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Saturday, 20 April 2019 08:20 am

Former PM’s constitutional blueprint greeted with Little caution

Apr 12th, 2018 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

The launch of Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Andrew Butler’s new book, Towards Democratic Renewal. Ideas for Constitutional Change in New Zealand attracted over 100 people.

After hearing 440 submissions and speaking to 3500 people, Sir Geoffrey Palmer has co-written a new book proposing a New Zealand constitution – but he’ll have to wait.

It is his second such book in two years, and now the former Prime Minister hopes the government will pick up and run with his ideas on constitutional change.

Justice Minister Andrew Little says he will look at such a constitution after reforming abortion law, family law, the criminal justice system and several other things.

“It wasn’t in our 100-day programme and I’m disappointed to tell you that it’s not in our 1,000-day programme either,” Mr Little said at the launch.

“Give us another couple of thousand days and we’ll see what we can do.”

Justice Minister Andrew Little asked for “another couple of thousand days” in order to address abortion and family law reform and criminal justice changes.

Little and Palmer agree a written, US-style constitution is important in the world of Brexit, President Trump, fake news and populism.

Palmer says it is unwise to assume those overseas trends would not spread to New Zealand.

“I think a sound and robust constitution is a very good protection against that.”

Co-author Andrew Butler says many of the current arrangements are worth preserving.

“But we must not be complacent. We would be foolish if we didn’t guard against observable and real dangers and real risks that we can see are happening.”

A written constitution would be the highest law in the land, contained in one place and easily accessible, Butler says, whereas now people face difficulties finding out how the government works.

“Who is favoured by that lack of accessibility? Who does that benefit?”

Over 100 people packed out Unity Books in Wellington to hear from the authors and get signed copies.

It was a family affair for Ethan and Lydia Hunter, their sister and daughter works at Victoria University Press and helped with the editing.

Hart Reynolds, meanwhile, wants an insight into New Zealand’s constitutional future.

“I would like there to be an entrenched constitution, maybe with more emphasis on the Treaty of Waitangi, give it more power in our law.

Connor Burr is not overly familiar with Palmer’s political history, but enjoys coming to book launches.

“It’s nice seeing people talk about new books that are happening, it’s nice kind of going to see new things happening.”

Towards Democratic Renewal. Ideas for Constitutional Change in New Zealand by Geoffrey Palmer and Andrew Butler, is $40.00 from Unity Books.

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