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The Government must reconsider its Referendum Framework Bill after its own Legislative Design and Advisory Committee (LDAC) has criticised it as being against free and fair elections, National’s Electoral Law Spokesperson Nick Smith says.

“The LDAC has raised concerns that the Executive’s power to frame questions to be put in front of voters at the time of a General Election, without Parliamentary input, creates a power imbalance between the branches of Government.

“The Committee has warned that giving the Executive a broad power to procure a referendum and frame the wording of it, would bring into question the neutrality and impartiality of free and fair elections.

“Alarm bells are ringing over this Bill. The Law Society says it compromises public engagement and representative democracy and the Regulations Review Committee says it contains ‘Henry the Eighth’ type powers.

“Officials have rightly highlighted the parallels between this Bill and the constitutional mess in the United Kingdom over the Brexit Referendum. That situation has seen the Conservative Government unable to internally resolve its issues over European Union membership. We could see a similar stagnation in process in New Zealand given the differences between coalition parties over recreational cannabis use.

“The Government is making a hash of the recreational cannabis referendum and tarnishing New Zealand’s democratic traditions through this shambolic process.

“The Government should heed this critical advice, withdraw the Bill and introduce a new Bill that sets out detailed wording and process specifically for the cannabis referendum.”

The LDAC’s concerns can be found here.

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