The Treaty of Waitangi in the twenty-first century

Te Papa Tongarewa forum, 6 February 2001

Between the 1840s and the 1870s the Treaty of Waitangi went from a solemn pact to a “simple nullity” in the public life of the colony, at most thereafter occasionally invoked simply for ceremonial purposes. In the 1980s the Treaty was revived as an instrument for settling wrongs and reshaping some decision-making. There is nothing surer than that in this new century the Treaty’s role will change again, probably substantially.

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A new paradigm for local government?

Local Government Conference; Christchurch, 10 July 2000

Let’s start with subsidiarity. Only the French could have concocted such a barbaric word; only Anglo-Saxons could have adopted it with enthusiasm.

Subsidiarity means taking decisions and carrying out actions at the lowest practicable level of government. This concept is a reaction against the twentieth century centralisation of power and activity in the hands of sprawling central governments. New Zealand did not escape that centralising tendency: indeed, we made centralisation an art form. And now we are not escaping the decentralising reaction.

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The political history and framework

Legislative Council Chamber 7-8 April 2000
(This deals with the period post-1980, picking up where Bill Oliver left off.)

In his 1992 book, New Zealand’s Constitution in Crisis, Sir Geoffrey Palmer noted a marked lack of interest, not only among the public, but even among his ministerial colleagues, in his reform of the Constitution Act in 1986.

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The issues

NZ Politics Research Group election conference: 18 Februrary 2000

The issues

“Issues” is a slippery topic. Allegedly, voters decide elections on “issues” and surveys are conducted to find out what they were. Until the official programme arrived I had thought my topic was “policies”, which would have been much less challenging – a scan of what the parties said, when campaigning, they would do if in or sharing power.

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The New Zealand economy and politics: the revolution and the future

Seminar: America’s Relations with Australia and New Zealand Beyond the Turn of the Century

University of Maryland

Baltimore, 8 November 1999

Abstract: Just as a vigorous flowering of the arts in the 1980s signalled New Zealand’s true emergence as an independent (decolonialised) nation, it energetically espoused neoliberalism, the third radical policy shift in its 160 years of Anglo-Celtic rule. This third “New Zealand model”, which attracted considerable international interest from economists, businesspeople and such diverse politicians as the government of Mongolia, the Japanese House of Councillors and Vice-President Al Gore, is now embedded in policy. But, while the economy is undoubtedly more flexible and robust, it is (for various historical and contemporary reasons) still far short of neoliberals’ high-wage, high-performing ideal and it has left most citizens political “outsiders”, at odds with the “insiders” in the business, bureaucratic and political establishments and this has destabilised politics. Other “outsiders”, the indigenous Maori, are posing demands for power- and resource-sharing which many non-Maori find threatening but which seem likely nonetheless to lead to constitutional change in the next decade. To reconcile these disparate dimensions in a stable society and politics, the search is on for a new political language.

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