Our brightest and best have come up with … let’s be kind, and dismiss it simply as bollocks

“Betcha you’ve never been greeted by a tumuaki before, Hillary.”


Alf is deeply bothered this morning by evidence that our bright young people are not as bright as they used to be.

This evidence comes in the form of a news story (here about a written constitution drawn up by a bunch of young folk.

Among other absurdities, these addle-brained young people are recommending we no longer have a Prime Minister.

Instead (according to someone who has been listening to them)

…the students wanted the constitution to be more visible, modern, bold and unique to New Zealand – evident in the push for a republic, the emphasis on Treaty values, and the renaming of the Prime Minister as a Tumuaki (headmaster or president).

Gawd give us strength.

It is gratifying to learn these buggers can write, of course, because some teachers are apt to fall down somewhat seriously in the teaching of the three Rs.

But it does seem these students have become so steeped in teachings about the Treaty, they are willing to regard it as a hallowed document.

Accordingly –

The Waitangi Tribunal would have binding powers to remedy Treaty breaches in a written constitution drawn up by 50 of the country’s brightest young people.

And there we have it.

These are the country’s brightest people.

Perturbing, eh?

But let’s move on…

The draft constitution, developed by law, history and communications students at Parliament, also called for New Zealand to become a republic and for four-year parliamentary terms.

Constituents will know full well that their long-serving, hard-working MP is an ardent monarchist (who is long overdue for a knighthood, by the way).

The concept of a republic is repugnant to him.

Just look at the USA to see what happens when you throw out your king or queen.

But having to stump for support once every four years instead of every three years has its merits. Campaigning is apt to reduce Alf’s drinking time.

Another bothersome issue, however, is the reverence with which our brightest young people accord the Treaty of Waitangi.

Lead facilitator Dean Knight, from Victoria University Law School, said the group made it very clear that the Treaty of Waitangi should be central to a new constitution.

According to this recipe for catastrophe, we would base our constitution on a simple document written in two languages, but the meaning (and deeper implications) differs from one version to the other and depends somewhat heavily on who does the translation.

The Maori version contains such profound meaning that a whole industry has been built up on interpreting it.

It’s an advance on those far-off days when highly paid advisers would draw their insights from poking a stick into a heap of chicken guts or some-such, and important decisions would be based on those insights. But not much of an advance.

Otago University law student Louis Chambers said the biggest sticking point in developing the document was how strong the constitution would be.

“We had to ask: ‘Is the constitution a symbolic document that guides the New Zealand public or is it something that you can actually go to the courts and enforce if it is not complied with?”‘

In the upshot, the group has decided the Bill of Rights should be strengthened and the Waitangi Tribunal given greater powers.

But ultimate responsibility would be left to Government, and the judiciary would not be able to declare any law invalid if it breached the constitution.

Praise be for that, at least.

But what knowledge of our constitution did these people have before they set about trying to improve it?

A crash course is provided by Wikipedia (here).

But the young people must have gone somewhere else for their information.

Students agreed that the current constitution was a sterile document which young people had no say in.

It was drawn up as the result of a political crisis in 1984 in response to Prime Minister Robert Muldoon’s refusal to make changes to avoid an economic crisis.

What was that?

Our constitution was drawn up as the result of a political crisis in 1984 in response to Prime Minister Robert Muldoon’s refusal to make changes to avoid an economic crisis????

But Wikipedia says –

The constitution of New Zealand consists of a collection of statutes (Acts of Parliament), Treaties, Orders in Council, letters patent, decisions of the Courts and unwritten constitutional conventions. As with the United Kingdom, there is no one supreme document; the New Zealand constitution is not codified or, with the exception of certain electoral law, formally entrenched.

Wendy McGuinness, identified as head of a think tank called the McGuiness Institute, has a better grasp of realities when she says New Zealand’s constitution is piecemeal, little known and mostly buried in a Cabinet manual.

The Herald reminds us that a government-appointed panel is reviewing New Zealand’s constitution and is due to report back in September next year.

It behooves us all to make bloody sure we have our say, to ensure the constitution (if any change is needed) is shaped by ordinary people and not by our brightest young people.

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