One Tier – Wonderland (and NO Constitution)

Credit: Woolf Photography via parliament.nz

Guest Post

New Zealand is the only country in the world with no constitution. What we have are a series of imported Acts and locally passed Acts which jointly and severely form a type of constitution. The oldest of which is the U.K. imported Magna Carta which was first passed into law in 1215.

We also have a one tier parliament – which is equipped with unfettered and unbridled power to pass what legislation it wants – even overnight, and retrospective, as it did in 1988 when it amended s,13(5) of the Inland Revenue Act. This allowed IRD officers to hand out documents to police officers. Those documents being previously classified as secret pursuant to s.13(5) of the IRD Act. This resulted in a 5-years 8-month term of imprisonment for one person – based on what was later discovered to be an adding mistake. It took 18 years, and a trip to the Privy Council to reverse the erroneous convictions.    

A robust and well-founded constitution, coupled with an Upper House, would have prevented such misconceived and retrospective legislation. Up until 1951 New Zealand had an unelected upper house, it was made up of reasonably intelligent appointees. The House of Representatives had, as it does today, elected Members of Parliament. It was correct to repeal the unelected Upper House, but it should have been replaced with a proper constitution. A written constitution would have contained some of the excesses of power that have been exhibited by the various parliaments – who have striven to rule the land of the long white cloud. At one time our parliamentary cycle consisted of elections every four years. Those who wished to return to power quicker reduced that parliamentary cycle to 3 years – which means, we have had to put up with legislators who consistently pander to an ill-informed electorate. No long term planning is possible – what is the point? Any government that is able to think and plan, is likely to be voted out before any meaningful Act of Parliament takes effect.

In 1953, New Zealand had the fourth highest living standard in the world – since then, we have steadily dropped to no 29, and that drop shows no sign of abatement.

In 1984, New Zealand voted in its fourth Labour Government – it was made up of a collection of forward thinking politicians who showed little concern for the next election. This was the period of Rogernomics – named after Sir Roger Douglas, who took on a free market approach and changed Parliament forever. In the first 3-years Douglas was backed by a very able team, consisting of David Lange, Geoffrey Palmer, Mike Moore, Michael Bassett, Richard Prebble.

A look at the line up behind Jacinda Ardern is the frightening prospect – the probable sixth Labour Government consists of a collection of uneducated, inexperienced and naïve misfits, who would be lucky to run any form of business, little lone run a country.

That is something Labour is well aware of – all of their advertising surrounds Ardern. No mention is made of a “team and their experience”. That is, apart from Labour’s finance spokesman Grant Robertson, who is a graduate from Otago University majoring in the Arts. How Robertson expects to make major financial decisions affecting a whole country is a best guess – especially when he has no experience or qualifications in economics or accountancy.

Even the policeman’s daughter, Jacinda Ardern is only qualified in politics. And that is about it. No Geoff Palmer or Helen Clark. What is worrying is the possibility of several Labour Members of Parliament being elected under the MMP system, who are not chosen by the electorate, and who have the same degree of brainpower as one Alliance List MP from Rotorua who had spent her life on the DPB, and got in on the coat tails of the MMP system.

An Upper House, or Senate, is what New Zealand needs with urgency. Coupled with a proper constitution, we might stand a chance of rising up the living standard index, instead of lowering our living standards by electing politicians who pander to the electorate.

 

-The Oracle

 


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