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Greens encourage debate on constitution

8 March, 2004

Greens encourage debate on constitution

The Green Party is welcoming the growing interest in constitutional change, but is warning that any inquiry is only one step in a long process towards building an informed debate.

Green Treaty spokesperson, Nandor Tanczos, has been actively engaged in cross-party moves to hold an inquiry into New Zealand's constitution following last year's consideration of the Supreme Court Bill. The Justice and Electoral select committee is due to further consider the recommendation in the near future.

"Recent political grandstanding has pushed constitutional change into the headlines," said Nandor. "But this is not a new issue. The Greens have been discussing it on the Justice and Electoral Select Committee and with the Attorney General for some time. It is time some other politicians got with the programme.

"Let's be quite clear: it's not up to any politician or select committee or even parliament to unilaterally decide what changes to make to our constitution. It needs far broader legitimacy than that. The job of the parliamentary select committee is to clarify our current constitution and to come up with a framework under which a debate can take place.

"We need to develop a process which will include, inform and encourage the participation of all New Zealanders.

"The cynical manipulation of public opinion over the last month has shown that many people remain confused about the role of the Treaty in our constitution. That confusion proves that the last thing this country needs is the 'instant-remedy' of a Royal Commission-type inquiry into the Treaty.

"Like it, loath it or wallow in ignorance of it, the Treaty remains this country's founding document and cannot be 'rewritten' every time a politician needs a quick-fix in the polls. It's the cornerstone of our country and cannot be removed without threatening the whole building.

"Any reinterpretation of what the Treaty means today has to be a renegotiation between the parties who signed it," said Nandor. "What we can do is use it as a starting point to determine what are the appropriate constitutional arrangements for New Zealand in the 21st century."


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