

English: I mean, you gave to bear in mind that local and global conditions mean this isn’t the best time to sell magic geese, but we should still be able to get a couple of bucks for the parts.

Werewolf: We don’t have a magic goose.

English: Whatever.

Werewolf: I don’t think magic geese are a real thing.

English: Look, I think we’ve already made it clear that I don’t care what you think.

Werewolf: Mr English, thank you.

English: (On cellphone) Hey, Jason, does the Government own any geese? I need you to check something for me…