New Zealand’s Next Top Constitution

The government has announced the names of the people selected to sit on the Constitutional Advisory Panel.

This panel is an independent group that will lead public discussion on constitutional issues. It will then report to the government.

But the make-up of the panel is disappointing, and lacks serious star talent.

If we really want to engage the public, then we need to sex things up a little. I simply can’t believe there’s no place on the panel for celebrity fodder such as Nicky Watson, Sally Ridge or Mike Hosking.

And why not a few All Blacks? I’d love to know what Andrew Hore thinks about the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

A panel such as this also requires leadership. Consensus is all well and good, but when the team’s down with ten to go you need someone who’s not afraid to get stuck in. Where are the likes of Richie McCaw and Ruben Wiki?

I’m also disappointed that the panel contains so little superstar legal talent. Shouldn’t a panel tasked with examining complex constitutional issue have a few more legal brains serving on it? Why wasn’t I asked? I’d have happily given my time up for as little as $400 per hour. And what about former ACT MP and lawyer David Garrett? His experiences on both sides of the justice system would have been invaluable to the panel.

I’m pleased to see a media person is sitting on the panel, because we will need media engagement if this review isn’t just to disappear without trace. But the choice of Deborah Coddington is a strange one. I can only assume Michael Laws was unavailable.

Academia is well-represented, though we may have been better served had we secured the services of a few overseas experts, rather than a host of local academics. Was Lord Monckton even asked?

Of course, any review of the constitution must involve the participation of Maori. So why no Hone Harawira or Tame Iti?

So I fear that this constitutional review will end up becoming a stale and tedious exercise that fails to excite the public. We could have televised the panel discussions and begun a genuine debate. We could have called it New Zealand’s Next Top Constitution, and watched as contestant after contestant got voted off the panel. The winner of the contest, the one with the best moves and the most kick-ass style, could then have chosen the system they wanted.

Instead we have years of dreary consultation and discussion to look forward to. What a wasted opportunity.