So that makes his condemnation of Russel Norman much more noteworthy; Watkins opines (with our emphasis added):
I'm no great fan of referenda, but when phrases such as "elected dictatorship" start getting bandied around we all need to draw breath and remember how this 'running the country' thing really worksWell, it's been less than 24 hours since the Keep Our Assets groups nailed their petition, metaphorically, to the door of parliament, and there's already been a fair bit of tosh spoken about it. Some of the worst has come from Greens co-leader Russel Norman, but he's not alone.
On its second crack, 327,224 valid signatures - 18,500 more than required to initiate the referendum - were collected by the Keep Our Assets coalition and yesterday delivered to the Speaker. The referendum question will be: "Do you support the Government selling up to 49% of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?"
Driving home last night I heard Norman on Checkpoint, rejecting questions that National had won the election and therefore had the right, y'know, to govern. Norman said that people vote for an against numerous issues in an election, so it didn't mean National had a mandate for partial asset sales.
"That's not how democracy works," he told Mary Wilson.
Except that's exactly how democracy works. Elections are never single issue referendums and a party like National, which for two elections has been clear as a newly polished pane of glass on a summer's day (with not too much light, but not much cloud either) about its intentions, has every right to, y'know, govern. To argue otherwise makes no sense.
Because by Norman's logic a governing party has no right to implement policies in its manifesto that don't get a majority in separate polls. Well, that's not how democracy works. If it was, you could look at this random measure from 2003 and say Labour had no right to cut us off from the Privy Council.
Indeed, republicans have never won support for New Zealand to cut ties with the monarchy in any poll ever, so by Norman's logic it would be anti-democratic for any future Labour-Greens government to even consider such a move until it had won at least a few polls.
But we don't want government by polls. Y'know, the sort of polls that urged the US and Britain to go to war in Iraq, for example.
Norman went on to say that we're not "an elected dictatorship" and that Key must listen to the voice of the people. So let me go on with another couple of examples. Because by Norman's rhetoric it's surely more oppressive for National to have started implementing the Greens' insulation scheme in its first term – at least asset sales were a clear part of National's manifesto!
If there's anyone in Parliament who rivals David Cunliffe for being an ungracious winner, it's Dr Norman. It would be easy to excuse him by suggesting that it's the Australian way, although Australians have had precious little to celebrate in recent months, especially on the sporting field. But there's something more to it than that.
Perhaps Dr Norman is peeved that David Shearer's departure and the start of the #Labour'sGotTalent taxpayer-funded tour has pushed him out of the limelight. He has certainly hammed it up in the media over the last couple of days, but as Tim Watkins note, he has been big on rhetoric, and small on substance.
And unfortunately for Dr Norman, the words of Phil Goff have come back to bite LabourGreen on the bum; check this out from 25 January 2011:
Mr Goff said Prime Minister John Key had made this year's election a referendum on whether New Zealanders wanted to see their most important strategic assets sold.
National's Mixed Ownership Model policy was one of the very central issues of the 2011 General Election campaign. Labour in particular devoted huge resources to campaigning against "asset sales", which was an untruth in itself. We all know the outcome; National recorded its largest-ever percentage of the vote under MMP, and Labour crashed to its worst result in 70 years.
The moment that John Key was able to inform the Governor-General that he was able to form a government was the moment that the 2011 referendum on "asset sales" ended. Labour and the Greens should accept the outcome that MMP, which they of course support, threw up and move on.
And here's one other point to ponder. Late in its third term of government, Labour passed. with the support of the Greens the Electoral Finance Act and the Emissions Trading Scheme. Labour was a minority government, and neither of these policies received anything like the amount of scrutiny at the 2005 General Election as the Mixed Ownership Model did in 2005. Indeed, the EFA, later repealed by National, with Labour's support was a direct response to allegations of dodgy campaigning in 2005.
Russel Norman may support MMP and democracy, but only when tthe outcome it produces suits him. Kudos to Tim Watkins for not swallowing Dr Norman's deceit, and for calling him on it.