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Oaths discussion document released

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Justice

23 May 2004

Media Statement

Oaths discussion document released

New Zealanders are being invited to have a say on how the country's oaths and affirmations should be updated, in a discussion document released today by Justice Minister Phil Goff.

The oaths to be reviewed include those taken by new citizens, public office holders and some employees in the state sector. Oaths taken by professional groups and by witnesses in court are not being reviewed.

"There has not been a comprehensive review of oaths and affirmations for nearly 50 years. As a result, a lot of the language needs to be modernised to more clearly state the duties to be undertaken, while inconsistencies between different oaths also need to be removed," Mr Goff said.

"This review also offers a chance for people to express a view on whether our oaths accurately reflect the values and beliefs that are important to New Zealanders in the 21st century.

"One consistent criticism of the existing citizenship oath is that it does not pledge loyalty to New Zealand and respect for its laws, freedoms and values.

"In Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom this has now changed. In the UK, for example, a new citizen pledges loyalty to the Queen but also 'to give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen'.

"Before any decisions are made on altering or updating oaths and affirmations, however, it is important that ordinary New Zealanders have the chance to have their views taken into account.

"The discussion document will assist those wanting to make submissions. It includes information and current examples of oaths; a summary of recent overseas developments, and questions to ascertain whether people consider changes to be necessary and, if so, what sort of changes to which oaths."

Submissions are due to close on 30 June, with a report recommending what changes, if any, should be made is due to go to Cabinet by the end of August.

The discussion document is available online at www.justice.govt.nz

ENDS

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