Wednesday, May 25, 2005

So what about petitions?

So have you downloaded Rodney’s petition yet to lower taxes? Download here. Commentators such as Newstalk ZB’s Larry Williams churlishly pointed out that petitions don’t achieve anything, and in one sense they’re right. They don’t. But that misses the point of a petition

That is, petitions don’t work if you’re just looking ‘top down.’ They can work if you’re looking ‘bottom up’; that is, if what you’re after is to attract and generate public support for your position. What you’re not really trying for is to have the petition itself get 200,000 signatures and be voted in by referendum.

In short, it’s not that you want the petition to necessarily go to parliament and be passed into law (about which you need to be realistic); you want the ideas to go to parliament and eventually be reflected in law, and getting out there and campaigning with a petition is one way of getting those ideas out there and getting them noticed.

When Lindsay Mitchell started her petition to abolish the DPB I encouraged her with the same arguments, and it’s clear Lindsay’s petition has been enormously successful for her as a platform to point out the obvious iniquities of the DPB – a platform that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.

When Helen Hughes, Warwick Malone and Tim Wikiriwhi began their petition in 2002 for ‘One Law for All’ they faced at the time little political support for their position, but as it transpired enormous but previously unnoticed public support. Turned out that was an idea whose time had come. And you saw it first in a petition.

So don’t knock them.

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