Well, the political left and right maintain a long tradition of using the power of the state to limit our exercise of human rights and freedom of expression. They conduct the form of democracy rather than act in the spirit of it: representation of voters is a sham when they act in self-interest plus in their party's interests, but usually not in the public interest. Furthermore, retaining a foreign agent as head of state doesn't make sense unless the British Crown starts to act like a positive role model by serving the public interest.
So rather than commit to the backward Maori collective view that we must accept the the supremacy of the British Crown forever (so that chiefs can retain their traditional privileges) I prefer a forward view that does not entrench privileges for anyone. I suggest we create a genuine progressive political movement in Aotearoa that advocates constitutional reform with the priority principle that our sovereignty is formally vested in us as the basis of our constitution.
This need not mean that we ought to create a Republic of Aotearoa! Intelligent observers of the USA since Eisenhower tend to deduce that republics produce just as many abuses of democratic process as monarchies. Read Prince Charles's book Harmony (2010) and you will see that his vast unreported service to the global green cause verify that he will be an ideal head of state for us! Since it appears that he is similarly mentoring his son William, one need not be a royalist to see that preserving the status quo is likely to be the best way forward.
A prudent compromise would therefore be to make retention of the Crown conditional upon both the performance of public service by the British monarch in this country and public satisfaction with the monarch as appropriate role model - just as Charles has been providing diverse enterprising exemplary demonstrations of since the 1980s (which the media carefully refrain from publicising). The constitutional clause to effect this change ought to include a plebiscite threshold of 2/3 of kiwi voters required to make the switch away from the Crown.
When, as a child more than half a century back, I first heard that Aotearoa was the Maori name of our country, I thought it vastly preferable. It was common in those days to dismiss something that doesn't make sense as “double-dutch”. New Zealand is a double name, and it's dutch (Tasman, the discoverer, named our country after a province in Holland). Doesn't make sense to use it, right? If I could figure this out that young how come mainstream dorks still don't get it??
Rather than continuing to present as a country full of retards, we must get our collective act together and make our land Aotearoa in the new constitution. So forget our current PM's attempt to distract us from this essential transformation. No point in waving a new flag when you're still wallowing in the same old shit! Folks here need not be spineless forever: they just need to realise they can't feel kiwi pride on an authentic basis while they're still crippled by the old cultural cringe.
I'd be keen to lead this change in parliament but I can't see myself being willing to swear loyalty to a foreign agency. Neither would I front as just another suit-wearing dork. If parliament does actually have a compulsory dress code, I cannot condone discrimination against anyone who feels having to wear a 19th century uniform as a condition of entry makes MPs look like imbeciles.
So I see an oath and a parliamentary dress code suitable for the 21st century as being essential consitutional requirements to make our democracy more credible. Likewise replacing the antique competitive structure of parliament with one that balances competition with collaboration. This can readily be done by re-activating the upper chamber of parliament to serve as the forum for collaborative decision-making. This parallel structure allows the House to continue normal process while the supplementary forum gets up to speed.
The merit of this innovation is depends on a suitably-sophisticated design being used. I suggest chartering the forum to operate for the common good, so collaborative endeavour gets framed to serve the public interest. Open it not just to MPs who prefer to work constructively to extend consensus on legislation across party lines, but also to party members and other politicos similarly motivated. Make the basis of participation voluntarist, so no extra funding is required. Eliminate rabble-rousers by using a gatekeeper screening process with selection criteria. Participants to sign a collective contract specifying adherence to the collaborative decision-making process, etc.
The basic idea is enabling collective transcendence, mainly directed to solving what have hitherto been intractable social problems. Concurrent operation of the two chambers would create a different culture in parliament: effectively the traditional lower chamber would be competing with the novel upper chamber in the public mind. Folks would await the outcome, to see whether the upper forum produces better results. My pick is that the polarising, problem-institutionalising process we are familiar with in the competitive lower chamber will be surpassed and supplanted by the holistic problem-solving process we will observe in the collaborative upper chamber. Validation by results will inexorably escalate public support for this social transformation.
The general desire of people for a new kind of politics has not yet led to sufficient emergence of any such practice. Whereas the political left and right are shackled to antique representative democracy, the green movement has always been neither left nor right (but in front). It cannot be seen to actually be in front until it leads from the front, which requires the Green Party to start representing the green movement on the authentic basis of being neither left nor right. If the GP takes this initiative, it can begin to role-model a new style of politics.
Essentially, such political leadership would transform it into a political avante-garde, driving social progress forward for our country. The practice required to authenticate such a stance integrates the values and tenets of the traditional left and right by discarding all those elements which are no longer valid and retaining only the elements that everyone needs to create a successful society.
Humanity evolved wealthless, so equity is the basic social principle of leftist thought that remains eternally essential. People have a natural right of equity in any society they are born into. This right to a fair share of food, shelter and participation in social decision-making is enshrined in the covenants of civil rights adopted by the United Nations and ratified by most governments half a century ago. Civilisation evolved on the basis of social wealth, so enterprise is the basic social principle of rightist thought that remains eternally essential. People have a natural right to create goods and services, and profit from them to the extent that their value is shared by others sufficiently for trading to occur. Private property rights in common law sanctify such enterprise.
An integral political framework may include further such fundamentals from both left & right, but it suffices at this point simply to demonstrate what the GP needs to do to be avante garde. The practical method can be developed from this basic conceptual frame. Applying it to the upper chamber process, we'd see the parliamentary greens modelling consensus decision-making on this basis, identifying the common ground between left and right that the establishment folk can converge upon to agree legislative changes. Meanwhile the lower chamber can continue to be the venue for the sterile rhetoric and juvenile point-scoring that the establishment is addicted to. When the upper chamber starts producing satisfactory output the public is likely to become confident that its process is superior and the dinosaurs in the lower house will be threatened with extinction! However it is likely they will wise up at that point and realise the lower chamber is not really a children's playground after all, so it's better to act like mature adults instead.
Using a social charter for the upper chamber process combines the rationale with the collective contract. Such a charter would spell out the process, and the terms of participation, for both public & participants. Group process degenerates into a talkfest when the whip is not applied, so management of the timing and scheduling of task-specific sessions must be carefully designed to ensure the delivery of satisfactory outputs. With such a sensible approach it is likely that the establishment will see constructive progress as being in our common interests, so the necessary legislative change to reformulate the upper chamber as integral to parliamentary process will be readily agreed once it becomes clear that it will expedite the operation of the whole. It may not require constitutional reform.
To close on a personal note, I'm keen to bring about this social transformation. At my first Green Party meeting (March '91, Taukau Conference) I recall being told that “getting green activists to agree is like herding cats”. It was explained to me by Mike Smith, Convenor of the Standing Orders Committee at the time, that they were stuck in a catch-22. They couldn't agree on the wording of the party rules documents because the rules were required to be followed in order to formalise agreement - but the rules were not yet agreed. I remember taking a fraction of a second to see that this was my opportunity to contribute. When everyone is confronted by the impossible, nothing happens till an audacious lateral-thinker achieves the impossible. Democracy is a lowest-common denominator design which dumbs everyone down to mass cretinism, so folks like me usually have no way to solve social problems for the common good of all. I only joined the greens on the basis that they really were alternative thinkers, so I seized this opportunity to work with them and finesse the catch-22.
It took several years, first as a member of the SOC producing redrafts and getting agreement to the changes from the other members, then as acting convenor when Martin Wallace took over from Mike Smith but told me he didn't have time to do the redrafting himself. Eventually Martin stood himself down, the GP made me convenor, and I led the consensus process and rewrote the various party rules documents through multiple drafts, taking each through to consensus in each of the necessary party groups, until final adoption was attained at our annual conference. This included the Constitution of the Green Party, which I sent to Sir Geoffrey Palmer as instructed by our Co-Convenors. He needed it to register the Green Party with the Electoral Commission so we could then compete in the electoral process legally. I also served as Convenor of both the Justice Policy Working Group and the International Relations Policy Working Group during that time. I recently rejoined the Green Party after 19 years of self-imposed exile.
I had previously led the consensus process that produced formal documents comprehensively articulating agreed beliefs and rules for two other groups (one being the constitution for an incorporated society). Despite the widespread perception back then that consensus decision-making was an ideal that could never be made real, I proved that it could in those three contexts, and can do so again when required. The greens can model it in parliament till it becomes the norm – all we need do is widen the circle of participation. When sceptics reframe their world-view to embrace working together for mutual benefit, give it a go in practice until they can see that it is indeed a feasible political method, then they become part of the solution. Slow learners who cling to the old ways will gradually reduce in numbers and influence.
You know, it's close to half a century since the alert portion of my generation figured it would have to save the world. What was then an idealistic aspiration translated into partial success via the antinuclear and peace movements, women & gays were liberated & apartheid overthrown. The save-the-world syndrome persists in the minds of many, but the political left and right still think it's okay to be predators upon nature and climate change looms as a global threat requiring drastic action that it's not getting. In this context constitutional reform in this country may seem like window-dressing, but I believe it is required to get us all out of the cultural malaise, mental miasma, psychological dependency and legendary kiwi complacency that the political left and right foster and breed upon. Once we transform this country into a suitable form for new millennium progress, we can front ourselves to the world as a suitable model for social transformation elsewhere. We know the United Nations is incapable of doing what the world needs. We know global corporations will exploit everyone till a sufficiently powerful force transforms their operating context. That's the task the world's people must engage. Let's start here!
Dennis Frank, 3/3/15