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Another constitutional hui

  • June 14th, 2010

 Yesterday I was a commentator on Q & A's Jim Bolger/Mike Moore discussion of constitutional reform

I assumed it was a warm-up for the invitation-only Hui of the Anointed ('Reconstituting the Constitution") scheduled for 2-3 September in the Legislative Council Chamber. This Hui is apparently much more select than the one held ten years ago in the Great Hall of Parliament. So select that it is not mentioned in "upcoming events" on the website of one sponsor (the Institute of Policy Studies) and on the other (the NZ Centre for Public Law) there is no link to the agenda or anything other than the dates, the title and the words "Conference – by invitation").

So Tim Watkins had not heard of the Hui. Q & A's choice of topic was prompted only by the time running out for the Government and the Maori Party to let the rest of us know what is to emerge from their coalition committment

"Both parties agree to the establishment (including its composition and terms of reference) by no later than early 2010 of a group to consider constitutional issues including Maori representation. The Maori Party will be consulted on membership and the choice of Chairperson, and will be represented on the group."

Q & A's choice of Jim Bolger was natural. With the introduction of MMP, his sponsorship of the Treaty's role in our constitution to his sceptical National Party, and his moves to end 'imperial' links such as the old honours system, Jim Bolger made as many changes to our constitution as any recent Prime Minister. His reasons for favouring the re-establishment of a second chamber should be carefully listened to.

Mike Moore was also a great choice – no other senior ex-politician has been as willing to explore ideas without partisan bias.

In the result neither man had the time on Q & A to cover the far shores of their vision. Each could justify a session of their own.

I hope they are invited to the September hui. Neither is mentioned in the programme. The organisers appear to be determined that this time (unlike the 2000 hui, which illustrated how little consensus there was on change)  there should be no rude scoffing at the devotions of the anointed. The biographies of the three Keynote Speakers promise suitably pious sermons.

The organisers have government sponsorship through the Justice Department. If they remain coy we'll make sure that it does not remain secret.



Stephen, BTW you got it wrong when you said Bolger wanted a Senate half-appointed by Maori. The Bolger Government proposal in 1990 was for an upper house with 30 members elected using STV, with the country divided into senatorial districts made up of general seats – i.e. no Maori seats:


I’d like to hear Jim Bolger’s fully considered views on the topic now. He told me at the last Hui ten years ago that he thought a Senate with half the members appointed by Maori would be a good way to solve both some of the problem summarized as “how do we appoint them without undermining or just replicating the House of Representatives” and the Maori demand for “partnership”.


I was very suprised not so see a single thing made of Margaret Mutu's comments about the putative drafts of the New Zealand Constitution.


I think people tend not to engage with her because she does not observe the normal rules of intellectual discourse. In the Green Room there was a lively discussion which might have made better TV than what was broadcast, but she tends to make inflammatory assertions then ignore requests to substantiate them as unworthy of reply. After several conversations with her (the first at the Lower Marae on Waitangi Day in 2002 or 2003) I no longer let it get to me. It feels just like it did talking with Islamic extremists at a Madrasseh in Pakistan a few years later. Religious maniacs have no need for dialectic. They do not need to answer questions or to parry arguments. They have faith and you do not. They know they are right and all your intelligence is just a wicked snare. Difficult matters of historical truth lie only in your patriarchal/colonialist/satanic/sexist/racist/capitalist (take your pick) world view.
Her professorial rank has left me with permanent suspicion of the academic integrity of Auckland University.


Are you sure you're not confusing Bolger with Doug Graham? He was the one who proposed an upper house that was half-appointed with Maori seats and half-elected. That was in his retirement speech to the NZLS in 1999.


I’ll check, but I’m reasonably confident, because I knew of Sir Doug’s views but was surprised by Jim Bolger’s.


I wouldn't be surprised if Bolger had changed his position. After all National repealed the Runanga Iwi Act 1990 once taking office, yet pushed through a lot of big Treaty settlements.

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