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;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.
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
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.