It’s time for New Zealand to draw up its own constitution and a 40-page document would be enough, says constitutional law expert and former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer.
Palmer has long advocated greater attention to the country’s constitutional laws but said he had reached “a new plateau”.
In Nelson to address the Spirited Conversations group on this subject, he said he hadn’t before advocated a full written constitution.
The architect of the 1986 Constitution Act and the 1990 Bill of Rights Act, he said an entrenched bill of rights was no longer enough.
I support a written constitution.
This would be a significant change, as implicitly or explicitly it would give the courts the power to strike down laws that breach the constitution.
I used to be opposed to such a power, but changed my mind around a decade ago.
When the Clark Government had Parliament retrospectively amend the Electoral Act so one of their MPs could avoid a by-election, after he had breached the Act – that was when I realised that you need stronger protections against a majority in Parliament. A Parliament that can retrospectively amend the Electoral Act to avoid a by-election, is one that could change the term of Parliament to ten years without consultation.
So I think we do need some laws that MPs can’t change or ignore at whim.