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Friday, December 23, 2005

Over the holidays

For our overseas visitors: That rat-chewed scrap of parchment being gawped over is the foundation document of New Zealand: The Treaty of Waitangi (1840). Made between the several sovereign entities of Maori tribes and confederations and the British Crown it is the original authorising instrument of legitimate government over the entirity of the country and is therefore the foremost national constitutional text in existence. It is a Treaty of annexation between nations and a Treaty of governing arrangements as the annexation came with conditions that remain in force - its status as irrevocable is thus moot. This document was declared invalid by a colonial Chief Justice in 1877, as part of the process of dismantaling Maori rights in order to promote and entrench the rights and powers of the British settlers, and despite references to it (esp. in fisheries legislation) the government acted as though it had no force. Only since 1975 has the government began to behave as though this Treaty ought to have some sort of force. We have a Constitution Act as well, but that is very brief and very vague - the rest of the constitution being scattered amongst various laws and unwritten procedures. As such we have no unitary "written constitution". I believe that only the UK and Israel are in a similar position. I also note that with Northern Ireland and the Occupied Territories, colonialism and land confiscation is also a part of the system in those two countries as well. With such unrestrained power will come unrestrained abuse of that power.

The panel containing a kiwi and flags in the right hand sidebar links to the Convention for a Republican Constitution. This is an online concept dedicated to establishing a process to create a constitution for our country that is formal, written, and in a unitary document. It is hoped that whatever may emerge can be presented in some form the day before Waitangi Day so it may be circulated for discussion - and perhaps a further online round.

This is not designed to state what we believe our constitution to be at present(separate codification projects are underway within the Convention site and at the Holden Republic). This effort is to explore what we want our constitution to become by both discussing the precis or basic document and also the process to move that text towards its implementation. To assist contributors an extensive list of links to other nations' constitutions are provided (almost all are links to the English language versions).

I read somewhere that Governor Grey wrote some of the provisions of our old constitution whilst on holiday/expedition in the middle of the North Island. So too with this project, these profound deliberations may best be made in the peaceful, relaxed, reflection of the holiday period. If anyone has something they would like to see in any new constitution I encourage them to make a contribution. To avoid any potential blogging bitch-fights and to keep the thoughts on the policies rather than the personalities all comments are to be made anonymously.

We can talk about the game and go round in circles; or we can talk about the rules of the game and get somewhere.


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