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March 22, 2004 | by  | in News |
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Student Eye for the Parliament Guy

Just to start off this week, did anyone else have a disturbing vision of Helen Clark in a cheerleading costume when you heard that she had finished off her speech with the phrase, “Bring it on”?

On a less nightmare-inducing note it seems the flavour of the week has been inquiries. Peter ‘Mr Consensus’ Dunne has come out advocating an inquiry on the Treaty of Waitangi and Constitutional issues. What’s more, Dunne doesn’t just advocate any old inquiry but he has thrown around the term ‘Royal Commission.’ Now in layman terms a Royal Commission is essentially an über inquiry. Notable Royal Commissions over the years have include the 1986 Electoral System inquiry and more recently the inquiry into Genetic Modification.

Essentially what we’ve seen since Orewa is a nationwide debate over race relations, but this can’t rage on forever. There needs to be some sort of conclusion reached to bring finality. The question is whether a Royal Commission is the vehicle to bring this finality. The findings of the Electoral System inquiry produced a book that rivals War and Peace in size, basically a bricklayer could use it if he was running short. Let’s say that Helen Clark was benevolent enough to grant me a Royal Commission into what I’m going to have for dinner tonight, hardly a raging constitutional issue I know, but bear with me. I wouldn’t get a simple “you should have Hell Pizza.” They might recommend Hell Pizza, but then they’d spend another 100 pages giving me caveats. I’d be told that I would need to look into my overall nutritional framework, see if I was offending any minorities, look into how it would impact my future finances, have a good think about whether I wanted a small or large. Now there is nothing wrong with this and there is no question that given the importance of constitutional issues there unfortunately isn’t really any quick fix. But in an age where sound bites rule the media air waves will the public see this as conclusive?

All these calls for an inquiry have put the spotlight right back on Don Brash. He said we need a “rational, intelligent, mature debate,” and an inquiry ostensibly would be this – in a formalized setting with the findings being a synopsis of the debate. The National Party has publicly come out against such a debate though. A contradiction? Well yes it probably is, but the rationale behind it is reasonably plain to see. First of all it effectively sweeps the issue under the carpet; Royal Commissions tend to have gestation periods that are measured in years rather than months. Secondly, Brash has always aimed to pitch his message at the man on the street. Public submissions aside, Royal Commissions have historically been a way in which retired High Court Judges put together their deposit for their holiday home or yacht. Finally, Brash is calling for change and any findings would purely be a recommendation. Clark scoffed at the idea of a commission being binding in Question Time last Tuesday. By going against the idea of a commission Brash can campaign strongly on the idea that a National Government would definitely make changes. To Clark’s “Bring it on,” Brash seems to have replied with “Oh, it’s brung.” The question is, is it?

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