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Salient: An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 12, No. 8, July 27th, 1949.

When Is A Referendum Not A Referendum?

When Is A Referendum Not A Referendum?

Sir,—At a time when much use is made of the terms "democracy," "freedom of opinion" and things of which this country is supposed to be a bulwark, it is interesting to contemplate the behaviour of the present government, with the tacit consent of the National Party, in connection with the forthcoming referendum on Conscription. It is interesting to contemplate the roadside hoardings, the full-page advertisements, the post-marks, the house-to-house leaflets, and the endless radio announcements provided by the Government out of the kindness of its heart and the pockets of the voters, for the "Vote Yes" campaign.

How can this referendum possibly be a fair test of public opinion when not only the usual partisan pressure of the daily press, and the wealth of such vested interests as the Joint Defence Action Committee, are thrown into one side of the scale, but also the unlimited financial and technical resources of the State are used to ensure a "yes" vote?

Those who attempt to post slogans against conscription are liable to prosecution, yet public railway stations, post offices, railway carriages, radio programmes, and road-side hoardings are plastered with pro-conscription propaganda, by the Government. One can well question, when the means of providing the propaganda is dishonest, whether or not the propaganda itself is dishonest.

In May, the Government announced that the decision on whether there would be conscription or not would be left to the "free decision" of the voters. The Government have now proceeded "to spend the voters' money on telling them how they should vote. The voters are now free to vote against conscription only if they have been free from the cumulative effect of acres of Government-sponsored pro-conscription propaganda. Instead of the promised referendum we are being given a hollow old fraud.

H. C. Evtson.