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Conference to unearth NZ’s constitutional traditions


26 August 2013

Conference to unearth New Zealand’s constitutional traditions

A conference organised by Victoria University’s Faculty of Law aims to shed light on the fundamental ideals on which New Zealand’s constitutional law is based.

Hosted by Hon Chris Finlayson QC, Attorney-General of New Zealand, Unearthing New Zealand’s Constitutional Traditions will explore the history, and possible future, of the ideas, ideals and practices of constitutional law and politics which govern the exercise of public power in this country.

“By understanding these ideals we will be able to better understand the constitutional principles by which we should judge the exercise of public power,” says conference co-organiser, Dr Mark Bennett.

Dr Bennett says that in light of continuing debates about issues such as the place of the Treaty of Waitangi in our constitution, the framework of our democracy and various political and legal controversies surrounding the use of public power, taking a closer look at our constitutional ideals could not be more timely.
Keynote speakers are Emeritus Professor Andrew Sharp, University of Auckland and Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London; and Professor David Hackett Fischer, University Professor and Earl Warren Professor of History, Brandeis University.

Professor Sharp is an expert on the history of political thinking and political philosophy who has spent much of his career inquiring into the political ideas and constitutional histories of New Zealand and England.

Professor Fischer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who has recently written the book Fairness and Freedom: A History of Two Open Societies, which compares the fundamental political ideals of the United States and New Zealand.

“The conference brings together a range of perspectives provided by legal academics, historians and lawyers with experience in government and practice,” says conference co-organiser Dr Joel Colón-Ríos.

“It will reflect on important questions directed at unearthing the country’s tradition of constitutional thought, and what New Zealand’s constitution should look like in the future.”

This conference is part of a programme of events at the Faculty of Law which coincide with the Constitutional Conversation, taking place as part of the Government’s Constitutional Review.

It is another aspect of the New Zealand Centre for Public Law’s contribution to the Conversation—earlier this year it held a series of debates to discuss issues relating to the Constitutional Review. Both events have benefitted from generous financial support from the New Zealand Law Foundation.

Unearthing New Zealand’s Constitutional Traditions
Date: 29–30 August
Venue: Parliament Buildings, Wellington

For more information visit

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