As the Queen begins to wind down her daily activities, and her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh enjoys retirement it is time to consider what sort of constitutional arrangement New Zealand wants going forward. New Zealand does not have a formal constitution per se – its current arrangement is a framework of six Acts of Parliament and the Bill of Rights 1990.
I have tried to outline my thoughts on the best process to revisit our arrangements, which I expect will come under scrutiny once the Queen dies. But before then there is considerable work to be done. New Zealand needs to have a debate about our interpretation of our constitutional framework – can we even consider it to be that, and if not what is it?
Whilst I have outlined my ideas, I have wondered about whether or not New Zealand needs a Constitution Party or similar in Parliament to push the issue. Of course, like every other party it needs to be established and needs to get into Parliament. Would someone like Sir Geoffrey Palmer be a suitable person to lead it – an obscure figure from the political wilderness would be meaningless. Colin Craig reckoned he could lead the Conservative Party into Parliament. After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money he and his party managed 2.2% at the 2011 election.
With only a few years until the Queen either abdicates or dies, New Zealand cannot afford to continue taking a “she’ll be right” approach to our constitutional arrangements. But without some sort of organization or party to turn the spotlight on something many are happy ignoring, the potential for a problematic knee jerk “what do we do now” approach exists.