The referendum has taken a lot of flak.
Go figure. Spending $9 million on answering a meaningless question, where both main parties have promised to ignore the outcome whatever it is? It's hard to characterise it as an optimal use of public money.
Not that the supporters aren't putting a brave face on it. "Whether or not smacking is a good thing, any law that dictates how parents discipline their children is an intolerable incursion on individual liberty and a big leap towards a totalitarian state." Thus one True Believer commenting at the New Zealand Herald.
Sue Bradford, sponsor of the original law that has caused all the fuss, has responded with another idiotic idea: that the Clerk of the House (the legal advisor to Parliament, who referees these things) should ensure that any referendum question be "not ambiguous, complex, leading or misleading".
In other words: it's not enough that 10% of the entire country feels strongly enough to sign a petition - now they've got to get the wording past an arbitrary authority who might, for all we know, be a government stooge.
This is typical of Ms Bradford's way of thinking. She's an old-school authoritarian, convinced to the very core of her being that She Knows Best what's right for us all. That's how we got here in the first place.
Here's a better idea: change the law so that the people who sign a referendum petition have to pay for it themselves. It'd come to about $30 each, which is within the reach of just about anyone who really feels strongly about the subject. Let the signatories show some commitment to their cause. If they feel strongly enough about a meaningless question to waste their money on it, who are we to stop them? It's only our money that we should have a veto over.