Good idea Geoffrey, let’s hope it won’t involve you in the drafting

Sir Geoffrey Palmer thinks it is time for a proper constitution to be drawn up.

It’s time for New Zealand to draw up its own constitution and a 40-page document would be enough, says constitutional law expert and former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer.

Palmer has long advocated greater attention to the country’s constitutional laws but said he had reached “a new plateau”.

In Nelson to address the Spirited Conversations group on this subject, he said he hadn’t before advocated a full written constitution.

The architect of the 1986 Constitution Act and the 1990 Bill of Rights Act, he said an entrenched bill of rights was no longer enough.

Yes, well, those dopey pieces of legislation are part of the problem not part of the solution, so let’s hope no one thinks Sir Geoffrey would be a good candidate for any constitution panel.

Whilst it sounds like a noble and grand idea the biggest problem I see with this is that Kiwis just aren’t mature enough to even have a debate on what should and shouldn’t be in a constitution. Look at the carry on over the flag referendum for proof of that.

The very best constitutions though come about as a result of an event like a coup or a revolution or the overthrowing of a corrupt or despotic regime. I fear that any constitutional process in New Zealand would be hijacked by lefty knobs.

Before we change our flag we will have to look at our constitutional arrangements, but I fear that in the current environment we would be looking at a nasty political shit fight.




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  • JLS

    If the RMA is anything to go by we wouldn’t want GP anywhere near anything again.

  • Totara

    So how well is the most famous constitution of all, the United States Constitution, actually respected by present day lawmakers? There have too many instances of abuse to count from Bush Jr and Obama.

    Looking closer to home, Sir Paul Reeves worked long and hard with the Fijian people to help them write a constitution. That only lasted until the next coup.

    Why does Geoffrey Palmer think that future New Zealand politicians would feel bound to respect a written constitution? The Labour Party can’t even follow their own party policy on changing the flag.

  • Vlad

    If Palmer had anything to do with it the 40 page document he quotes would be the explanatory preamble to the first clause.

  • Diehard

    Palmer is responsible for our current youth offending epidemic as well as the criminal friendly bill of rights act. He would be the last person who should be involved in the constitution discussion.

    I hope it never happens, it would be hijacked by Maori and the far left, we would probably all become tenants on our own land. Just like Fiji it would end in a coup.

  • XCIA

    I wouldn’t trust Palmer or any of his sycophants to walk my dogs. I just wish he would retire and go somewhere, anywhere far, far away before he causes us anymore grief with his “Rights” nonsense.

  • Disinfectant

    And how many amendments do we now have with the “American Constitution”?
    Any constitution should contain only a few basic rights. Under our own laws we are forever guided by the Magna Carta.
    Edit: change of words.

  • Cadwallader

    Given GP’s surge of excitement over including the TOW in any legislation, he is hardly an author of a constitution. If NZ can’t hold an apolitical referendum about a flag change how would we ever agree on the contents of a constitution? A few thoughts: The Greens would want a clause to prevent climate change, Labour would want the constitutional rights to extend to crims in OZ gaols, Winston would want it to especially apply to oldies and have his name on it. If GP was given the task he’d die decades before consensus. Not going to happen this century!

  • Cadae

    A good constitution should be fairly simple, and its main task should be to clearly protect citizens from arbitrary government power. 40 pages sounds way too long. Very few pages of unassailably clear statements is all it should take.
    I fear that many lefties in NZ view a constitution as an opportunity to extend the power of government. They will push for implementation of a pseudo-constitution that provides very little protection but will create a raft of bogus ‘rights’ that have to be funded by long-suffering taxpayers. 40 pages sounds just like such a document.

    • tas

      The US constitution is the world’s shortest – about 10 pages (including amendments). It is probably the world’s best constitution, as attested by its longevity. The world’s longest constitution is India’s at 80,000 words.

      40 pages is too long.

  • Monty

    If we were to have a constitution it must reflect the key principal of the USA constitution that is based on rights of individuals all who must be treated equally under the law and no reference to any particular group ( eg Maori /Muslim / gays etc)

    I believe we should leave it all up to Stephen franks and let him appoint appropriate people to the panel

  • ytooS

    Geoffry Palmer is still wet behind the ears. A useless waste of space!

  • Intrigued

    Please no…don’t let Geoffrey Palmer go ‘unbridled’ on a NZ constitution! It will be 40 pages of problems in the making for our future law courts and the only ones who will benefit will be the lawyers.

    And puhlease – why on earth would you start with an expectation of 40 pages?

  • Keanne Lawrence

    Ah Palmer. Never has there been an individual so aptly named.

    • Uncle Bully

      Are you forgetting Moroney?

  • tas

    When people say “we should have a written constitution” what they are really saying is “we should give the supreme court the power to overrule parliament.” No thanks. The lawyers have enough power as it is.

  • ross

    Geoffrey Palmer brought us the Treaty of Waitangi mess.