Palmer and Butler answer constitution critic

Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Andrew Butler have written a book A Constitution for Aotearoa New Zealand which proposes a constitution.

In response Dr Noel Cox  a barrister who has been a professor of law, wrote New Zealand doesn’t need a written constitution.

Two principal difficulties immediately come to mind. The first is the question of a written entrenched constitution (one changeable only by a special process), and the second is the (not unrelated) issue of the Treaty of Waitangi.

It might be worthwhile looking at solutions within the existing structures, rather than to call for the codification and entrenchment of the constitution.

Unless they are prepared to wrestle with large issues, most contentious of which is the Treaty of Waitangi, or entrenchment, proponents of constitutional reform should tread warily.

Palmer and Butler have addressed this in Simplified constitution critical for future.

His first point assumes that a written, codified constitution cannot be flexible. We disagree. New Zealand does not need a constitution etched in stone. It needs one with the capacity of being changed either by a referendum of the people or by a special majority of 75 per cent of the members of Parliament.

This is precisely the current position in fundamental elements of the electoral system, guaranteed by section 268 of the Electoral Act 1993; it has been in place in previous legislation since 1956.

We recognise the need to keep the constitution up to date; that’s why we propose it be formally reviewed every 10 years.

Unless our constitutional machinery is kept in good order, it will deteriorate and that is what is happening to it now.

The prime danger with New Zealand’s constitution is that it can be changed at any time with a majority of one in the House of Representatives. That means that anything goes. There are no constitutional restraints except elections.

In theory ‘anything goes’ I guess, but in practice I don’t think anything like that has happened. It could in theory, but so could many things that necessarily be protected by a bit of law or a constitution.

New Zealand is a more stable democracy than many countries who have had constitutions  have been.

The US constitution  hasn’t avoided a debacle of a election that will result in a very unpopular and flawed president.

Of what does the New Zealand constitution consist? The most recent scholarly answer, not from us, is that the New Zealand constitution is located in 45 Acts of Parliament, including six passed in England, 12 international treaties, nine areas of common law, eight constitutional conventions, three-and-a-half executive instruments, one prerogative instrument, one legislative instrument and half a judicial instrument.

How many New Zealanders can find that material let alone understand it?

How many New Zealanders care? How many New Zealanders would take any notice of a simplified constitution?

Far from being unmanageable, as Cox opines, drafting a written constitution once the Crown is removed makes things much more orderly, understandable, less mysterious and more rational.

Do we want our key laws determined by ‘more rational’ judges rather than by our parliament?

We need to know who has what powers and how they must be exercised.

We should know this, or we should be able to easily find out if anything contentious comes up.

We believe that New Zealanders would welcome the opportunity to sort out where they stand and what they stand for. Based on the huge volume of submissions it received and the many public hearings it held, the Government’s own Constitutional Review Panel in 2013 noted “a consensus that our constitution should be more easily accessible and understood”, and also noted that “one way of accomplishing this might be to assemble our constitutional protections into a single statute”.

I believe that the vast majority of New Zealanders will care little or not at all about this.

A muddled and confused approach is unlikely to be sufficient for the challenges New Zealand will encounter in the future.

Clarity and simplicity are great aims but I’m not sure what constitutional challenges we face. Actually I have no idea.

What is needed is a constitution that sets out the rules, principles and processes about government in one document so they are accessible, available and clear.

We need to eliminate the need for significant unwritten constitutional conventions and customs which are unclear in important respects.

We need greater force in the protections given by our Bill of Rights.

We should at least talk about it and consider options.

Our proposed constitution aims to provide an accurate map about how we govern ourselves. We have already had helpful feedback on what we propose; we seek your views at

Submissions seem to disappear into the website at this stage, I presume there will be some publication at some stage.

There is some activity on their Facebook and Twitter links, but the ‘conversation’ doesn’t seem to have ignited the masses yet.



Broken down plane

The RNZAF plane taking John Key, a business delegation and journalists to India has broken down and stranded them en route at Townsville, where it has stopped for refuelling.

And stranded journalists have to write about something, so there has been a lot of moaning about the breakdown.

If the Air Force 757 is relatively unreliable then there is good cause to complain. Otherwise it may be just one of those things that can happen with international travel on tight schedules.

Audrey Young writes Key should be seething over Air Force breakdown.

Key should be seething. The break down was unforgivable.

It’s embarrassing for New Zealand’s reputation as a can-do country.
Can’t even arrive.

It is not just one of those things that should be accepted an unavoidable.

Every breakdown can be avoidable just as every crash is avoidable.

The Air Force has failed at the absolute basics, to keep its planes in reasonable working order.

I think that it’s remarkable how many flights happen around the world every day with relatively few problems.

Sometimes problems occur. Young may be seething, but that won’t achieve anything except generate a headline.

It’s impossible to avoid every breakdown.

If the Air Force planes are less well maintained than normal airline practice then there are grounds for complaint.

Otherwise fuming in Townsville is pointless pontificating.

Media watch – Tuesday

25 October 2016


Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

As usual avoid anything that could cause any legal issues such as potential defamation or breaching suppression orders. Also remember that keeping things civil, legal and factual is more effective and harder to argue against or discredit.

Sometimes other blogs get irate if their material is highlighted elsewhere but the Internet is specifically designed to share and repeat information and anyone who comments or puts anything into a public forum should be aware that it could be republished elsewhere (but attribution is essential).

1080 and Protecting Paradise

Probably like most people I’d prefer poisons weren’t needed or used. But I use rodent poison, because rat and mice infestations make a mess, and a cat or two isn’t enough to keep them away.

The same applies to 1080.  I’d prefer it wasn’t used but the alternative, not using it, is worse.

New Zealand uses about 90% of the world supply of 1080. On the surface this sounds bad for us, but there’s a good explanation. 1080 is only effective against mammals, and much less toxic to birds, reptiles, insects, amphibians and other creatures.

Unlike just about every other country New Zealand has hardly any native mammals (a few bats) so a poison targeting mammals (especially rodents, ferrets, stoats and possums) can be a very effective way of tipping the balance back towards native species.

Deer can be affected by 1080, so it’s use annoys deer hunters.

1080 is a salt so disappears into the ecosystem very quickly.

This and more is explained in a Herald interview 1080: Finding the facts in a poisonous issue with science writer Dave Hansford, who has just published a book, Protecting Paradise: 1080 and the fight to save New Zealand’s wildlife. Potton & Burton, RRP $34.99

…I’d been writing about pest control off and on for 15 years, and it became ever-more frustrating that the same old myths and misinformation about 1080 just kept on orbiting the national conversation.

They’re all so easily debunked…

I went to the Coromandel to witness a 1080 operation for myself.

I spent a few days afterwards combing the bush looking for all the death and destruction – the slaughter of native birds etc – that activists insist happens after every drop.

I never found evidence of any, despite going off-track with a GPS and conducting long grid searches and bird call counts at different locations.


One look at the toxicology studies tells you that’s untrue: some kinds of animals are more sensitive to 1080 than others.

It’s highly toxic to mammals, and unfortunately, dogs are the most acutely susceptible.

Birds are much less so.

Some invertebrates appear to be quite sensitive to 1080, depending on circumstances, while others – like worms – seem not to be bothered at all.

The same with aquatic invertebrates.

Reptiles are very resilient to 1080, as are fish – and the Cawthron trout research proved that – and it’s practically impossible to kill amphibians.

Water dilution

Some people also worry about what 1080 does once it lands in water.

The answer to that is that it begins to dilute, very quickly – it’s a salt, after all.

So much so that water testing generally has to be done within eight hours – and ideally sooner – if it’s to find any meaningful traces at all.

Out of more than 3000 tests from waterways in 25 years, just four have found any trace of 1080 in municipal supplies, and they were all tiny fractions of Ministry of Health permissible levels.

Suited to New Zealand

There’s a good reason we use so much: every other country has native mammals it can’t risk harming with poisons, while, except for three types of bat, all our mammals are introduced pests, so 1080 might have been designed from the ground up for New Zealand use.

1080 is known to kill deer, so some hunters consider that it’s impinging on their sport.

There is no myth about 1080 that hasn’t been comprehensively debunked many times over.

The effects of 1080

I wrote it for those people who are still undecided, or conflicted about 1080, but who prefer to form their positions on the strength of evidence.

I think the most effective advocacy of all is success: look at Abel Tasman National Park, where Project Janszoon has shown very clearly, that, if you get the pest off their backs, our birds, and snails, and lizards and insects just thrive.

People saw there that the sky didn’t fall in when the Park got 1080 in 2014: but what they did see were kaka, and robins, and kakariki returned to the park.

They saw the giant snails rebound in numbers.

They heard the bellbirds.

While 1080 won’t enable the Government goal of predator free by 2050, but it is very useful in keeping control of predator numbers while other solutions are found. And it seems to be relatively safe.

In the end, the decision is very simple: we can have our forests full of native wildlife, or we can have them full of rats, stoats, possums and cats.

Birdsong, or silence.

This is why Forest & Bird support the use of 1080 – see 1080 Frequently Asked Questions

Is Labour relevant today?

The Standard has marked Labour Weekend (I presume) with a post oddly under the authorship of ‘Natwatch’ (which seems to be a pseudonym for someone not wanting to be identified as being a union official) .

Workers, unions and the Labour party

Convincing workers not to organise in their own best interests is one of the great successes of right-wing politics.

I have not needed convincing. I have never seen any need to belong to a union, although for short periods last century I was a compulsory member, the only sign of which was a deduction from my pay packet.

Yes, the undermining of the unions was a deliberate act, part of the neoliberal gutting of NZ. The political right hate unions because they protect working conditions, and raise wages – even today.

Part of union bashing, of course, is bashing the party that represents workers. Here’s a fine specimen – Look, there goes the Labour Party – sliding towards oblivion. Wilson basis his rant on Labour “faultlines” over Auckland – do National Party faultlines prove the same?. He then bizarrely concludes –

Actually, there is a point to Labour and it’s a really important one. They’re there to win elections. Labour is the main party of opposition and therefore is likely to be the majority party in any centre-left government. So they have to look credible. They have to be credible.

If they’re not, the whole centre-left suffers. A vote for the Greens is a vote for a Labour-led government. Votes for NZ First and the Maori Party are also votes for the possibility of such a government.

Not bad for a party supposedly “sliding to oblivion” you might think. Labour’s Future of Work planning is essential, Labour is leading the way on housing and poverty, Labour will work with The Greens on climate change – while National drags its heals on all of these issues (A surplus of cash and a deficit of concern for people). Like unions, the Labour Party is needed today more than ever.

There is still a need for unions – for the minority of workers who choose to belong to a workers’ collective.  The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions represents about 360,000 according to Wikipedia, but the CTU website says:

The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Te Kauae Kaimahi brings together over 320,000 New Zealand union members in 31 affiliated unions. We are the united voice for working people and their families in New Zealand.

So it looks like the union numbers continue to shrink.

Some of the unions are affiliated to the Labour Party, and for the last few years have attained a pivotal role in choosing the party leader.

Current leader Andrew Little got the lowest vote from Caucus of the four candidates, and was well behind Grant Robertson in the members’ vote, but just won the leadership position due to a high union affiliate vote.

Little has a union background, but as a lawyer so he is not exactly a coal face working man.

Most of the other Labour MPs appear to have academic qualifications.

The Labour spokesperson for Workplace Relations and Safety is Iain Lees-Galloway. Prior to becoming an MP he worked as an organiser for the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, which is more of a professional organisation than the traditional workers’ unions. Lees-Galloway is ranked 14th in Labour’s pecking order so Workplace Relations doesn’t seem to be a high priority in the party.

Associate Workplace Relations and Safety Spokesperson is Sue Moroney, ranked 16. According to Wikipedia she has held a number of union positions.

From Wikipedia:

The New Zealand Labour Party was established on 7 July 1916 in Wellington, bringing together socialist groups advocating proportional representation and “the Recall” of Members of Parliament, as well as the nationalisation of production and of exchange. Its origins lie in the British working class movement, heavily influenced by Australian radicalism and events such as the Waihi miners’ strike.

Although Labour had split with its more militant faction, (who went on to form various socialist parties) it maintained what were at the time radical socialist policies. Labour’s ‘Usehold’ policy on land was in essence the replacement of freehold tenure by a system of perpetual lease from the State, with all land transfer conducted through the State(the full nationalisation of farmland). This policy was unpopular with voters and was dropped by Labour, along with other more radical policies, throughout the 1920s.

Andrew Little:

Leading the union and working alongside some of New Zealand’s biggest companies I saw first hand the kind of economy we need – about what we need to do to create and save the jobs that families rely on for their financial security.

These experiences taught me that our economy isn’t just about numbers on a spreadsheet. It’s about New Zealanders and their families and whether people have opportunity and are able to get ahead.

New Zealand was becoming increasingly weighted in favour of those already doing well, while throwing up barriers that stopped other people get ahead.

As a nation, we weren’t doing the kind of things we needed to do to generate new wealth, and so ordinary Kiwis found themselves fighting over a smaller and smaller share of a shrinking economy. I made the decision then that if I wanted to help turn all that around, I was going to run for Parliament.

So Little’s Labour visions are quite different to the aims of the party when it was set up a century ago.

Modern elections are fought largely over perceived competence in managing the country’s economy, so Labour competes with National on this basis. The tow main parties seem largely to be proposing similar outcomes with variations to their aims on how to achieve those outcomes.

Labour is barely recognisable today as a socialist working man’s party, but modern New Zealand is far different as well. There are far fewer labourers, and far more women in the workforce.

Labour’s relevance now has to be reinvented if they are to distinguish themselves from National. They are trying to do that with their ‘Future of Work’ project.

We’re looking to the future too. We are one of the only parties in the world doing serious thinking about the future of work – about where jobs are going to come from in 20 and 30 and 40 years’ time and how we ensure that Kiwis aren’t left out or left behind as the world changes.

This could be an important project, albeit difficult to predict given the technological and societal changes over the last 20, 30 and 40 years.

But is it too forward thinking to be relevant to most working people next year when we have our next election?

Labour lost it’s way over and has muddled through the last decade.

The party can reinvent itself and become relevant to today’s voters, but it is not yet apparent how, beyond offering a chance to Greens to get their first chance to be a part of a government.

One thing they will have to do to become relevant as a serious contender is to ditch the ‘if you criticise us you’re a right winger’ mentality.

Labour Day 2016

Today is Labour Day. It is a public holiday, which means it’s a day off work for those who don’t work in essential services and in the many other occupations that may work any day of the week throughout nearly all of the year.

The nature of work has changed substantially since the late 1800s. Labouring is a minority occupation these days.

From NZ History:

Fighting for the eight-hour working day

Labour Day commemorates the struggle for an eight-hour working day. New Zealand workers were among the first in the world to claim this right when, in 1840, the carpenter Samuel Parnell won an eight-hour day in Wellington. Labour Day was first celebrated in New Zealand on 28 October 1890, when several thousand trade union members and supporters attended parades in the main centres. Government employees were given the day off to attend the parades and many businesses closed for at least part of the day.

The date, 28 October, marked the first anniversary of the establishment of the Maritime Council, an organisation of transport and mining unions. The fledgling union movement was decimated by defeat in a trans-Tasman Maritime Strike in late 1890 but, despite this, the first Labour Day was a huge success. In Wellington, the highlight was an appearance by the elderly Parnell, who died just a few weeks later. From the mid-1890s the union movement began to recover slowly under the Liberal government. The Liberals’ industrial conciliation and arbitration system, introduced in 1894, earned New Zealand a reputation of being a ‘working man’s paradise’ and a ‘country without strikes’.

Early Labour Day parades drew huge crowds in places such as Palmerston North and Napier as well as in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Unionists and supporters marched behind colourful banners and ornate floats, and the parades were followed by popular picnics and sports events.

These parades also had a political purpose. Although workers in some industries had long enjoyed an eight-hour day, it was not a legal entitlement. Other workers, including seamen, farm labourers, and hotel, restaurant and shop employees, still worked much longer hours. Many also endured unpleasant and sometimes dangerous working conditions. Unionists wanted the Liberals to pass legislation enforcing an eight-hour day for all workers, but the government was reluctant to antagonise the business community.

What the Liberals did do was make Labour Day a holiday. The Labour Day Act of 1899 created a statutory public holiday on the second Wednesday in October, first celebrated in 1900. The holiday was ‘Mondayised’ in 1910, and since then it has been held on the fourth Monday in October.

Today most New Zealanders probably think or care little about what Labour Day means. When I was growing up, and since, it has meant little other than being a long weekend.

It was much more important a century and more ago, as were unions. Now most people don’t see a need to belong to a union.

Going back to the beginning: EVENING POST, VOLUME XL, ISSUE 103, 29 OCTOBER 1890



There will be few parades today, except for parades of shoppers seeking this week’s sales, which are probably much like last week’s sales and the myriad of retail sales throughout the year, especially on long weekends.

And there will be parades of cars on the roads as people return home to the cities from a holiday weekend.


Media watch – Monday

24 October 2016


Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

As usual avoid anything that could cause any legal issues such as potential defamation or breaching suppression orders. Also remember that keeping things civil, legal and factual is more effective and harder to argue against or discredit.

Sometimes other blogs get irate if their material is highlighted elsewhere but the Internet is specifically designed to share and repeat information and anyone who comments or puts anything into a public forum should be aware that it could be republished elsewhere (but attribution is essential).

Open Forum – Monday

24 October 2016

Facebook: NZ politics/media+

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts.

Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.
  • Debate hard if you like but respect people’s right to have varying views and to not be personally be attacked.
  • Don’t say to a stranger online anything you wouldn’t say to their face.

Moderation will be minimal if these guidelines are followed. Should they ever be necessary any moderator edits, deletes or bans will be clearly and openly advised unless obviously malicious from anyone breaching site protocols, or spam.

Q & A – Super Fund, and fossil fuels and affordable housing

On Q & A today:

  • Political Editor Corin Dann has an extended interview with New Zealand Super Fund chief executive Adrian Orr. Why the fund is getting out of fossil fuels – plus his ambition for affordable housing.

Is the Super Fund going to move towards social investments in a big way? They have enough money to potentially make a big difference, and possible big losses.

  • Whena Owen looks at the state of our billion dollar forestry industry – it’s dominated by foreign operators and much of the processing is sent overseas – can we do better?


  • New Zealand tech entrepreneur Derek Handley on how to grow great entrepreneurs.


Open borders and child migrants

Missy has drawn attention to this from The Telegraph: Sweden was overwhelmed by influx of child migrants – we should heed their lesson

Sweden used to regard itself as an open, tolerant country – and it had a fine record of integrating newcomers. But now it is closing its borders, rejecting asylum applications and sending people home. Nothing has done the country’s self-image more harm than its handling of child refugees – a sad story full of warnings for Britain.

Sweden’s problem is one of scale. Back in 2004, it was taking in about 400 children a year; by 2011 it had risen to 2,600. But then came the Great Migration – an astonishing march of African and Middle East migrants across Europe, a mix of the aspirant poor and people fleeing war. Sweden received the highest number of asylum seekers compared to its national population. In 2015, some 163,000 people claimed refuge. More than a fifth, or 35,000, were children.

The strain on services was predictable: unaccompanied minors account for about half the asylum budget. Sweden had to find an extra 70,000 school places in a country that already had a shortage of teachers. At one local primary school, 90 per cent of children reportedly speak Arabic and nearly 20 per cent arrived in the country just two years before.

Worse: nothing prepared Swedes for the abuse of their asylum system by predators and criminals.

Sweden has had to face the grim possibility that not all its child asylum seekers are children.


Even if some of these “youths” were bending the truth, who can blame them? In wartime, the line between childhood and adulthood blurs. Children grow up fast, giving them the haunted, haggard look that can make it hard to judge their age, while someone who has just turned 18 is really only an adult on paper. To send them back to an uncertain fate on a technicality seems cruel.

Children can be deported if there is a guardian waiting for them. A group of teachers recently wrote an open letter expressing horror at the idea that their pupils could be effectively sent home to fight in a war: “What is a government even worth if it is incapable of protecting children in its own country and giving them hope for the future?”

Sweden is an example of good intentions having decidedly mixed consequences. The peoples of the developing world are on the move – it is tempting, in the spirit of Christian charity, to open the door to them. But there are a lot of them. They are a mix of refugees and economic migrants. And some may even be criminal.

It makes far more sense to focus on ensuring stability and development in their home countries than encouraging relocation here – and if refugees are accepted in significant numbers then the voters are going to want to know that they are genuine refugees. If the idea gains currency that hospitality is being exploited or rules broken, the popular mood will swing the other way. Life for migrants in Sweden is increasingly, tragically, uncomfortable. Racist attacks are up. An immigrant’s chance of being unemployed is now twice as great as a native Swede.

Liberals beware: evidence is mounting that open borders are unpopular and will not stay open for long. An act of mass generosity is likely to be followed by an act of mass intolerance – as Sweden’s asylum seekers will tell you.

There’s lessons for New Zealand in this as well, although we are distant and relatively isolated from the bulk of mass migrations.

But it is a difficult and complex issue. There are many tragedies and victims associated with wars.

If Western nations are going to get involved directly in wars in foreign countries, if they are going to make money by providing arms, if they are going to use failing states in geopolitical game playing and feuding and power battles then should they also take some responsibility for the damage that is caused to children and people who are more than just collateral damage?