Our Constitutional Gerrymander
Dame Silvia's musings on the Treaty of Waitangi and our constitution prior to leaving office to sit on a war crimes tribunal for Cambodia has come as no surprise to me. Many people in this country would have expected her to perhaps do somewhat more than take the less than one hour to sign off on the Foreshore and Seabed Act (you know, the anti-constitutional one that the UN report has found wanting) whilst holidaying at an undisclosed location when it was sent to her for her assent, given that many petitions asking her, begging her, to taihoa had been pouring into Government House since it was rushed into law with the utmost of undue haste after being re-written at the last possible moment by two ex-pat Poms (Michael Cullen and Dale Jones) and a cobbled together coalition of fear in Parliament earlier that week. In that respect the woman is negligent and has failed the people in order to reinforce the government and executive power at the expense of constitutionality. In that respect she is in no position for us to treat her words with anything other than tepid scepticism at best - dismissive contempt at par.
So in that context, that is to say the stench of hypocrisy forewarned, let us review her recent comments:
"If we are to make changes to our constitution to reflect the role of the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand society, it is important that all New Zealanders walk together at more or less the same pace."
Dame Silvia made the comments in a speech entitled "Our Constitutional Journey" to the Legal Research Foundation at the Northern Club in Auckland.
She said that since the 1970s there had been a consistent call from Maoridom for constitutional change to give greater effect to the Treaty of Waitangi.
The place of the Treaty in constitutional arrangements was one of the most important questions facing the country.
"It is not an issue that we can address with hasty reforms. It is something that all New Zealanders need time to reflect on, and discuss."
When she says "it is important that all New Zealanders walk together at more or less the same pace" she means that the slowest walker, ie. the most racist, red neck, Taranaki/Waikato/BOP benificiary of their forefathers' Crown-sanctioned genocide (ie. the exact same thing she is supposed to be bringing to justice in Cambodia) and wholesale land theft, or the streams of ignorant immigrants, can forever veto reform and can stop us moving forward. She is saying that Rosa Parks needs to stay at the back of the bus and behave herself until the boss man has a change of heart... at some stage in the very distant future. She lecturers us in glib vice-regal platitudes about going slow:
"As any good tramper knows, it is no good if a few eager-beavers take off ahead while others get left behind. The same can be said of significant constitutional change. "
Well, Cartwright, maybe the people being "left behind" are racist scum who have been oppressing all the other people and deserve to be alienated. Maybe those laggards have to see the others reach the end point to have confidence to get a move on and join them. White South Africa's referendum to end Apartheid in 1992 only just crossed the 2/3 threshold - would Cartwright have recommended they put that off for 50 years while the slow ones catch up? There are far more applicable, thoughtful and sanguine analogies than the depressing and negative one she chooses to draw.
Like the American constitution that had such fine words but failed to live up to those sentiments for many of it's people so the Treaty could be seen in the same light.
Cartwright is just doing what Governor-General's of old used to dispense: soothing inaccuracies and living out Pakeha Mythology - every bit as much as if she had the chooks feather hat on and declared that there is no racism in New Zealand. Only now the silly hats are gone but the essence of their political ideology and calculated appeasement has not. Is it in every Governor's job description to placate ignorant, beligerent Pakeha? When that negligent woman signed that Bill into law she chose to walk down the wrong path. She chose to ignor the warnings. She chose to let that constitutional journey go backwards - and then she has the temerity to opine on the matter and ignor her own constitutional malfeasance. The whole situation is just pathetic.
As far as her appointment to Cambodia goes I hope she doesn't go on holiday and then take less than an hour to read all the evidence before passing judgement on the accused in the same manner as she conducted the affairs of state while Governor-General. She is marginally more helpful in a judicial role than in mine clearance however, but there's nothing to stop her doing some of that once the trials are over.