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Speech

Launch of The Constitution of New Zealand

Issue date: 
Tuesday, 15 November 2022
Speaker: 
The Rt Hon Dame Cindy Kiro, GNZM, QSO

E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga iwi o te motu e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi nui ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa.

 

It’s a privilege to gather with other interested parties from the Judiciary, DPMC, Parliament, Government agencies, academia and law for this launch of this accessible new book of our nation’s constitutional arrangements.

Can I acknowledge:

Dame Helen Winkelmann, Chief Justice

The Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Palmer, former Prime Minister

Rachel Hayward, Secretary of the Cabinet and Clerk of the Executive Council

David Wilson, Clerk of the House of Representatives

Rebecca Kitteridge, Director-General of SIS

Michael Webster, Privacy Commissioner

John Allen, Chancellor of Victoria University of Wellington

Mai Chen, Barrister, of the Public Law Toolbox Chambers

And of course the authors of “The Constitution of New Zealand” Matthew Palmer and Dean Knight.

There are so many intersections of my own lived experience that touch on aspects of this book, from my work in an Independent Crown Entity, as an academic in public policy, and now as Governor-General, representing our Head of State, King Charles III.

As always, it is fascinating and instructive to see the various roles of our constitutional arrangements described and analysed. There is so much more that needs to be done to help New Zealanders understand these matters.

Our constitutional arrangements may be a black box to many, but they do affect the lives of every person living in our country, and given some of the challenges we have seen democracies facing across the globe, we must do even more to preserve those elements which make us stronger.

This book’s constitutional sketch highlights the essential elements of the relationships between Parliament, the Sovereign – whom I represent, Cabinet, Ministers, the public service and judiciary.

Each of these elements must work in concert and in proper, principled ways to ensure the good working of our representative democracy.

We have been fortunate in the manner in which conventions have been observed to ensure the proper running of our democracy, but we must be ever vigilant and clear about why this matters to ensure that we have the best arrangements in place and that they remain robust.

In New Zealand, our constitutional evolution has reflected key cultural values commonly ascribed to New Zealanders: egalitarianism, faith in authority, fairness and pragmatism.

Clearly, we can legitimately debate the extent to which these principles have been observed in respect of some populations over time.

While those values still resonate with many of us, the authors note how some of these have waned.

At the last census, more than 27 percent of people living in Aotearoa were born elsewhere.

We know that some of them will have experienced what life is like when there are no free and fair elections, when bureaucracy is corrupt, when there is no separation of powers, and the rule of law is absent.

It is easy to take such things for granted in New Zealand.

It will be up to the people of New Zealand to decide if, and when, they want further changes, through their elected representatives in Parliament.

Informed discussion can only proceed if there is wider understanding of how our constitution has evolved and how it operates.

In my view New Zealanders, as I said earlier, would be empowered by a better understanding and appreciation of how our constitutional arrangements work– and their stake in those arrangements.

Ideally, they would then be more motivated to participate in the political process and they would develop a firmer understanding of what various institutions can deliver.

Justice Palmer and Professor Knight, thank you for taking on this project and for pulling it all together so expertly.

I am sure there will be great interest in the intriguing future options you have outlined. Time will tell if any of them do become part of our nation’s story.

On this note, I am pleased to be able to launch the book!

Noho ora mai e koutou.

 

 

 

 

 

Last updated: 
Wednesday, 16 November 2022

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