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Oaths to be modernised by new Bill

Hon Phil Goff - Minister of Justice

10 May 2005

Oaths to be modernised by new Bill

A Bill modernising oaths and affirmations taken by new citizens, public office holders and some state sector employees was introduced to Parliament today by Justice Minister Phil Goff.

The major change to oaths and affirmations is that new citizens and parliamentarians will in future pledge loyalty to New Zealand, as well as the Queen, and will commit themselves to upholding New Zealand's values of democracy, and the rights and freedoms if its people.

The Oaths Modernisation Bill is the result of a review process, which included public submissions, undertaken last year by the Ministry of Justice.

"The review was the first comprehensive examination of our oaths and affirmations for nearly 50 years. It found that modernising the language used in some oaths would bring greater clarity, while inconsistencies between oaths also needed to be removed," Mr Goff said.

"The oaths updated by this Bill cover Allegiance, Citizenship, Members of Parliament, the Judiciary, Executive Councillors, Parliamentary Under-Secretaries, members of the Armed Forces, Police, special constables, and the local government officials' declaration. The Bill provides a Maori version of each oath as an option.

"Amendments to the Governor-General's oath is also proposed, but any change would be outside this legislation because it is prescribed in the Letters Patent, which is issued by the Queen under Royal Prerogative.

"In the case of the Police and the Armed Forces, the new oaths, while using modern language, are not different in substance from existing oaths, to avoid the consequences of having personnel serving on different terms."

Mr Goff said modernising the 11 oaths involved removing archaic language, and words or phrases that were redundant or lacked clear meaning; simplifying meanings, and ensuring a consistency of language wherever appropriate.

"Standard phrases have been incorporated where possible. For example, several variations of the reference to the Sovereign have been replaced with the words 'Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of New Zealand, her heirs and successors'.

"While the oaths are modernised, and some incorporate additional values and beliefs, they retain as far as possible the essential meaning or substance of each oath, and the formality and solemnity of oaths.

"Public consultation during the review drew only a limited response, but there was clear support for retaining the current values and beliefs, particularly loyalty to the Queen.

"Whether or not New Zealand becomes a republic was not an issue addressed in this exercise," Mr Goff said.


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