Thursday, August 04, 2011

Moving (slowly) on the constitutional review

Back in 2008, as part of its confidence and supply agreement with the Maori Party [PDF], the government promised to establish "no later than early 2010... a group to consider constitutional issues including Maori representation." Now, in late 2011, just three months out from the election, they've finally gotten round to it. The panel will be chaired by Law Commissioner John Burrows and Ngāi Tahu's Tipene O’Regan; it includes three former MPs, two former mayors, a bunch of academics, and a netball player. Oddly, constitutional lawyers - of which we have a few notable ones - are not well represented. In keeping with its primary purpose of discussing the future of the Maori seats, it has a heavy Maori presence, and I expect they'll ensure that it preserves the status quo. That is after all the point of the exercise: allowing National and the Maori Party to punt their differences for a few years, while allowing time for the former to back down gracefully from its Brash-era brush with racism).

In keeping with this goal, the panel will now do nothing for the next six months. National doesn't want these topics to be an issue during the election, after all. It will eventually report back in late 2013, too late for its proposals to be implemented by (or even put to a referendum in) the 2014 election.

In other words, no change anytime soon. Though given that the panel is likely to be used to try and foist a 4-year term on us without a referendum, that's probably a good thing.