IN COMMITTEE Flagging the Future

Advertising agencies used to talk about running an idea up the flag pole to see if anybody salutes. Recently website bank-rolled by Wellington corporate high-flier has been running up whole host of possible New Zealand flags seeking our salutations, the old model being considered incongruous in the modern world.
But it’s not just the flag that seems, to many, to have passed its use-by date. Now that New Zealand has junked legal recourse to Britain’s Privy Council, some think that ditching the monarchy should be next in line. And that the time for the Republic of New Zealand (or Aotearoa perhaps) is nigh.
Others, of course, find all of this an anathema. Nevertheless, one senses change in the wind – and that when it comes it is likely to run far deeper than flash new flag.
What is now moving onto the agenda is fundamental review of New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements. Indeed special, albeit obscure, Constitutional Arrangements Committee was established last December to inquire into exactly that.
Its members are an eclectic bunch. Peter Dunne occupies the chair with Lianne Dalziel, Russell Fairbrother, Stephen Franks, David Parker, Mita Ririnui and Nandor Tanczos also around the table. They are collectively charged with identifying and describing:
* New Zealand’s constitutional development since 1840;
* the key elements in New Zealand’s constitutional structure and the relationships between those elements;
* the sources of New Zealand’s constitution;
* the processes other countries have followed in undertaking range of constitutional reforms; and
* the processes which it would be appropriate for New Zealand to follow if significant constitutional reforms were considered in the future.
Some of this work it felt it could complete pretty much off its own bat; however it was keen to receive assistance from interested parties regarding the second and third items.
The committee wanted to hear about “those practices or conventions that are helpful or useful, or those that are obscure, or give rise to ambiguity, contradiction or frustration”. Members of the public were also invited to comment on aspects of our constitutional arrangements that they consider would benefit from clarification.
Submissions closed on April 14 and it is the intention to post them on dedicated website any time now.
Meanwhile, officials and others are no doubt scurrying to pull together draft report for the committee’s consideration so that it can report back to Parliament before that body is dissolved prior to the commencement of this year’s general election (an event that will also dissolve the Constitutional Arrangements Committee itself).
What happens to that report subsequently will depend – at least to some degree – on what the nation decides on election day. However it seems unlikely that the committee’s report will simply be left to gather dust.
Indeed it is entirely possible that, in some distant day when the history of The Constitution of New Zealand is written, this humble committee may be seen to have laid out the road map that would guide our desires for total self-reliance as nation from aspiration to reality.
If you failed to make your submission, fear not. This debate is just beginning.

Julie Collier is editor and publisher of Select Committee News.

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