Republican Constitution Convention Website Launch
11 August 2005 Auckland, NZ
Republican Constitution Convention Website Launched
Following the near universal criticism of yesterday's Constitutional Affairs parliamentary select committee report a non-governmental attempt to craft a republican-style constitution for New Zealand has been launched today - on the internet.
"Ditching the Monarchy is a given," says Tim Selwyn, the current moderator, "in fact that is about the only pre-condition of these discussions. Comments are encouraged by the public and debate will be facilitated to achieve a set of consensus-based constitutional principles."
Mr Selwyn will appear in the Auckland District Court on June 6th next year for Sedition in a trial set down for eight days. June 5th is Queen's Birthday Holiday.
BEGINNING OF END FOR "CONSTITUTIONAL ANARCHY"
"As far as I can work out there are only three countries in the world without a formal, unitary, "written" constitution: UK, Israel and New Zealand. Why? Apathy, ignorance and an authoritarian streak made possible by national complacency" says Mr Selwyn.
The current Prime Minister is quoted as saying "the government's role is whatever the government defines it be." Mr Selwyn responds: "since no self-respecting public in a modern nation state would accept that proposition, we are left with the embarrassing conclusion that the public does not respect itself. Well, we aren't all like that and this convention website will provide the forum for people who want to ask the hard questions to come and discuss them in a structured way that leads to something whole and concrete."
Mr Selwyn sees his own prosecution by the authorities for distributing dissident material as stemming from a basic immaturity. To his own actions he says the : "The government sets the rules. I can play rough if the situation calls for it, or I can play nice - this constitutional convention is me playing nice."
He states: "Who thinks limitless and uncontrolled government power is a good thing? Because that's effectively what we have at the moment. They get away with it by refusing to define it and therefore bring it into the competence of the courts or some body of review. We are living in the bad old days right now, where property can be confiscated without compensation, where rights are unprotected and parliament can pass anything it wants within one day - this forum [constitutional convention] is the beginning of the end for that sort of constitutional anarchy. George Grey's hand-me-downs aren't good enough for 2005."
CONVENTION SUPPORTED BY PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE REPORT
"My personal thoughts will come out during the deliberations but I intend to facilitate and refine the views and criticisms of what's put up rather than attempt to lead the debate overly." says Mr Selwyn.
The convention site contains a list of links to the world's national constitutions of which about half (80) are currently connected.
The select committee's report says about the process for change: "non-partisan mechanisms to facilitate ongoing public discussion, engagement and deliberation (such as a neutral foundation, a citizens' assembly or forum..." The convention website is exactly such a forum.
Only 66 submissions were received and only 15 made comments on the select committee's website. "I would expect to easily exceed that with comments from "bloggers" alone" says Mr Selwyn, "other members of the public joining in will hopefully appreciate a thoughtful, robust, not overly academic debate. The final draft, encompassing a complete text of constitutional principles at the very least will be issued the day before next Waitangi Day in order spur more public and governmental discourse and focus our minds on the future."