To get a more 'yes' or 'no' answer from voters on a certain issue in government. They are a good way of making known the public view on an issue. For example in 2014 there will be a scottish independance referendum to see whether most of Scotland are in favour or not in favour of independance.
A referendum is important because it allows the public to voice its opinions on key issues. A referendum may be held, for example, to determine whether a certain amendment must be made to the Constitution.
No. The people of Australia voted "No" in two separate referendums.
Most democracies not have specific provision for referendums and in others there are limitations on the kinds of issues that can be put to a referendum. It would be a great mistake to regard referendums as the hallmark of a democracy.
They wanted initiatives and referendums because government should be more responsive to public opinion.
Referendums are normally questions that are placed to the entire electorate to vote on. They are carried out when constitutional issues are contested or too weighty for representatives to handle on their own.
The plural of refendum is referenda or referendums.
Either referendums or referenda is acceptable.
They are held because Australia is a democracy, and public opinion should decide yes or no on a given issue. In Western Australia we have had a long and tiresome debate (and 2 referendums) about daylight saving. In both referendums the public said no, but it went ahead anyway. We are about to have a third referendum on daylight saving. I don't understand why they are holding referendums that cost the public millions, when it seems to be already decided that the public's opinion will be ignored.