Our Constitution is the highest law of the land. It overrides any States laws. Therefore, it is imperative that We the People have the right to decide which Constitutional laws we wish to enact to guide the ship of state, our Government.
Constitutional amendments set the legal groundwork for the way our government works.
The type of Citizens Initiated Referendum (CIR) we propose is a vote by the people to amend the Constitution only. The results of the vote are binding on a government if the vote is Yes. If the vote is No then the government must abandon any attempt to implement the proposed change.
However, CIR will give us the ability to change this if we wish, so that government legislation that will affect the lives of Australians could also be voted on in a referendum. Decisions like this must be in the hands of the people, not a faceless group of political party men.
Why we don’t have CIR now
The writers of the Australian Constitution included Section 128 that allows only the Australian people to change the Constitution by voting in a referendum.
Unfortunately, they gave only the politicians the power to start (initiate) a referendum. This has proved to be the stumbling block that has denied We the People the right to a true Democracy.
Advance Australia are dedicated to amending S.128 to give all voters the right to start a referendum.
How CIR works
There are two ways we can initiate a referendum if we bring in CIR.
- A sitting politician can start one by submitting a Bill to Parliament
- Any voter can write a Bill to submit to Parliament. However, the submitter must also accompany the bill with the signatures of at least 1% of the Australian voters….at today’s population figure of almost 24 million Australians, a submitter would need the signatures of at least 140,000 voters (remember, not all Australians are eligible to vote).
People have asked if that wouldn’t open the doors for special interest groups to bring about change that could damage our democracy.
Of course, there is always that danger, but the question also assumes that a majority of Australians would agree to a change that would be bad for them.
Gathering that many signatures is not an easy task. Once we get CIR we may want to amend this requirement to make it easier to start a referendum. It will be up to the people voting in a referendum. Advance Australia will initiate that referendum as part of our goal to put the power into the hands of the people.
But we would still need to have a large number of signatures on a petition to ensure that any proposed amendment would have to have strong support from a large section of the populace. However, with electronic voting, gathering the signatures would be a much easier task.
As an example, let’s say that a religious group wants to amend our constitution to substitute our secular law with religious laws instead. If that religion has a million followers it could easily gather enough signatures to submit a Bill to Parliament.
But submitting a Bill is no guarantee of success. The final say will rest with the voters.
Isn’t CIR Dangerous?
Yes, if voters do not give sufficient thought to the proposed change. CIR would give us the incentive to learn all we can about a proposed change. CIR would stop the political apathy we see so much of today. When people have a vested interest in the outcome of a vote they are not going to squander it by voting on something they don’t understand!
Won’t CIR Elections be Expensive?
People objecting to CIR often point out how expensive it is to hold a referendum. It is….today. But that is because we are still using 19th Century technology…the pencil (really?) and paper to vote at polling booths.
We say it’s time to modernize and bring in electronic voting, coupled with with very strong security. We are already developing an online voting platform with our website http://ozreferenda.com.au/. We can ensure the security of the online voting system if we require 3 identity verifications that would make it almost impossible to hack the system. We can even build in a failsafe mechanism to catch any attempted hacking:
On logging in the voter would be required to furnish:
- a password that they have personally set and that can only be changed any time with an identity verification check sent to their email
- their drivers license number
- a voting registration number sent to them on registering to use the electronic voting platform. This voting number would remain theirs for life.
If the system detects a duplicate attempt to log in the voter would be notified to report to the nearest electoral commission office to personally verify their identity before they can vote.
Examples of CIR in Action
SWITZERLAND: In over 100 years of Citizens’ Initiated Referendum (CIR), after voting on 300 issues (we Australians have voted in just 44 since 1901 and approved only 8!!!), the Swiss people have approved approximately 50% of the issues placed before them. They have 4 referendums a year, with as many issues as they wish to vote on. So this month they could have a referendum on four topics. In the next referendum there may be only one topic. And of course, if there is nothing that needs voting on there may not be a referendum at all. In 1977 the people rejected a value added tax; in 1986 they rejected a proposal to join the United Nations; in 1984 the people rejected the government’s proposal to reduce the working week from 42 hours to 38 hours. Switzerland today is one of the most prosperous and peaceful places on earth. Here is an example of how the Swiss have amended their monetary system recently. Since this article was published they have achieved the change they wanted by voting in a referendum. Monetary Reform in Switzerland
USA: 23 states have some form of CIR. Californians voted in 1987 to reject a government move to dispose of waste toxins in the ground. Four US states have voted to bring back the death penalty. Florida passed a law to force their government to balance the budget on only 80% of total revenue.
ITALY: Italy used CIR in 1991 to remove existing laws that allowed corruption by criminal elements of political parties and officials. No politician had the courage to take on such organized and entrenched corruption. But CIR enabled 95% of the Italians to vote a huge “yes” to get rid of the offending legislation.
SPAIN: When the Spanish governments wanted to leave NATO the people rejected the proposal.
In contrast, the people of New Zealand were never given a direct say by voting in a referendum when Prime Minister Lange took New Zealand out of ANZUS. Without CIR a nation is in danger of a dictatorship.