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April 15, 2013 | by  | in News |
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Former Salient Editor Discusses Constitutional Review at Victoria

Victoria will host experts on constitutional law, including former Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, to debate the Government’s constitutional review on Monday 15 April.

The Government’s Constitutional Advisory Panel was set up in 2010, and is led by Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and Minister of Māori Affairs Pita Sharples. The panel was set up after the Māori Party’s 2008 confidence-and-supply agreement with National.

The Advisory panel, co-chaired by Professor John Burrows QC and Sir Tipene O’Regan, is consulting the public on constitutional matters such as the Treaty of Waitangi’s role, the size of Parliament, Māori seats, and the possibility of a republican future for New Zealand.

Victoria’s constitutional-review sessions will be based on the Government’s Terms of Reference, which set out important topics for discussion. This includes Crown-Māori relationships, whether New Zealand should have a written constitution, and what role an entrenched Bill of Rights could play in law-making.

This week’s event will focus on the first of the aforementioned Terms of Reference, concerning possible reform of the electoral system. This will include discussion of the size of Parliament, the length of parliamentary terms, the size and number of electorates, and electoral-integrity legislation.

This will be the second in a series of five panels run by the New Zealand Centre for Public Law. The first of these panels was held on Monday last week, and examined what scope the constitutional review will have and how effective it is likely to be.

At last Monday’s event, a consensus was reached among the panel that the constitution is a difficult issue because so few New Zealanders have an understanding of how it functions, let alone how any changes would affect life in Aotearoa.

A recent study showed two-thirds of New Zealanders are unaware a constitutional review is occurring, and Tipene believes this is typical of such issues.

“[Most people are] never aware as they should be of just about any major issue,” he said.

This week’s event will be held in the Hunter Building Council Chambers, at 6.30 pm.

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