The Constitutional Advisory Panel

Bill English and Pita Sharples have announced the membership of the Constitutional Advisory Panel:

The Panel will be co-chaired by Emeritus Professor John Burrows and Sir Tipene O’Regan, of Ngāi Tahu.  The other members are:

  • Peter Chin
  • Deborah Coddington
  • Hon Dr Michael Cullen
  • Hon John Luxton
  • Bernice Mene
  • Dr Leonie Pihama
  • Hinurewa Poutu
  • Professor Linda Smith
  • Peter Tennent
  • Emeritus Professor Ranginui Walker

This will surprise some people but I think including Dr Cullen is a brilliant move. Not because I necessarily will agree with his views. But panels like these has a habit of producing worthy but useless reports which try to lay down principles for the perfect constitution, and they become door stops.

Dr Cullen’s presence (and others) should help ensure that the panel will actually come up with some proposed reforms which are actually achievable, if the public support them.

I hated Cullen’s appointment to NZ Post – partly because of the timing, but partly because National had fought several elections railing against his economic management, so giving him the chair of our biggest SEO was a slap in the face for many National supporters.

But a role like this one, I think is much more appropriate, and Dr Cullen will I think play a very useful role in it. The issues they are looking at include:

the size of Parliament, the length of the electoral term, Māori representation, the role of the Treaty of Waitangi and whether New Zealand needs a written constitution.

Also pleased to see Deborah Coddington and John Luxton there. Again, a panel with nothing but academics would be less likely to succeed.

But academics are not bad per se, and Professor Burrows as a co-chair is also an inspired choice. He is widely respected, and has done some excellent work at the Law Commission. He has a lot of experience at taking complex issues, and turning them into specific proposed law changes.

Likewise Sir Tipene has a good track record of making things happen, and a necessary degree of pragmatism.

Peter Chin seems a solid choice and a former Mayor will have some good perspectives, as will Peter Tennent.

I don’t really know much about Bernice Mene (except that she was a great netballer) or Dr Pihama, Ms Poutu or Professor Smith. Dr Walker is more well known, and his inclusion is no surprise.

As a constitutional geek, I’m really pleased to see some important issues will be debated and discussed. I doubt I will like everything they recommend, or even most of it. But I definitely plan to be involved in the process, and will next year cover the issuees extensively on Kiwiblog.

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