Critics of the constitutional review accuse it of working towards a predetermined outcome that will see the Treaty of Waitangi entrenched as supreme law and judges given powers to strike down any law deemed to be in breach of Treaty “principles”.
The National Party agreed to the review as part of its deal with the Maori Party after the last election. As New Zealand First Party leader Winston Peters pointed out, there was no public demand for it; it arose out of opportunistic political horse-trading. Such are the flaws of the MMP system.
Critics are also suspicious of the review panel’s composition. Although it’s co-chaired by respected law academic John Burrows, it appears disproportionately weighted toward Maori. Sir Tipene O’Regan is the other co-chair and Dr Ranginui Walker is one of the four other Maori members.
Mr Peters is not alone in expressing misgivings. In fact alarm bells are being rung right across the political spectrum.
Former Act MP Muriel Newman is campaigning against the review and left-wing political commentator Chris Trotter wrote a scathing column in this paper pointing out that the supremacy of parliament – a central tenet of our constitutional arrangements – was under threat.
The fact that the review panel has so far operated largely out of the public view has done little to allay the critics’ suspicions, but the panel’s website now lists a range of organisations that it has been having “conversations” with. Openness is surely the best approach if it wants to reassure people there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Karl blogs at www.karldufresne.blogspot.co.nz. First published in the Dominion Post.