The constitutional review

December 8th, 2010 at 11:07 am by David Farrar

Bill English and Pita Sharples have announced:

The Government will conduct a wide-ranging review of New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples announced today.

“This is the start of what will be a considered process over the next three years,” Mr English says.

“The review is deliberately wide-ranging and will include matters such as the size of Parliament, the length of the electoral term, Maori representation, the role of the Treaty of Waitangi and whether New Zealand needs a written constitution.

“New Zealand has a long history of incremental constitutional change and we are keen to stimulate debate on these matters, hear the public’s views and consider whether any aspects require change.

I’m delighted these issues are being examined together, rather than piece-meal. It is long over-due.

“Of course, we will keep in mind that enduring constitutional changes generally require a broad base of support. Significant change will not be undertaken lightly and will require either broad cross-party agreement or the majority support of voters at a referendum,” Mr English says.

This is vitally important. Decisions on the constitution should not be made by narrow partisan majority in Parliament.

Mr English and Dr Sharples will lead the review in consultation with a cross-party reference group of MPs. They will write to all party leaders in the next few days and ask them to nominate a representative for the cross party reference group.

It will be very interesting to see whom the parties choose. My guess for the Greens is Metiria or Kennedy Graham. Labour is probably Parker or Dalziel.

An advisory panel will support the ministers, who will make a final report to Cabinet by the end of 2013. The Government will respond within six months.

As well as an advisory panel, there should be plenty of public seminars and workshops. Also formal consultation issues and options papers.

The ministers’ first report to Cabinet – expected by June 2011 – will seek agreement on the makeup of the advisory panel, a plan for public engagement and how the review will interact with other government projects with a constitutional dimension – such as the referendum on MMP.

Sounds good.

Electoral matters including:

  • The size of Parliament.
  • The length of terms of Parliament and whether or not the term should be fixed.
  • The size and number of electorates, including the method for calculating size.
  • Electoral integrity legislation.

Crown-Maori relationship matters including:

  • Maori representation including the Maori Electoral Option, Maori electoral participation and Maori seats in Parliament and local government.
  • The role of the Treaty of Waitangi within New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements.

Other constitutional matters

  • Whether New Zealand should have a written constitution.
  • Bill of Rights issues

Very pleased to see the size and term of Parliament included. I support a fixed four year term. The electorate size variation is also an issue. Not sure what electoral integrity legislation means though – presumably giving parties the ability to sack MPs from Parliament (which I do not support).

The role of Treaty has to be part of any discussion. My view is that it is a very important aspirational document such as the US Declaration of Independence and it can not be incorporated into a written constitution because there is no process to democratically update or amend it. Constitutions have to be amendable.

The issue of the Maori seats will be interesting also. I actually think that Maori would be better served by adopting the Royal Commission’s recommendations on the Maori seats and threshold for list votes – it would make it more likely you would have multiple Maori parties in Parliament.

Also very keen to engage on the issue of a written constitution.

Somewhat ridiculously the issue of the head of state is not included explicitly but the cabinet paper notes this “may” arise as an issue. It will inevitably arise during discussions of a written constitution as powers of the head of state will form part of that.

The full cabinet paper is here.

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51 Responses to “The constitutional review”

  1. gazzmaniac (2,270 comments) says:

    Good, it’s about time they got rid of racist seats.

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  2. Ross Nixon (599 comments) says:

    And we need to provide that any NZ law/rights/constitution trumps all ‘law’ that unelected bureaucrats in the UN attempt to foist upon us.

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  3. Grant Michael McKenna (1,152 comments) says:

    Totally agree with Ross. Wish that we could define treason as including claims that limit sovereignty.

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  4. jaba (2,069 comments) says:

    ahhhh, the treaty .. a roadblock if I ever saw one. Hone Whats his name should be on the review committee so his rabid racists attitude will finally be his downfall

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  5. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    Anyone who trusts this collection of politically shallow Progressive thinking amateurs to make changes that will provide a net benefit needs their head read. The thought of them making any legislation frightens me. To imagine such blundering blinkered fools messing with something as important as a Constitution is utterly terrifying. We just need this collection of impotent self serving poseurs and Maori supremacists to vanish from our lives. This is the one way they will bring us benefit.

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  6. Lucia Maria (1,996 comments) says:

    Oh no!

    Agree with RB.

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  7. Pete George (21,831 comments) says:

    This is a great review.

    What some people ^ don’t seem to grasp is that to change things you have to have people looking at what should change and how and to include many people as possible in suggestions and decisions. Democracy wouldn’t work very well if everything was dictated by one blogger.

    Perhaps RB and LM could suggest a practical alternative way of improving our democracy in a democratic way. If the current government vanished from our lives what would the alternative be?

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  8. kowtow (6,734 comments) says:

    The last time this happened people were more concerned about RNZ dropping the bird call than made submissions .baaah

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  9. kowtow (6,734 comments) says:

    In answer to PG ,how about binding bloody referenda for starters,but then we can’t have “the people” making decisions in a democracy can we.?

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  10. starboard (2,447 comments) says:

    ..why not get Mutu involved as well..what a joke..far too many things maori being shoehorned into our lives.

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  11. Pete George (21,831 comments) says:

    kowtow: “how about binding bloody referenda for starters,”

    That’s partly covered in the review announcement.

    “Significant change will not be undertaken lightly and will require either broad cross-party agreement or the majority support of voters at a referendum,” Mr English says.

    And the review may be able to look at where binding bloody referenda could be used, you may be able to post a submission on it.

    Seems odd that those most grumpy about our current form of government are also grumpy about a review of it.

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  12. KevinH (1,129 comments) says:

    The constitution is to important a document to be drafted by politicians. New Zealands political history is dominated by politicians whom have acted in an unconstitutional manner i.e. sending troops to war zones , state asset sales, think big projects that were a waste of time and money, and reforms to our financial systems that did not work.
    In New Zealand the Crown has to much power and has not adhered to the promises made to Maori in the Treaty, if a constitution is drafted you can fully expect a sizeable input from Maori authorities whom won’t want to be defrauded a second time round.

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  13. Pete George (21,831 comments) says:

    It’s a constitutional review, not the writing of a constitution, and it calls for sizable input.

    Who would be best to drive the drafting of a constitution?

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  14. tvb (3,950 comments) says:

    Nothing about whether the Queen should be our Head of State. Whether we should have an elected President and whether that President should be ceremonial or have executive functions. Now that would be a big step. So this review is rather timid and uninspiring.

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  15. JiveKitty (869 comments) says:

    I have concerns in terms of constitutional capture. Particularly given how discourse is controlled/funneled in this country: “Disagree with us and you’re a [insert stigmatising identifier with which nobody wants to be identified here]. We won’t actually bother to deal with the points you raised and others won’t take you seriously because you’ve now been given a stigmatising identifier which others don’t want to be tarred with.”

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  16. tvb (3,950 comments) says:

    The real agenda is to increase the term of parliament to 4 years, the rest is flim flam.

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  17. BlairM (2,266 comments) says:

    Brilliant! My big issues are:

    1) A written constitution with rights to free speech, self-protection, property, and restoring the Magna Carta rights that the last two governments have stripped from us;

    2) An elected Governor General/Head of State with defined veto powers;

    3) A Senate/Second Chamber of Parliament.

    Anything else is minor. I’m not fussed with a four year term, though I wonder if oppositions may prefer it – three years is often too soon after being kicked out of office for an opposition to find credibility with voters, whereas four years might well be enough. It also enables governments to make riskier decisions knowing that they can be assessed with an extra year’s hindsight, and make them less poll-driven.

    If there were a second chamber, one could alternate votes for each chamber so that there was an election every two years. One could also get rid of the Maori seats and replace them with Maori senators in the second chamber.

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  18. Chuck Bird (4,415 comments) says:

    “New Zealands political history is dominated by politicians whom have acted in an unconstitutional manner i.e. sending troops to war zones , state asset sales, think big projects that were a waste of time and money, and reforms to our financial systems that did not work.”

    You omitted the anti-smack law against the wishes of nearly 90% of the voters.

    You also omitted the prostitution reform that has seen more underage street prostitutes again opposed by the vast majority.

    And the law that allow underage girls to get abortions without parental notification let alone consent.

    There is no justification for so called conscience votes on moral issues under MMP.

    The implication that MPs particualrly unelected MPs have a greater conscience than the rest of us is a joke.

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  19. wreck1080 (3,533 comments) says:

    Yawwwn! Sorry.

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  20. Paulus (2,304 comments) says:

    Do you really think that such a review will actually achieve anything ?
    Probably form sub-comittees, and advisory groups to the su.b-comittees.
    In principle its a good idea, but nothing will happen. This is New Zealand.
    Commissions come and go achieving nothing but hot air.

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  21. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    3) A Senate/Second Chamber of Parliament.

    Why??

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  22. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    “Who would be best to drive the drafting of a constitution?”

    If you want to know my views on that Pete, you’ll have to visit my blog.

    That this collection of motley fools is proposing to consider a Constitution is the most frightening news I’ve read in some time.

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  23. georgebolwing (496 comments) says:

    Our laws are made by politicians, so I can’t see any alternative to them being heavily involved.

    While I thinking having your head of state determined by who the British head of state sleeps with is absurd, I would leave the issue of whether we become a republic or not for later. To me the minimum we need is:

    A written constitution, which is difficult to change;

    A binding bill of rights, which guarantees liberty, protection of property, due process and equal protection of the law;

    A second house of parliament, with a requirement that it conduct thorough and public reviews of all proposed laws. I would require this house to take at least a full year to consider any bill, save the annual budget and laws where a large majority of both houses agree are truly urgent do to national emergency.

    Five year terms for the lower house. For the upper house, I would prescribe that no one who had ever been a member of the lower house could elected to it, that each member be elected for 15 years and then be required to retire from public life.

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  24. RRM (8,997 comments) says:

    If you want to know my views on that Pete, you’ll have to visit my blog.

    Is your traffic a bit slow today, Phule? Don’t worry, a bit of Whoar-ing on here should do the trick!

    :-D

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  25. RRM (8,997 comments) says:

    We should increase the parliamentary term to 4 or 5 years, to spread the costs of all that electioneering and force governments to really wallow in their own sh!t for a while if they mess things up, as a greater incentive to perform.

    Shelve the republic debate for now as using English Monarch as head of state causes no practical issues, only masturbatory academic ones. Won’t fix anything.

    Pointless to contemplate writing a constitution in this climate. (Look at how many coal mining experts we have.) Everyone from Sue Bradford right thru to Redbaiter has an opinion on everything, and no proposed constitution would ever attain widespread support. And again what precisely is broken that a written constitution would fix?

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  26. Pete George (21,831 comments) says:

    “If you want to know my views on that Pete, you’ll have to visit my blog.”

    If you want to discuss your views here, reveal them here. You’ve told me you don’t want me posting there.

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  27. Tom Paine (3 comments) says:

    The Queen is our traditional leader, our monarchy has a history going back more than a thousand years, why would we deliberately cut ourselves off from the extremely study roots of British political developmnet?

    It does’t make sense.

    Our history IS British history, our system didn’t just drop out of the sky, it’s the result of centuries of struggle between the Crown and the Commons.

    If a tree cuts off it’s roots, it falls over in the next stiff breeze.

    Of course that may be precisely what some people want to have happen.

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  28. Pete George (21,831 comments) says:

    Tom, they’re not suggesting we attack the Queen with a chainsaw.
    The UK did a fair bit of cutting off of us in the seventies. We haven’t fallen over because of that.

    Why do some people feel so threatened by considering whether we should have a constitution or not? Or a queen or not?

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  29. eszett (2,272 comments) says:

    Redbaiter (12,437) Says:
    December 8th, 2010 at 11:41 am

    … impotent self serving poseur …..

    Self-reflection of the week!

    How many links to your “blog” did you post here today?

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  30. BeaB (1,960 comments) says:

    We don’t need a separate head of state. Just make the PM our head of state as s/he is in all but name. We don’t need the courts with any more powers either. Parliament should be paramount and it’s up to us to keep them honest!

    Please no upper house. We don’t need more of the sods. One house is enough, plenty of public scrutiny eg fully televised select committees, house sittings etc and our chance to boot them out every four years if we don’t want to vote for them.

    No written constitution either. We don’t need any dead hands stifling change when the modern world demands nimble thinking and action.

    And fewer MPs – perhaps half the number we have now. Perhaps then the overall quality would improve as, at the moment, we have some very good MP’s and a long tail of nonentities. After all, it’s no more than a big city council with such a small population to serve.

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  31. BeaB (1,960 comments) says:

    Chuck Bird – one of the reasons that teenage girls can get abortions wihout parental consent is that the father is often her dad or brother or uncle. Believe me, I know. I also know from experience that the most strident, aggressive father demanding his rights is more often than not the molester.

    We live in a strange little country where young girls are still preyed upon by male members of their family. They need privacy, confidentiality and dignity.

    Parents don’t have to know everything. Your kids are not your possessions. I am always worried when parents feel they need to peer into every corner of their children’s lives and souls.

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  32. James Stephenson (1,885 comments) says:

    will require either broad cross-party agreement or the majority support of voters at a referendum,” Mr English says.

    Weasley worded statement of the week?

    “Broad cross-party agreement”. Translation: Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum parties carving things up for their own benefit. Again.

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  33. grumpyoldhori (2,410 comments) says:

    Surprising how many of you pakeha want to give up on the monarchy for a president elected by whom ?
    BlairM, property right, would you want that to apply to all ? how far back do you want to go on stolen property ?

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  34. tvb (3,950 comments) says:

    What is the superficial once over lightly REALLY all about. The involvement of Bill English and Sharples is interesting. Bill English wants a 4 year term so he can bring down some tough medicine on year one and have 3 further years for the public to forget about it. Sharples wants the moon with a feudal society with us all paying obeisance to the landowners. National of course wants the Maori Party to be kept busy to carry them through the next election. Leaving out the Head of State issue means this is a deeply cynical exercise as that really is the elephant in the room. The Queen’s reign will end soon and we do not want King Charles, – we really don’t.

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  35. BeaB (1,960 comments) says:

    That’s OK then tvb because Charles has said he will probably call himself King George VII.

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  36. Chuck Bird (4,415 comments) says:

    BeaB, why do you not use your real name when you post such misandrist rubbish?

    I remember some years age during a Telethon an advert in the Herald pictured 4 baby girls with caption under stating, “one in four of these girls will be sexually abused by the time they are 18, one half by their fathers”.

    After the campaign it was acknowledged that this claim was utter rubbish but not before much damage was done. Further damage has been done by false claims of sexual abuse to obtain an advantage in custodial disputes.

    I am not claiming incest does not occur but not in numbers that feminists like you claim or at least imply. Far more abuse – sexual and physical – of children occurs from mother’s boyfriends than from the real fathers.

    Every case of underage pregnancy involves a criminal act. That may be minor where the boy is about the same age as the girl or much more serious where it may involve incest or a much older man.

    No one is lobbying for parental notification without some safeguard like referring the matter to the family court where the girl is genuinely concerned about her safety.

    If they has been sexual abuse by the real father (rare) or more likely by the mother’s boyfriend this more likely to be detected and stopped from reoccurring with a parental notification laws than the present school cover ups.

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  37. James Stephenson (1,885 comments) says:

    tvb – a longer term so that policies, that really do have a long term gain after some pain, become less politically unattractive is not a particularly bad idea.

    You also overlooked that this is designed to muffle those who want National to return to a policy of removing the maori seats.

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  38. backster (2,000 comments) says:

    I also agree with Redbaiter’s first post. ENGLISH and the rest should concentrate on cutting out wastage and getting the economy right so that we stop borrowing $250 mill a week. Instead we have this bureaucratic flim flammery that only Socialists should indulge in. There will be committees, tribunals, commissions, reports, and most of all important Hui from one end of the country to the other, back and forth to reconcile differing views and to formalise greater demands. It will be expensive though, plenty of slush money to distribute to the usual gravy slurpers. How do I get on that train?

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  39. BeaB (1,960 comments) says:

    I could ask you the same question about nom de plume, Chuckbrid.
    I think your solutoion isn’t one at all – can you imagine a 13-year-old trotting off to family court! These are hardly empowered kids.
    Not much point though as you are obviously one of those angry old blokes who can’t see the wood for the trees and keep trotting out the same old bigotry.

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  40. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    I see public opinions will be considered, oh please why do they even bother anymore. Bloody politicians should be a hundred miles from drafting a constitution, talk about rats in a peanut butter factory.

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  41. Stuart Mackey (337 comments) says:

    I note that the article says
    “Public consultation will guide the review, and information and education campaigns will be part of the review process.”

    And we are promised a referendum.

    This can be translated as “we will bombard you with propaganda to ensure you vote the way we want you to”.

    Never trust a politician when they want to tinker with your Constitution, the bastards just want more power.

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  42. Chuck Bird (4,415 comments) says:

    “I could ask you the same question about nom de plume, Chuckbrid.”

    BeaB, I use my real name on blogs and talkback. I am not ashamed or embarrassed about my opinions.

    I hope you are not blond by any chance because you give blonds with a logical brain a bad name.

    Think about this deeply if possible.

    In the rare case a father commits incest with his underage daughter and she tells a school counselor she is pregnate.

    If the counselor investigates properly who the father of the child is and finds it is the girls father they will immediately appley to the family court for an abortion without parental consent and at the same time notify the police. The will stop re-offending against the girl of any sisters.

    With the law as it is the girl just has to say she does not know who the father is and she and/or any sisters will be at risk.

    It appears more the case of you being a bitter and twisted woman than me being an angry bloke. Why do you hide you name? is it because you do not want any bloke you may be involved with to know what you think of men and fathers in particular?

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  43. BeaB (1,960 comments) says:

    Eeww.

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  44. calendar girl (1,108 comments) says:

    BeaB@2:28pm.

    Your sweeping claims about male sexual abuse within the family (“Believe me, I know.”) cast an unwarranted slur on all decent men. And patently decent men make up an overwhelming majority in our society, despite your suggestion to the contrary. Your comments echo the kind of feminist distortions that have driven many fine men from teaching in our schools, to the overall detriment of our education.

    Yes there are scumbags of fathers, uncles and brothers who abuse young females in their own households. In reality, that is not the norm. It needs to be recognised also that intra-household sexual abuse seems to occur disproportionately within certain ethnic groups and in so-called “families” that include the mothers’ current boyfriends. Why such situations should be used to justify good parents being kept in the dark about their daughter’s abortion is beyond me.

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  45. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    “ENGLISH and the rest should concentrate on cutting out wastage and getting the economy right so that we stop borrowing $250 mill a week.”

    Even this is a false figure. In fact the whole edifice of government, as it exists now, grows more unsustainable every day. They’ve been spending money they haven’t had for years. Now its time to pay off the credit card and there is no money to do so.

    The first thing we need to do is drop all of the TOW Maori/ Pakeha stuff completely. That one part of NZ owes another part financial redress for past wrong doings is a ridiculous myth. It is also an unaffordable scam. The country is bankrupt and not enough is being done to lessen the impact of the serious downturn that is on its way. These self serving clowns in Wellington are fiddling while Rome burns. They all deserve the arse.

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  46. BeaB (1,960 comments) says:

    I think I carefully said that this was ‘one’ of the reasons. We know that girls (and boys too it now appears) are molested in every kind of family regardless of ethnicity, poverty etc just like domestic violence.
    In my opinion we must do everything we can to protect these kids. Denial doesn’t help them. I know just how kind, supportive and sensitive school counsellors and teachers, male and female, mostly are when working with troubled young people.
    You are right calendar girl that this is not the norm. I never said it was.

    Teenagers are entitled, as I have said before, to their privacy. We as parents do not own our children. They quickly grow up and will deal in their own ways with how we have treated them when they were children.

    And men have left teaching mainly because they can do better elsewhere, just like our brightest young women who used to teach because their choices were narrow. The gender of teachers is far less important than their expertise, intelligence and dedication.

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  47. Lucia Maria (1,996 comments) says:

    Chuck,

    Far worse than teenagers being allowed their privacy (wonderful euphemism, BeaB, btw) is the fact the State offers to murder their unborn babies for them in order to fix the problem. Any state that does this is on borrowed time.

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  48. Chuck Bird (4,415 comments) says:

    Calendar girl, thanks for your support against the mindless leftwing attack on fathers as a group. BeaB claim that abuse is equally distributed regardless of race, income or education is unsubstantiated nonsense.

    I generally have no problem with people using a pseudonym. People often have good reasons. However, find it cowardly for people who use pseudonyms to attack other people or make blatantly racist or sexist attacks.

    It is good to see that sensible right thinking women like you and Muriel Newman support fathers against unjustified attacks from man hating militant left wing feminists.

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  49. BlairM (2,266 comments) says:

    3) A Senate/Second Chamber of Parliament.

    Why??

    For the same reason that nearly every country except ours has one – a check and balance on the first chamber to stop them passing bad law and stop governments from trampling over people in a cavalier manner.

    As for BeaB – are you for real or taking the piss?!

    We don’t need a separate head of state. Just make the PM our head of state as s/he is in all but name. We don’t need the courts with any more powers either. Parliament should be paramount and it’s up to us to keep them honest!

    Yes, let’s just have a fucking dictator with no constitutional restraints. Works so well in Turkmenistan – maybe we’ll get our own solid gold statue of Helen Clark? Wouldn’t that be awesome?!

    Please no upper house. We don’t need more of the sods. One house is enough, plenty of public scrutiny eg fully televised select committees, house sittings etc and our chance to boot them out every four years if we don’t want to vote for them.

    An upper house would not necessarily mean more politicians. You could reduce the size of the House of Representatives to under 100 MPs and have two dozen senators – about the same number of politicians as we have now. There is no way that there is enough scrutiny of laws in NZ when parliament has absolute power to pass one in three minutes. No other democracy in the world does that.

    No written constitution either. We don’t need any dead hands stifling change when the modern world demands nimble thinking and action.

    Yup who needs all those silly things like property rights, self defence, free speech. Gotta get rid of those to adapt to a changing world!

    And fewer MPs – perhaps half the number we have now. Perhaps then the overall quality would improve as, at the moment, we have some very good MP’s and a long tail of nonentities. After all, it’s no more than a big city council with such a small population to serve.

    Fewer MPs make it easier to control a caucus and easier to push through bad law and decisions. Not saying I want more MPs, but that is the consequence of less of them.

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  50. Manolo (12,643 comments) says:

    John Armstrong demolishes the parents of this monstrosity: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10693057

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  51. tvb (3,950 comments) says:

    Totally agree Manolo. National wants a 4 year term, the Maori Party wants the treaty written into law.

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