The coalition deals leave a lot to fight over in the next three years

The coalition deals leave a lot to fight over in the next three years

After some “interpretive scrutiny” of the coalition agreements, constitutional law expert Andrew Geddes sees confusion in the future of this government.

The two documents that laid the foundation for our new tripartite coalition government are causing some joy among lawyers. Patriotism agreed on a whole host of things with the law. National has agreed a whole host of things with New Zealand First. Act and New Zealand First did not directly agree anything with each other, but they promised that each would support what the other understood had agreed with National. Two written documents each containing extensive detail across a wide range of issues, thus seeking to capture the intentions of three different groups of people. Also known as the “disputants’ gold mine.”

However, what do the three parties seem to have cooked up among themselves? Putting aside all the typical “we work together for a brighter future” material, working out the actual content requires a great deal of interpretive scrutiny. Basically, the starting point is all of those things laid out in the (deep breath) National Eight-Point Commitment Card, the Financial Plan, the Tax Plan, the 100-Day Plan, and the 100-Point Economic Plan. These are now considered to be the policy of the coalition government – ​​except where any of the agreement documents deviate from them.

This means that you must review all of National’s various policy commitments as set out at the time of the election, check them with both the National Law Agreement and the National-New Zealand First Agreement and, where there is no express disagreement, they remain in place. But if there is some disagreement, the position as set out in (either) national law or the National Agreement-New Zealand First remains. Furthermore, both Act and New Zealand First have some of their own policies that are expressly accepted by National in each of the separate agreements (which are in turn accepted by the other party in our new agreement Triumvirate ranking).

This means that the whole thing is a bit complicated and it will take some time to fully understand all the details. Until then, some confusion will prevail. For example, the New Zealand First-National Agreement unambiguously states that the new government “will ensure, as a matter of urgency in establishing and concluding, a wide-ranging, independent investigation, conducted openly with national and international experts, into how that investigation was carried out.” The Covid pandemic has been dealt with in New Zealand…” However, the NLC only commits to “expanding the terms of reference of the Royal Commission to include the response to Covid-19, subject to public consultation”. These are not the same thing at all, but both appear to have now become official government policy to which all three parties adhere.

There is a similar degree of equivocation when it comes to one of the obvious hot spots for coalition partners – what we should do about Te Tiriti and “democracy promotion” (to use the language in both agreements). Here it seems clear that the three partners were more in agreement on what they did not want than on what they did. No more “shared governance in public service delivery”. No more providing public services based on “race” rather than “need,” including granularity such as requiring a review of how people choose to attend medical school. There is no longer guaranteed Māori representation in local government, unless non-Māori residents of the area vote to allow it.

But how the new government plans to dismantle Te Tiriti’s role in our broader constitutional arrangements remains less clear. The threshold set by the Referendum Act on what the “principles of the Treaty” should mean has been watered down to a promise that legislation allowing such a vote would be sent to a select committee (with the obvious implication being that it then goes no further). . New Zealand First won with a promise to undertake a ‘comprehensive review of all legislation…incorporating the ‘principles of the Treaty of Waitangi’ and to replace all such references with specific words relating to the significance and application of the Treaty, or to remove the references’. This sounds great and comprehensive, but how will he fit into it? Supreme Court ruling Pointing out that the way the treaty doctrine provisions are worded in legislation doesn’t really matter… and that you probably don’t need them anyway, given how much Te Tiriti is part of our constitutional fabric?

All of this leaves a lot to fight about (hopefully ideologically and politically, not literally) in the next three years. We will have to discover the relationship between “race” and “need” in the society where The widespread structural defect leads to unequal outcomes. We will have to question the extent to which a temporary parliamentary majority can alter constitutional assumptions developed over the past three decades. This is if there is indeed a parliamentary majority in favor of a particular change.

Oh – one last thing. All parties committed to legislation organizing a referendum on the transition to a four-year parliamentary term. I’m putting my money on it now because the outcome of this referendum will depend on how the public reacts to the coalition seeking to implement this joint agreement over the next three years. If they can make it work, it will probably pass. But if it all falls apart, it won’t happen. Let’s see where we end up.

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