Liberal Party Launches Draft Constitution for NZ
New Zealand Liberals launch draft Constitution for New Zealand
The New Zealand Liberal Party launches itself today by publishing for public consultation a 153 page draft of a Constitution for New Zealand. The New Zealand Liberals has been resurrected by a small Auckland group of ordinary citizens frustrated with the lack of representation of middle New Zealand.
“Labour and National may fight over the middle ground but neither of their core supporters represent mainstream New Zealand values.” said Mr Jonathan Lee, the Liberal’s Party Convenor.
“We’re fed up with the charade of fops, quick to abandon any principles in the name of managerial politics. Our national leadership has been reduced to the naked ambition of two individuals and their cohorts in the personal pursuit of the premiership, and the patronage it bestows on financial backers and other supporters.”
“The minor parties are single-issue interest groups.” Mr Lee added.
“Historically the New Zealand Liberal Party was associated with the social views of the Fabians through people such as William Pember Reeves, the first Minister of Labour in the Liberal Government of 1892.” Mr Lee said. “It was the Liberal Party that represented small businesses and the salaried. It was the emergence of Labour that split the Liberal voice between socialism and toryism but it was not, does not and will not reflect the view of mainstream New Zealand.”
“The New Zealand Liberals want, to quote Abraham Lincoln, government of the people, by the people and for the people.” Mr Lee holds. “Our Statement of Beliefs asserts our aspiration to liberty, justice and security, where government not only protects our personal and civil liberties but also provides reliable social benefits in employment, education, healthcare, housing and social security—equally and particularly to everyone and every culture.”
“The New Zealand Liberals are not neo-conservatives but social democrats that believe in a mixed economy consisting mainly of private enterprise but with effective, efficient and economic government funding of our social benefits that enables everyone, especially our children, to get a fair go at life.” Mr Lee said. “When faced with an uncertain economic outlook, these social benefits are much more important to us than the lure of tax cuts, which will only add to inflationary pressure.”
“We also believe when New Zealanders voted for MMP, we voted for more accountable government.” Mr Lee added. “A decade later, we’ve got much less accountability. This Government has enacted laws under urgency to stifle free speech and misappropriate public money for party political purposes. And there’s nothing but token resistance from the Opposition because it knows laws like the Electoral Finance Act benefit the incumbent parliamentary parties.
But this style of managerial politics is causing rifts even within those parties.” “Of great concern to us has been the undermining of the independence of our Public Service by this Government with or without the tacit or explicit acquiescence of the most senior Public Servant.” Mr Lee said. “And while our democratic institutions are being damaged, the Auditor General and the Ombudsman have proven impotent, incapable or unwilling to rise to the defence of our democracy, largely because they have no fundamental duty to do so.”
“It’s the time for the people of New Zealand to stand up and be counted. A codified constitution delimits the power of the Prime Minister, their control of the Cabinet, the Cabinet’s control of Caucus, and Caucus’s control of the House of Representatives.” Mr Lee said. “Under the guise of
‘The Sovereignty of Parliament’, our existing parties have created a Leviathan in the premiership more powerful than the President of the United States—and we must put an end to it. Codified constitutions are only ‘inflexible’ because the politicians have to put the changes they want through the people.”
“The forthcoming election will be the last chance—if the opportunity has not already eluded us— to have a codified constitution.” Mr Lee warned. “After this, no new party will be able to summon enough funds to take on Labour and National, both of which prefer to contest for unlimited patronage than be subject to proper constitutional government.”
“If nothing else, this year’s election will be a referendum for a codified Constitution” Mr Lee said. “A vote for the Liberals will be a mandate to create such a constitution for the benefit of New Zealand as a whole.”
“Even then, to achieve a Constitution it will take momentum in the form of mass popular support and the speed to enactment.” Mr Lee added. “A Commission, Royal or otherwise, or a Constitutional Convention of Eminent People, are both open invitations for vested interests to derail the process. First, we must get a mandate—then we hammer out the detail.”
“This initial draft of the Constitution we are publishing today consists of five rudiments—
“First, it reintroduces a bicameral parliament. The 1891 Legislative Council Act emasculated what had been an effective second chamber by shortening the term to seven years and introducing [Prime] Ministerial appointment to it. We need a second chamber to reject substandard legislation, and legislation that undermines accountability or allows the misappropriation of public money. Furthermore, we need a second chamber to ensure proper consultation with Maori and all other ethnic peoples; the reserved Maori seats in the House of Representatives only have the guise of consultation.”
“Second, to replace the Prime Minister’s patronage through the Cabinet Appointments and Honours Committee, the Constitution introduces a Presidential Appointments Commission with an independent, transparent and accountable process free of such political patronage. It will also have a mandate to develop a cadre of qualified people for governance and senior executive positions that is more representative of the demographics of the population.”
“Third, the Constitution introduces boards of governance with oversight of Departments of State and Commissions, presided over by the Responsible Minister and to which the Secretary (chief executive) reports and derives their delegated powers. No investors in a public company would tolerate a one-on-one relationship between chairperson and chief executive, and executive chairpersons are rarely successful from investors’ view. With the requisite expertise, such boards would have far more insight into the direction and risks of large government departments and corporations, and how they are being managed. They need less policy and more authority”
“Fourth, it sets an explicit cap on the spending of government as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product and spells out the standards by which legislation specifies the justification for expenditure and how such outcomes will be measured. While it will never be possible to eliminate Ministerial latitude in manipulating appropriations, it will make it much, much more difficult.
“And fifth, it scraps the office of the Ombudsman. It’s replaced by a Constitutional Court, with a Constitutional [Peoples] Advocate and an Office of Constitutional Investigation. This separates the roles the 1976 Ombudsman Act tried to combine and provide effective protection for the Constitution. It will also combine the plethora inspectors, ombudsmen, complaint authorities and commissions few of which have the powers, privileges or prerogatives to do and be seen to do the tasks they have been set. The Constitutional Court will have the authority to intervene, strike down that which is repugnant to the Constitution and to impose penalties up to and including custodial sentences.”
“The Treaty of Waitangi is recognised as the founding covenant of the nation because without such recognition there is no legitimate rule of law in New Zealand. But the Constitution does not attempt to resolve any outstanding grievances. It also recognises Maori as our indigenous people with particular but equal rights to any and all other ethic peoples, consistent with the 2007 United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous.”
“There is no mention of HM The Queen; the President, who has no power but some influence, is quite deliberately described as the Head of the Government, not of the State. Queen Elizabeth is greatly admired by many people in New Zealand—with just cause. The Irish retained the King, as King of Ireland, from the inauguration of the Free State in 1922 until 1937, following the death of King George V, when they passed a short Public Act adopting the President as Head of State.”
Mr Lee said. “We wish the Queen a long and happy life but the end of her reign shall come, and we should be prepared for it, whatever the consensus of the People will be at that time.”
“There are other aspects in the Constitution besides these, such as the recognition of the Fourth Estate—the press—the raising of the status of the Auditor General, the explicit public funding of political parties, an electoral college for the judiciary and so on.” Mr Lee added.
“The Constitution is based on selecting those parts of other constitutions that best match our unique circumstances and, where we have found no such match, we have not shied away from innovation.” Mr Lee said. “This is a first draft, there are faults, errors and omissions, and it will greatly benefit from submissions, which we need to receive by the end of May this year.”
“Once we have revised the draft, we shall then begin a consultation programme around the country and publish our final draft before the election campaign proper starts.” Mr Lee said. “It is our firm intent to mount as full an election campaign as the current law permits. Our objective is to secure the support of at least 1 in 20 voters. If we achieve 1 in 10 or more, we believe we may well have enough influence to ensure the adoption of a Constitution—not necessarily ours— unless Labour and National join together for the sole purpose of stopping or frustrating it.”
“As a new party with limited available resources, we shall be relying on the mobilization of people power to achieve our objective.” Mr Lee said. “We shall also be advertising for suitably qualified, experienced and committed candidates for the House of Representatives, as well as for members, who want to participate in such selection—and for volunteers and donations.”
“All other principle Liberal policies are in draft form and will be released in due course at the appropriate time as the election campaign unfolds.” Mr Lee concluded.