Oct 14, 2008

Need For Constitutional Change

A few days back a reader of The Hive commented that it would be interesting to have our views on who should be in a Labour or National Cabinet. We undertook to consider this, but we have to say that we have been increasingly attracted to the idea of putting down a list of names about who should be in cabinet - without having to constrain ourselves to a list of MPs (current or aspirant). In the UK for example, Gordon Brown has been able to plug skill gaps in his Cabinet by using the House of Lords. We have no such mechanism available here. So to deliver on our vision we would need constitutional change. [Wouldn't be handy for a New Zealand PM to be able to employ the best at a time of crisis rather than relying on the the caucus or coalition partners as your talent pool?]

We are also very concerned about the power of the Executive in New Zealand relative to the power of the legislature and the lack of any checks and balances on the system. MMP was supposed to deliver some balance, but it really hasn't performed as hoped for. moreover it has allowed small parties to pork barrel the system quite successfully. This has added a quite distasteful taint to the body politic that was not really there before.

By chance, David Farrar is having a bit of a rant about an issue that really annoyed us as well - the use of the savings guarantee scheme for political purposes, the stupidity of the media in allowing Labour to get away with what was a very serious abuse of power, and a failure of our senior public servants to threaten to resign in the face of this blatant abuse of power. In the midst of the rant Farrar concludes as follows:

Stuff like this really does anger me. That is because it is permanent damage. You destroy a convention and it is very very hard to put it back together. It is an eternal lowering of the standards. It is because of these shameful actions that I have changed my mind 100% on having a written constitution.
I used to be totally against having one. I trusted parties and PMs to respect the unwritten rules and conventions that had served us for over a hundred years and the UK for centuries before that. I no longer have that trust. Parliamentary supremacy means the Government can retrospectively amend the Electoral Act - and have done so for the most partisan of reasons. It does not get much worse than that on a sliding scale. This is why it is vital that at some stage we the people vote into existence a supreme law or constitution that not even a Helen Clark can ignore or amend. A law that allows Judges to strike down a Government’s actions or even a Parliament’s actions if they act in an undemocratic way.
If we ever manage to get such a supreme law, it should be dedicated to Helen Clark and Robert Muldoon. They have proved why it is necessary.

So he too is thinking in similar space. a number of those who comment on Kiwiblog are also making relevant points.

So readers, we would welcome your views. This post is pre-warning that a fuller post with some definite proposals is in gestation. Your ideas will be given careful consideration during the gestation period.