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Armstrong on the constitutional review

Written By: - Date published: 7:13 am, December 10th, 2010 - 41 comments
Categories: democracy under attack, national - Tags: , ,

John Armstrong pulls no punches on the government’s constitutional review:

Disgraceful plan flawed at every step

Shame on National and the Maori Party too. The so-called review of New Zealand’s “constitutional arrangements” is little short of a disgrace.

If a review is really necessary then it should be conducted by a royal commission, not by Bill English and Pita Sharples, politicians whose parties have a vested interest in the outcome. Auckland had a royal commission examining its local government arrangements. Surely scrutiny of constitutional issues at a national level deserves nothing less. …

If the review is flawed in principle, it is also flawed in design.

Its terms of reference do not include the question of whether New Zealand should become a republic. This is ridiculous. But it ensures Maori can retain their Treaty relationship with the Crown. A republic would leave Maori with no Crown with which to relate.

The terms of reference do include looking at the size of Parliament and the size and number of electorates. This is nonsensical. Any recommendations on those matters made in 2013 could well be shortcircuited by Justice Minister Simon Power’s 2014 referendum on the electoral system. …

This is the second recent piece from Armstrong that is deeply critical of the Nats (“Shame on National. That party’s behaviour in Parliament over the past couple of weeks has on occasion veered close to being a disgrace both to itself and the institution”). And it’s not often that you find Armstrong on the same page as Winston Peters:

A constitutional review to be led by the Government and the Maori Party is undemocratic and should be boycotted by all New Zealanders, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says. …

Mr Peters said he was concerned that the review was being overseen by politicians rather than judges or constitutional experts. “This is a shameful blight on this country’s proud tradition of sticking to the rules of democracy and ensuring that every citizen has the right to participate in the process of electing governments in a fair and open way,” Mr Peters said.

Add it to the list. The systematic abuse of urgency. Abolishing a local body election in Canterbury. Giving themselves the powers of a dictatorship (CERRA). Ignoring the Bill of Rights Act and the advice of the Attorney General. Taking away the voting rights of prisoners (an “indelible stain” on lawmaking). Attacking public sector neutrality. Overriding the Royal Commission on Auckland. Making a mockery of the select committee process. Threatening the Press Gallery. And now bungling the constitutional review. Is this the worst government for democracy in the history of NZ?

41 comments on “Armstrong on the constitutional review ”

  1. salsy 1

    I dont care what people say, Winston gets headlines and as far as im concerned hes pulling some mighty punches right now against Mnact. He’s got the mongrel in him and it sure is hungry for revenge.

  2. Rosy 2

    “Is this the worst government for democracy in the history of NZ?”

    • It is certainly getting there. The Rob Muldoon government of 1975-84 was a real shocker though. It managed to wreck the economy and his beligerent aggressive behaviour was appalling.

      This Key government is getting there though.

      • Rosy 2.1.1

        yeah I thought about saying except for Muldoon, but it was FPP and calling a snap election because an MP crossed the floor gave him a plus point IMO

    • just saying 2.2

      The worst parliament governing the most ‘preoccupied?’ electorate, in the run-up to the greatest crisis.

  3. Name 3

    “Is this the worst government for democracy in the history of NZ?”

    For the moment, but it’s merely setting a standard for the next government to lower a little more.

  4. Tigger 4

    This is a truly bizarre proposition – a totally skewed review of constitutional arrangements. It’s like we’re trapped in some Bizarro-New Zealand where the government makes these utterly crazy plans and most of the population doesn’t blink an eye. But gives Peters something with which to assail NACT and any assailing of NACT is a good thing.

    • Bored 4.1

      Most of the population does’nt blink an eye….. too bloody right Tigger.

      What we have is the product of two whole generations of post Douglas neo lib impact on society, producing citizens who dont see themselves as anything other than consumers, see their rights as that to be able to demand consumption as opposed to understanding their freedoms, obligations and rights.

  5. ak 5

    The worms are turning at last.

    Good simple stuff from Goffy in repeating the ACCESS word and playing nicely with the other children.

    Watch Winnie, learn, and keep it up. Repeat after me: “It’s Big Brother in a slippery sheep’s clothing. They’ve put your grandchildren into debt and are slashing your health services to pay for tax cuts for their rich mates.” And walk away.

  6. Tamz 6

    How annoying it is that the supposed ‘worst govt in history’ is riding stellar-high in the polls. The worst govt in history in NZ is a very close call. They’re basically all the same,i the power goes to their brains and democracy gets a drubbing. EFA, smacking bill, and a whole lot of legislation passed that the electorate never wanted. Did you see Rosemary McLeod’s column in the Dom Post yesterday? The Golden Mile is now sleaze city, so I agree with her on that one.

    Shipley’s govt was just as bad, they’re all the same really, just represented by differing colours. They’re just flawed people, like the whole human race, whether red, blue, yellow or green.

    • Marty G 6.1

      do you remember how high Labour was polling at this point in its first term? mid-50s and it had the Greens and the Alliance to its Left. National is 50-ish with a dying dreg to its Right.

      • Tamz 6.1.1

        Yep, I do. Key might get one more term, maybe.

        • Tigger

          Or part of a term at best. He might squeak through but he’ll be gone by lunchtime less than one year into the cycle.

      • lprent 6.1.2

        It has been interesting looking at the iPredict material coming through.

        Regardless of the weight you care to place on it (low-medium for me – entrance requirement is money?), the scenarios that they have been showing are interesting. Essentially they say that the Nats are utterly reliant on getting Rodney back into Epsom if they want to pursue a right agenda.

    • Dave 6.2

      Tamz, why do you insist on calling it the smacking bill? I do agree with you that both Labour & National are as bad as each other however.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.3

      Did you see Rosemary McLeod’s column in the Dom Post yesterday? The Golden Mile is now sleaze city, so I agree with her on that one.

      No I didn’t and don’t intend to. Prostitution has always been in NZ it was just that previously it was hidden and more dangerous for the prostitutes. I recall K’Rd at the hight of it’s infamy: A large chunk of it’s businesses were brothels (They weren’t called that but that’s what they were) and hookers prowled the street.

  7. Sanctuary 7

    If Labour (or NZ First) is able to effectively articulate the simple message that the round table (Bill English) and the brown table (Pita Sharples) are horse trading our democratic freedoms in shady and secret back room deals designed to enrich a fat cat elite at the expense of the rest of the Joe six packs on Struggle Street they will win the next election.

    This sort of thing is a vote changer issue.

    • burt 7.1

      .. are horse trading our democratic freedoms in shady and secret back room deals designed to enrich a fat cat elite at the expense of the rest of the Joe six packs on Struggle Street..

      I think Winston and Labour should articulate what National might do. And yes that sort of thing was a vote changing issue in 2008 as well.

  8. BLiP 8

    Parliament and the practice of democracy is little more than an annoying staff meeting as far as National Ltd™ is concerned. This sheer arrogance goes right to the top. John Key has set himself up in the CEO’s office of NZ Inc and is responsible only to his hollow shareholders, the cabinet is his Board of Directors, and the rest of us can lump it or leave the factory floor. Trouble is, in the real world, Key is just not CEO material, he’s too thick for a start. The concept of the nation as a society is alien to his being and beyond his comprehension. He seems genuinely to believe that everyone wants to be just like him.

    • M 8.1


      Couldn’t have put it better myself.

      Re democracy – see you behind the wire.

    • salsy 8.2

      That is exactly true – its being run like a dodgy accountacy firm – all withitn the law but lacking in any morality.

  9. Wow Parliament is interesting this morning.

    There is a 70 page SOP making major changes to the rules relating to LAQCs that has been introduced at the committee stage, that is after the select committee processes have well and finished. And the opposition has only just been given a copy of it. And it is being pushed through under urgency. Yet another constitutional travesty.

    National Ltd. Aint you loving it.

  10. Nick K 10

    Micky, if you could link to that 70 pg SOP I’d much appreciate it.

    • Hi Nick

      You can try http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Legislation/SOPs/e/e/a/49DBHOH_SOP1341_1-Taxation-GST-and-Remedial-Matters-Bill.htm but the link then goes to legislation.govt.nz which proudly states that the page is missing …

      Bloody shambles

      • Carol 10.1.1

        There is a 70 page SOP making major changes to the rules relating to LAQCs that has been introduced at the committee stage, that is after the select committee processes have well and finished. And the opposition has only just been given a copy of it. And it is being pushed through under urgency. Yet another constitutional travesty.

        The whole thing’s disgraceful & a good example of why NACT must not get another term. These guys just don’t get democracy. NACT keep doing their best to cut short any debate by taking the call for a vote ASAP.

        And Dunne’s dismissive treatment of Nash’s comments had me yelling at the screen. Dunne seems to think that the SOP has been rigorously examined, because some tax experts and business people were given it to examine a few months ago. Before lunch, Nash objected that the same courtesy wasn’t extended to Labour & other opposition parties to examine the SOP a few months ago as well. This is all part of the top-down approach of NACT – they think they, and “business people” have the expert knowledge to decide these laws, and the rest of us don’t matter.

        Now Mallard has recalled the speaker, because he objects to the way the call for a vote to be taken was accepted at that point.

        NACT! A disgrace to democracy!

        • Pascal's bookie

          because some tax experts and business people were asked to write it a few months ago


    • SPC 10.2

      It’s just a LAQC tax decision about how the signalled change will be applied in practice – as to the tax rates involved.


  11. Nick K 11

    Yep, tried it and nuttin there. Ta.

  12. Draco T Bastard 12

    Obviously it’s not a constitutional review but a what does NACT want in government review.

  13. randal 13

    john armstrong is right about pita and bill being given the job to review the constachewshun.
    they wouldnt know one if they fell over it.
    what they want is a legla gurantee for their actions in any form or guise.
    New Zealand does have a constitution.
    It is just not wtitten down on one sheet.
    It consists of laws, insitutions, and the archaic, arcane monarchy.
    the problem is the unicameral parliament where it seems even pita and bill cant rig it to their satisfaction.
    rememy: change the constachewshun.
    the opposition aint too hot either.
    they bleive in death by a thouseand cuts and all sorts of other incremental bushwah.
    they need to go for the jugular a bit more often
    and btw dont forget all the yankee phd’s hding in the wings waiting for their chance to step out and make us just like them.
    constachewshun an’ all.

  14. RedBaron 14

    I googled the LAQC changes and came up with a blog dated 30 November where “Criag Macalister, director of tax at the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accounts, talks to Sybrand van Schalkwyk about the changes to the QC and LAQC rules.”. Can’t do a link but he appears to have been in the loop as he knows it is to be law before mid December.

  15. Winston says:

    a shameful blight on this country’s proud tradition of sticking to the rules of democracy and ensuring that every citizen has the right to participate in the process of electing governments in a fair and open way

    Ahhh geezus Winston, you haven’t changed one iota have you? The events of 1996 conveniently forgotten, are they? How you cynically defrauded your own party’s members by having them travel miles to “regional voting centres” to rank the NZ First list, then destroyed those votes.

    How then you, Michael Laws and Sarah Neems (only one of whom – you – had been accorded any office in the party by democratic means) ranked the list according to your own prejudices, not only making a mockery of the will of your own members but presenting NZ’s voters with a list that you claimed was arrived at democratically and was thus a fraud on the entire electoral system.

    How the people you, Laws and Neems promoted became Ministers in the most dysfunctional government in living memory, and damaged NZ as a result.

    How you lied about all of the above and, when challenged to go to the High Court to defend yourself, hid from process servers. How you instructed your lawyers to wriggle out of the action by arguing that former members (who’d resigned in disgust at your deceit) had no standing, because you knew you couldn’t defend your actions.

    Prior to all that you had the confidence of almost thirty percent of your fellow New Zealanders, and yet you chose to disillusion them by resiling from the very democratic principles with which you were identified; and have continued to disillusion them ever since, such that a good day is when you register one tenth of that support.

    Tell us again about “shameful blights on this country’s proud tradition of sticking to the rules of democracy” and about “ensuring that every citizen has the right to participate in the process of electing governments in a fair and open way”, Winston.

    I can’t accuse you of hypocrisy though, not really. Because I know full well that you’ll have firmly convinced yourself that all of the above was wholly justified and that it in no way is discordant with your present statements.

    Because at the end of the day you’re a sad, puffed up, deluded figure who – if he had to face the enormity of his political deceit and, above all, lost opportunity – would simply deflate.

    • ak 15.1

      Now now Rex. People change, life moves on, let he who has not and all that. Forgiveness, son. Without it we’re trapped. Free yourself and gis a hand.

      • Aside from the picture of Winston I keep in my desk and occasionally scratch the eyes out of, and the kewpie doll I stick pins in, and the amount I drink, I’m just fine thanks.

        But really, when the man uses phrases like “shameful blights on this country’s proud tradition of sticking to the rules of democracy” I get this facial twitch…

        And just who’s this “us” deserving of a hand, eh? 😛

        I guess most politicians could claim to need a hand, given their own are so deeply buried in other people’s pockets.

    • burt 15.2

      That’s a keeper.

  16. Drakula 16

    If the National Party are relying on Rodney Hide to get into Epsom; then Epsom is therefore the weak link (or strong pending on one’s view) Therefore it is incumbent for the left parties to mount an intensive campaign in the Epsom electorate.

    A good start is doing it in the Christmas spirit; see Catherine Delahunty’s 12 days of Christmass on Frogblog.

    Maybe members of the Standard could come up with their own Christmass ditty!!!!!!!!

  17. SPC 17

    Maybe it’s just a dry run to get the public used to the complaints – crying wolf, before they really exploit the method before the Enabling Act expires.

  18. DS 18

    The worst government for democracy in the history of New Zealand wasn’t Rob Muldoon, it was Sid Holland’s 1949-1957 National Government. We’re talking a regime that declared a national state of emergency over the waterfront dispute, sent troops to unload wharves, banned production of pro-union material, gave police sweeping powers of arrest, and made it illegal to provide food to the families of the workers. And sent in the police with batons against protestors (a union leader was sent to two months in prison for defaming a police officer). Holland was a fascist git.

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