Saturday, October 27, 2012

Karl du Fresne: Wide concerns over Maori Party's constitutional review

IT MAY be happening largely out of the public gaze, but that doesn’t mean the review of New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements isn’t being closely watched.

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
First published in the Dominion Post.


Barry said...

Another attempt to maorify NZ

Anonymous said...

Yes, the review was horsetrading but don't keep going on blaming MMP. Maori MPs are electorate members. It would be better to abolish them

Denis McCarthy said...

Even at this early stage we need to get a firm commitment from all political parties that no constitutiional change will be enacted without the consent of the people as a whole - that is, a binding referendum. We don't want yet another unmandated and unwanted stitched up deal put in place just to suit the politicians.

I really hope that the conservative grass roots members of the National Party will put pressure on their MPs telling them that just for once they should listen to the people.

We are in fact a pretend democracy with no ability to control or restrain our politicians between elections. Now if we had Swiss style Direct Democracy this proposed new Constitution would not even be on the radar. Surely it's time we put in place genuine democratic reform as the Swiss did
many decades ago!

Hugh said...

We are constantly, and often steathily, sliding down a path of racial divide in N Z. Decades of fawning by Governments have granted rights and priviledges to one sector, and for no other reason than political advantage.

If this nation is to survive and not become a Zimbabwe, then we MUST get back to an equal rights environment in all levels of society and politics.