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Constitutional debate difficult to avoid

Media statement
For immediate release
Wednesday, February 16, 2008

Constitutional debate difficult to avoid

UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne says that while former Prime Minister Mike Moore's call for a constitutional convention is nothing new, the basic message behind it should not be ignored.

"While some will automatically dismiss his comments as no more than summertime mutterings from an eccentric relative, the point behind them cannot be so easily ignored.

“New Zealanders are interested in constitutional questions, and will become increasingly keen to debate them, so we need therefore to be thinking actively about the best forum for such a debate, and its timing.

"It will clearly need to be handled independently of politicians to give it credibility, and over more than the span of one Parliament, and will have to tackle the big questions about the future role and place of the Treaty of Waitangi and republicanism," he says.

Mr Dunne, who chaired the constitutional select committee which reviewed New Zealand's current constitutional arrangements in 2004-05, says it is time to revisit the committee's recommendations regarding an ongoing public education process on constitutional matters, and a more active Parliamentary process for dealing with issues with a quasi constitutional aspect.

"In recent years, the constitutional debate has been too patchy, focusing on one-off issues like the establishment of our own Supreme Court, or even the recent debate on the Electoral Finance Act.

"We need to bring more focus to the debate, rather than just continue to let things drift," he says.

Mr Dunne, who personally strongly favours New Zealand becoming a republic within the Commonwealth, says it is time to start a much more active debate.

"To that extent Mike Moore has a point, and his call should not be dismissed," he says.


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