OneAction NZ

Democracy Co-operative

Whose government is it?

Posted by Rhys Goodwin on September 30, 2021 · 3 mins read

Kia ora folks,

I’ve recently read the book ‘Towards Democratic Renewal’ by former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Dr Andrew Butler. In the book Geoffrey and Andrew present their proposal for a written constitution for Aotearoa New Zealand. A constitution sets the rules for the government and rights of the citizens. In New Zealand it’s common for people to think that we don’t have a constitution, but we definitely do. It’s just that it’s not written down in one place. Instead, we have constitutional law dotted all over the place. You can find it in laws like the Bill of Rights Act 1990, The Human Rights Act 1993, and The Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975. You can find it in court rulings, and you can find it in the conventions and traditions of our government. Geoffrey Palmer has long argued that because we don’t have a clearly defined written constitution there aren’t enough safe-guards on government power. Others might argue that the flexibility of an unwritten constitution is advantageous. I’m still mulling it over, but I suspect a written constitution will be required if we’re to get to where we need to go. I don’t believe we’re ready to embark on constitutional change yet, but I do believe we’re ready to get ready.

One of the things that struck me about the book was the way Geoffrey and Andrew imagined an Aotearoa New Zealand where the people really took ownership of the direction of their country. I notice that often when we talk about government we say the government, rather than our government. We often think about it as separate to us rather than as an extension of us. Our government is a machine that we are all part-owners of. It’s the machine that we use to set the rules for our widest community.

If we don’t take a hand in navigating this waka, who knows where the wind will blow us. There are no doubt storms coming our way. We need to get match-fit. We need to get better at working together at the all-of-Aotearoa level. OneAction’s vision is to build away to do that.

If we wanted to show the world a new way of doing politics. We could.
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Ngā mihi

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