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Jun 1, 2010

The oddest piece...

A CNA article appears today quoting an unnamed official. The very weird part is the unnamed official is supposedly only reminding us of things we know....

The article opens as follows:

On June 3rd, the Referendum Review Committee will review the ECFA Referendum application. [An unnamed] source from [the ruling] party and government administration stated that the Mainland Affairs Council and Economic Ministry have already made the government's position clear: as the ECFA mainly involves land taxes and investment issues, it is not a topic that can be brought to referendum....

At the public hearing [held by the Referendum Review Committee on the 27th], the MAC and MOE argued that the ECFA had provisions related to land taxes and investment, and therefore could not be a topic for referendum [according to the Referendum Act]. Furthermore, once the ECFA is signed, it will be sent to the Legislature for review, and only after its review has been passed will it take effect. The Legislature has complete oversight over the process and there is no need for an additional referendum. The Referendum Review Committee ought to reject the application, they argued.

The source from the party and government administration said that the MAC and MOE had already made the government's attitude clear. As far as the final decision on the ECFA referendum petition went, the government would respect the Referendum Review Committee's decision.

6月3日公審會將審議ECFA公投案。黨政人士今天表示,陸委會與經濟部已表明政府態度,主張涉及租稅、投資為主要內容的ECFA,不得作為公投的提案。...

陸委會與經濟部代表在公聽會主張,ECFA包含「租稅」及「投資」事項,不得作為公投的提案;且兩岸簽署ECFA後須送立法院審議,審議通過後才生效,國 會完全監督,沒有再公投必要,認為公審會應駁回公投案。

黨政人士說,陸委會與經濟部已清楚說明政府的態度,對於ECFA公投最後的准駁結果,政府尊重公審會的決定。

Why would this source wish to remain unnamed unnamed? That's what puzzles me the most, if they are just discussing a matter of public record. I feel like something else is going on there but can't really pin-point a reason for this odd anonymity.

The government's position is not far-fetched, considering Article 2 of the referendum law states:
No proposal of referendum may be raised for any matters regarding budgeting, taxation, investment, salary and personnel affairs.
The matters subject to referendum shall be recognized by the Referendum Review Commission (hereinafter referred to as "the Review Commission").
If you reject the government's theory, you can't argue that the referendum only deals with the question of whether the government ought to sign an abstract economic agreement with China (regardless of content). If you make that argument, you'll get rejected on these grounds:
Instead, it asks the public to vote on something that has not yet happened — since the ECFA is not a concrete policy yet. Hence, we decided that the petition did not meet the criteria for a referendum as stipulated in the Referendum Act (公民投票法),” committee chairman Chao Yung-mau (趙永茂) said....
But you can argue that in theory, any national referendum topic affecting government policy at all would affect the budget-- the KMT's 2008 referendum campaign for rejoining the UN would clearly have required budgeting UN dues if successful, since UN by-laws would require Taiwan to pay. But the intention of the Referendum Law is clearly not to bar all referendum topics; the degree of separation between a referendum topic and the budget/tax/investment details must exempt it from rejection on these grounds. In this case, the topic is on the signing of an ECFA rather than the ECFA's tax or investment related contents -- and therefore the referendum does not touch on the verboten topics.

I don't know if this argument would be taken into account by the committee, but I think 2008 sets enough of a precedent for at least an argument on these lines.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

The bottom line is that the committee will rule however they want to. The administration has made its position clear, and the committee is subordinate to the administration.

I think the DPP and TSU must be prepared to keep juxtaposing Ma's comment that he is not opposed to a referendum on an ECFA with the reality of the committee's rejection, while lambasting the government for ignoring the public will.

What worries me the most is the position that the legislature provides sufficient oversight of the ECFA to obviate the need for a referendum. The point of a referendum is to provide an additional check on state power. If the administration can claim that the legislature provides a sufficient check on the executive in this case, then what is to prevent the administration from making the same claim at a later date... such as in the case of the negotiations surrounding a "peace agreement"?

Beijing doesn't like referendums because they reduce its influence over policy making. The Ma administration seems to agree with this position, and is willing to use the referendum review process to effectively block any referendums that it finds inconvenient.