Nov 9, 2012

Upholding the Treaty

Who would’ve thunk that swearing an oath to uphold the central document in our constitution would be “controversial” and “another bid by the Maori party to take New Zealand down the road of racial separatism”. In line with their populist and racist roots National, Act, United Future and NZ First voted down Te Ururoa Flavell’s bill that would allow MPs to swear an oath to uphold the Treaty of Waitangi. The current oath reads:

“I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth 11, her heirs and successors, according to law, so help me God.”

Yuck. It’s easy to imagine this oath in pre-Magna Carta England, but New Zealand in 2012?

One of the basic tenents of the rule of law is that governments and citizens are held to the agreements they freely negotiate. The Treaty of Waitangi is not an exception, operative words being not an exception – it’s the central tenant of our constitution after all. With that in mind, shouldn’t we expect MPs to swear an oath to uphold it? Federal representatives in the US swear an oath to uphold their constitution, the nearest equivalent in NZ would be to swear an oath to uphold the Treaty.

In reality, there is no argument against voting the bill down. All Winston Peters could muster were empty platitudes about separatism. Weak. The National Party hasn't, as far as I'm aware, offered a justification. Weaker. What the rednecks forget is that the Treaty doesn't just confer rights on Maori and obligations on the Crown, the Treaty gives the Crown the right to govern.Wouldn't MPs want to swear to uphold the document that they source their legitimacy from?

NB: normal blogging will resume from about the 19th of November (after my exams).


  1. Anova case of the maori paati getting nothing @ te tepu but a kick in te arse! Walk!

  2. Ka kite Maori Party

  3. Then Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s founding National Document Queen Elizabeth 2nd wouldn’t object swearing allegiance to the Treaty of Waitangi because her Great Grandmothers name is on it. The only reason why they don’t want an allegiance sworn to the Treaty of Waitangi is prejudice. I agree with the previous poster Maori party are in terminal decline they lack the aggressive criticism of the Mana opposition and are an appeasing party that aim low for small incremental change.

  4. quote "
    Who would’ve thunk that swearing an oath to uphold the central document in our constitution would be “controversial” and “another bid by the Maori party to take New Zealand down the road of racial separatism”.

    We don't have a constitution

    1. "We don't have a constitution".

      We have an unwritten constitution. In other words, our constitution is not contained in one supreme document (like in the US), but is made up of Treaties (the Treaty of Waitangi being the primary), constitutional conventions and statutes, for example the Constitution Act, and so on.

    2. I've always disliked the term "unwritten constitution" because most of our constitution is indeed written down in places like the Treaty of Waitangi.

      I prefer to say we have an "uncodified constitution", because the constitution isn't compiled in one single document.

    3. I don't disagree with the substance of your post but I find it amusing that you say that the swearing of the Treaty Oath should be uncontroversial because it's consistent with the Constitution, regardless of what some people might think of it, but then go on to express disapproval at another Oath that is equally constitutional, regardless of what you might think of it.

  5. Morgan, the word I think you were struggling to find was "tenet", which means "a principle" or "a doctrine". You should know that "tenants" live in flats.

  6. Auto-correct will do that, Mike. In any event, I'm glad to see you're putting your herculean skills of analysis to good use.

    Hugh: Although it is right to call our constitution uncodified, referring to our 'unwritten constitution' is more common. In law school we tend to say the unwritten constitution. I think I'm with you though - referring to an unwritten constitution is confusing (if not counter-intuitive).

    I don't object to the oath to the Queen, or the Crown really, on the ground that it's unconstitutional. Although, as 21 year old, I find the oath irrelevant, the point was to compare the two. The former (i.e. the oath to the Treaty) is more relevant than the latter.



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