February 9, 2017
Donald Trump and Treaty of Waitangi issues added topicality and spice to the Constitution Aotearoa discussion with Former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer and constitutional lawyer Dr Andrew Butler. In Queenstown at the invite of Catalyst, they met with an engaged audience keen to participate in a nationwide conversation about New Zealand’s Constitution.
New Zealand does have a constitution, but it is neither well-known nor well understood. It is subject to political whim, as Parliament can change or remove fundamental rights and protections without consultation or a popular mandate.
Palmer and Butler argued a modern, codified Constitution would strengthen democracy, make government more transparent and accountable, and protect human rights. They proposed a constitution “that is easy to understand, reflects New Zealand’s identity and nationhood, protects rights and liberties, and prevents governments from abusing power”.
Lively discussion considered the opportunity to learn from constitutional disruption happening elsewhere in the world – to enhance democratic participation and protect our freedom and civil liberties. Concern was also raised about the absence in our current Bill of Rights of any environmental rights.
As Andrew said, this is the beginning of a long game – but one better played out before a Constitutional crunch makes us realise we should have had one, discussed and agreed on.
More on the presenter’s proposals and the discussion can be read below: