Referendum campaigners relieved at election delay

Referendum campaigners relieved at election delay
Photo credit: Getty

By Alex Perrottet of RNZ.

Most campaigners over the two referendums in this year's election are breathing a sigh of relief that voting day has been delayed another month, giving them time to change more minds. 

The two referendum topics - euthanasia and cannabis legalisation - have been subject to much debate this year, but for those most involved in the campaigning it's clearly not enough. 

In the latest effort to get the public thinking about euthanasia and what the End of Life Choice Bill is proposing, Vote Safe New Zealand has launched an online quiz

There are 10 questions aimed at surprising people with how much or little they may know about what might soon become law after the election. 

One of the questions in's quiz on euthanasia
One of the questions in's quiz on euthanasia Photo credit: Supplied / Vote Safe NZ

Henoch Kloosterboer from Vote Safe NZ told Checkpoint many people he speaks to do not know some of the basics of the proposed law. 

"They can take a simple 10-question quiz which will help them to upskill on some of these less-known details that are very relevant and important to how we decide to vote. 

"We're not really wanting to tell people how to vote, we're just wanting to make sure everyone is truly informed on the wider implications of what the Act would allow." 

He said he was also campaigning for a delay to the election, and had launched an online petition that garnered 2500 signatures before the prime minister's announcement on Monday morning. 

He said there had been confusion about the topics and more time would help. 

"People are not necessarily up to the play with what it's actually about or not about. 

"We're hearing a lot of people who believe the referendum is actually about things like turning off life support or 'do not resuscitate' orders, or palliative medication that may hasten death, whereas all of these options are already legal currently." 

But the bill's proponent and number one campaigner David Seymour - who said the prime minister had no choice but to delay the election - said it was patronising to say people were not across the detail. 

"And I would caution my opponents from belittling or patronising the New Zealand people. The New Zealand people have what I call a finely-honed 'BS' detector and I warn my opponents not to trigger those detectors because it won't help them in their effort to turn people against choice," he said. 

He said the government referendum website was to be best trusted for information, though opponents of the bill said they were unhappy with the way the official questions are explained on that site. 

They argued the phrase "assisted dying" actually reflected something that was already legal and current practice in New Zealand, and "lethal dose" was more accurate language that should be used.

Voters will also get more time to mull over marijuana, with Chloe Swarbrick saying she was happy there was more time to convince people. 

"There's just greater opportunity to have those conversations with people and in my experience, unless you're approaching somebody who is not all too willing to open themselves up to the evidence, most people do end up coming around to the fact that a more sensible control and regulation of cannabis makes far more sense than the status quo that we've got," she said. 

She said there were some questions to be asked about campaign spending, now that all parties may be at risk of breaching their caps. 

Bob McCoskrie from Family First has been on a national tour to talk down both referendum topics, and says the lockdown has cut short their plans. 

"Very difficult to have public meetings and engage with people face to face. I don't think we want to have a whole campaign online, you miss out a whole proportion of the population."

He said he's happy for more time and thought it would ultimately suit the "no" campaigns.

The Electoral Commission said it was still working through the impact of the date change on expenditure limits and what that means for parties and campaigners.

It says it will be giving updated guidelines as soon as possible.