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PlaNet News & Views

Posted on 15 -11-2004


NZ Government Re-views Constitutional Reform

by Alan Marston, 13 Nov04
Watch PlaNet TV (see page 1 for viewing details) for latest programme,
about Human Rights and the spotlight that throws on NZ's lack of a
constitutional law.
Clearly the Labour Government's forrays into basic law changes in respect
of private property - like anything to do with that holy of holys in a
capitalist system - is having unpleasant repercussions. A bit of tidying
up is now a political imperative. Prime Minister Helen Clark today
announced that a special parliamentary select committee would carry out a
"stocktake" of New Zealand's constitutional development.
She told the Labour Party's annual conference in Auckland the country's
unwritten constitution was scattered over a range of statutes and
unwritten conventions which were not widely understood. Helen Clark said
all parties would be represented on the committee, which would be chaired
by United Future leader Peter Dunne. "The committee's terms of reference
will invite it to do a stocktake of how our constitution has developed to
where it is today, and to analyse the current arrangements," she said in a
speech prepared for the conference. "It will be asked to review other
nations' experiences of constitutional reform, and to look at ways in
which New Zealand might approach constitutional reform -- if that's deemed
desirable in future."
Miss Clark said the committee would be asked to report back on its
stocktake before the 2005 general election, which must be held before the
end of September next year. The stocktake is just the first step in a
wider exercise involving recommendations for change.
Mr Dunne has previously told NZPA that republican status will not be a
specific term of reference, although he expected the issue would "raise
its head" in the context of future possibilities.
Helen Clark told delegates at the conference that any change would take a
lot of time, and a "full and proper" process of public discussion and
involvement - which is political speak for nobody knows what to do.
She made only one reference to the Treaty of Waitangi as being part of the
stocktake process. "One question often raised is just what is the status
of the treaty in New Zealand's constitutional arrangements, and we need
greater clarity on that," she said. This time, a consitutional debate
needs to cover people as people, irrespective of their `birthright' or any
other so-called rights that only act to distinguish one person from