It seems to be the season for tinkering with our constitutional arrangements. We have the “The report of Makiki Mai Aotearoa The “independent working group on constitutional transformation” and we have Sir Geoffrey Palmer, and his acolyte’s proposed written constitution for New Zealand. The former is part of the seemingly unending attempts by small and unrepresentative bodies of persons claiming some Maori blood to persuade the general public that the Treaty of Waitangi requires that they should have equal political and constitutional standing along with the other ninety percent of New Zealanders.

The latter purports to be a serious attempt by two authors claiming to be versed in constitutional law and practice to encourage the voting public to sever our ties with the Monarchy and in its place to adopt a written constitution which among other bon bons enshrines the Treaty of Waitangi as New Zealand’s founding constitutional document. This article is concerned with the latter.

Why a written constitution?
The question not confronted in the draft document is why do we need one? Are our present unwritten arrangements broken? Is there some imminent threat to the liberty of the subject which can only be averted by writing down and enacting into law a codification of all of the existing protections which preserve our liberties? Unless I have missed some looming danger of an attack on those guarantees of our way of life which we hold dear, and an imminent failure of the existing arrangements to ward off such an attack the answer is unequivocally “no”. Indeed it is difficult to identify a society which offers more clearly enunciated and readily available protection of its rights and liberties than does New Zealand.....

Continue reading Anthony Willy’s comprehensive NZCPR guest commentary here >


Geoffrey Palmer is at it again.

Not content with creating the Treaty grievance industry by extending the jurisdiction of the Waitangi Tribunal back to 1840, and inserting ‘undefined’ Treaty principles into legislation – enabling activist Judges to invent new Treaty ‘rights’, he now wants replace the sovereignty of the Queen with a new Constitution embedding the Treaty as superior law: “I remain of the opinion that the Treaty, like the Bill of Rights, should become part of New Zealand’s new superior law Constitution”.

This new attack on the sovereignty of our Parliament follows on from the Maori Party’s 2012 attempt to introduce a new Treaty-based constitution, through their $4 million taxpayer-funded ‘constitutional review’. The concept was rejected by the public, and then shelved.

The reality is that a country’s constitution belongs to the people. It is the charter that sets out the basic rules by which a nation is governed – such as the rights and safeguards of citizens, how state power is exercised, and how Members of Parliament are elected.

New Zealand is said to have an ‘unwritten’ constitution, because like the UK and Israel, our constitution is not found in a single document – it’s a collection of statutes, conventions, and common law rights. This guarantees a flexibility and simplicity that makes New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements the envy of nations across the globe.

Our unwritten constitution also gives us one of the world’s strongest Parliamentary democracies. In New Zealand, the elected Members of Parliament who make the laws are answerable to the public through the ballot box. This gives New Zealanders a power over law-making that is not found in countries with written constitutions, where judges, who cannot be sacked, are in charge of law-making.

Judges would be in charge here too, if Sir Geoffrey’s gets his way......

Continue reading Dr Muriel Newman’s NZCPR newsletter here > http://www.nzcpr.com/parliamentary-sovereignty-under-attack/#more-20770


Some of us quite like a system that means issues like abortion, the death penalty, affirmative action, political campaign donations, and yes, even gun rights, can be decided by an elected Parliament, not unelected judges.

The irony is that in suggesting something that is unwanted and unwarranted, Palmer and Butler are drawing public attention to the benefits of our current constitutional arrangements......

Read full article here > http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11739393


Business New Zealand has taken a swipe at suggestions that New Zealand should have a written constitution, saying it would upset a delicate balance of powers in New Zealand and encourage more litigation.

The push for a written constitution got a boost last month in a new book co-authored by former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer.

It had a range of suggestions, including Republican status for New Zealand, a stronger Bill of Rights, limits on parliamentary urgency and incorporation of the Treaty of Waitangi into constitutional law.

But a column written for Business New Zealand by legal adviser Barbara Burton took a contrary view.....

"It would be a backward step for business and society generally to upset the working balance of powers delivered by our current constitutional arrangements." ....

Read full article here > http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/business/315247/businesses-criticise-calls-for-nz-constitution

New Zealand doesn't need a written constitution

By Dr Noel Cox, a barrister in Auckland, was previously professor of law at Auckland University of Technology and more recently at Aberystwyth University in the UK.

Why take on difficult issues of written rule — like the Treaty — when a flexible approach works.

Former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer is promoting a written constitution for New Zealand, arguing it is necessary because the current constitution is not readily accessible to the non-specialist.

Two principal difficulties immediately come to mind. The first is the question of a written entrenched constitution (one changeable only by a special process), and the second is the (not unrelated) issue of the Treaty of Waitangi........

.......Unless they are prepared to wrestle with large issues, most contentious of which is the Treaty of Waitangi, or entrenchment, proponents of constitutional reform should tread warily.

Read Noel Cox’s full article here > http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11723668


For years former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer has been deploring the “unbridled power” that New Zealand’s constitutional setup affords, but he was perhaps among the worst offenders during his time as Justice Minister in the way he pushed his personal Treaty of Waitangi solutions while circumventing public opinion.

Along with fellow lawyer Andrew Butler (no relation to this writer), Palmer is about to release A Constitution for Aotearoa New Zealand, a book that argues why New Zealand needs a written constitution and what a first draft of that constitution entails.

Any sentence containing the words “constitution”, “Aotearoa” and “treaty” would alarm those who have witnessed the damage to race relations caused by 30 years of policy to accommodate the demands of a handful of Maori separatists.

The pre-story for the Palmer-Butler book shows that Palmer wants:

1. A written constitution;

2. That enshrines the Treaty of Waitangi, limited to the Maori text and the official English text referred to in the Treaty of Waitangi Act;

3. That replaces the Queen as head of state with a governor general appointed by Parliament to a five-year term;

4. With a locked-in four-year election cycle.

5. That allows senior judges to invalidate acts of Parliament

The alleged problem that Palmer and Butler are seeking to solve is that he says that there is nothing to prevent a worst case scenario where one powerful person could influence Cabinet, which in turn controls Parliament, which enacts laws the courts cannot overturn, in other words, a dictatorship.

There have been a few such figures, like Sir Robert Muldoon and “King Dick” Seddon, although we could probably add Helen Clark and the Lange Labour government, of which Palmer was a part.

But the worst case scenario that Palmer warns of has not eventuated in 176 years because the way our system works is that voters get tired of these domineering leaders and vote them out.

Palmer used the “unbridled power” of the 1980s Lange Labour Government to set the treaty grievance gravy train in motion.

He wrote in his earlier 1992 book New Zealand’s Constitution in Crisis that because addressing Maori grievances was politically unpopular, legislation to address grievances ran the risk of being outvoted. So he set up “processes, and procedures and the principles on which decisions should be based”.

His 1985 amendment to the Treaty of Waitangi Act allowed claims all the way back to 1840, which led to the re-litigation of old issues, the rewriting of history, and resulting in the payment of $3.2-billion in grievance money.

Palmer wrote that in 1985 he did some research on the outstanding grievances and it did not appear that looking into them would open a can of worms, which many feared. I took the view that the claims may take a decade to deal with, that it would cause some anguish but would be worth it in the end.

Three decades later those claims are still going strong.

There is little evidence that we’re all champing at the bit for a new constitution with a Treaty clause in it, as Palmer appears to believe.

The Constitutional Review that took place in 2013 turned up the data on attitudes that showed.

There is no sense of an urgent or widespread desire for change,” Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said when releasing the official Constitutional Advisory Panel’s final report.

Moreover, 96 percent of the 1222 written submissions to the Independent Constitutional Review’s parallel consultation opposed the inclusion of the Treaty of Waitangi in our constitutional arrangements.