Key wants four-year term for Parliament

SIMON DAY
Last updated 05:00 07/02/2013
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WHEN THREE IS NOT ENOUGH: Prime Minister John Key says should be a four-year fixed term of Parliament.
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ
WHEN THREE IS NOT ENOUGH: Prime Minister John Key says should be a four-year fixed term of Parliament.

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Prime Minister John Key wants to extend the parliamentary term to a fixed four-year period as part of the Government's constitutional review.

One hundred and 73 years after the constitutional foundation of New Zealand was laid, the constitutional landscape was again the topic of discussion at Waitangi yesterday.

"My view is that there should be a four-year fixed date of Parliament.

"I think it makes a lot more sense to know when the date is fixed and I think it makes a lot more sense to have it for four years," Mr Key said.

Any change would require the support of 75 per cent of MPs or public support in a referendum. The proposal had failed twice before, in 1967 and 1990.

But the prime minister appears to have the support of his political opponents and allies.

Opposition leader David Shearer agreed that three years was not enough.

"It is too long in opposition.

"But it may be too short in government," he said.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said three years was enough time only to get going and then there was another election.

Maori are also determined on running their own constitutional review at the same time as the Government has undertaken one but Mr Key said any constitutional changes had to have the mandate of all New Zealanders.

"They asked when they present this [review] report, will the Government consider it.

"We said we will certainly consider it but any change must be with the consensus of all New Zealand," he said.

The iwi-led review was in response to a lack of constitutional security for Maori in New Zealand, review chairwoman Professor Margaret Mutu said.

Maori have proposed a single written constitution that entrenches tikanga Maori (Maori culture) and the Treaty of Waitangi in the document.

Mr Key said he was "not a fan" of a written constitution and he believed our constitutional framework allowed Parliament to function with freedom.

The Maori electorates will not be a victim of any constitutional change because of the Government's arrangement with the Maori Party, despite National's pre-election policy to remove them. "I've made the commitment to the Maori Party in good faith and as long as I am leader we will be keeping that view," Mr Key said.

However, he said the Maori seats were likely to be phased out because Maori were sufficiently represented on the general roll.

Maori leaders are concerned about the two reviews running separately.

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"It's a bit of a worry because both processes are working quite independently of each other," Ngapuhi elder Haami Piripi said.

"It seems they need to merge their thinking," he said.

Maori leaders were concerned the Government's review would lead to changes that reduced the presence of Maori in New Zealand, Mr Piripi said.

"We are not interested in any constitutional change that would diminish our influence or ability to participate."

- Stuff

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