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Dunne launches UF constitution policy

17 August 2005

Dunne launches UF constitution policy

The process of constitutional reform begun by the recent parliamentary inquiry initiated by United Future must be continued if New Zealand is to move forward as a nation, United Future leader Peter Dunne said today in launching his party's policy on constitutional matters.

"Now that the select committee has set the platform by putting together the pieces of New Zealand's constitutional jigsaw, we need to keep up the momentum by establishing a Royal Commission to build a constitution for the future."

"It would effectively embark on a conversation with New Zealanders to find out which issues causing them concern and explore mechanisms to deal with them," Mr Dunne said.

"This should include questions of whether New Zealand should become a republic, whether there should be a written constitution, and the place of the Treaty of Waitangi."

However, Mr Dunne any recommendations should be supported by a clear majority in a binding referendum before they were adopted. "United Future believes that ultimately the constitution is the property of all New Zealanders"

This philosophy is also echoed by United Future's proposed changes to the use of referenda.

"The passage of the Prostitution Law Reform, Supreme Court and Civil Union Acts demonstrate that laws which significantly impact on the social and constitutional direction of our country are too easily foisted upon us by groups whose views simply do not accord with those held by majority of New Zealanders.

"Changes are needed so that citizens can be confident that the views of the majority are reflected in the laws enacted by Parliament."

Any conscience issue passed by Parliament by less than a 60% majority will automatically go to a public referendum. The result will be binding only if the turnout is at least 60% of all eligible voters, and the motion passes by a 60% majority of those voters.

The outcome of a citizens' initiated referendum that emerges in direct response to a law passed in Parliament will be binding if it receives the support of 60% of voters in a referendum that attracts 60% turnout of valid voters. In these circumstances, the Bill in question will be repealed or amended accordingly.

However, the number of petition signatures required to trigger a citizens' initiated referendum that is not directly related to recent legislation will be reduced from 10% to 5% of valid voters. In these cases the referendum result is indicative rather than binding, but the government must conduct an inquiry into the concerns raised by the referendum if it wins majority support.

United Future's constitution policy also includes commitments to:

* establish a new national day on which all New Zealanders celebrate what unites us rather than what divides us.

* ensure that the school curriculum includes New Zealand history, including the Treaty of Waitangi, as well as other forms of civics education, such as learning about the democratic process.

* support another binding referendum on MMP so that New Zealanders can have their say

* consider extending the term of Parliament to four years, with a fixed election day

* Work with Maori to develop a timetable for the phase-out of separate Maori seats in Parliament, as recommended in the 1986 Royal Commission on the Electoral System.

ENDS

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