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Sir Geoffrey Palmer
Former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, when speaking at the May TINZ board meeting, made a case that there has been an absence of free and frank advice offered to ministers in recent for public servants from total ministerial control.
Sir Geoffrey noted that If ministers do not receive free and frank advice, there is a real risk that this will promote a tendency to politicise the public service and endanger its independence, thereby adversely affecting the quality of advice given and decisions taken.
“The public service should not be seen as a tool of the government of the day used to justify policy decisions; rather, an independent service working for the good of the country as a whole. The public service should serve up various options for dealing with issues and the ministers should choose between them. That is how a public service in the Westminster is supposed to work”.
In A Constitution for Aotearoa New Zealand, Palmer and his co-author Andrew Butler propose the following for the Constitution:
Other aspects of the draft Constitution that strengthen institutions include ensuring that there is sufficient regulation and oversight over political parties to ensure they do not develop corrupt tendencies in New Zealand.
Recommendations by the Royal Commission on the Electoral system in 1986 that led to MMP, should be revisited. This includes:
Sir Geoffrey concluded that his and Butler’s book makes a strong case that a written codified Constitution would improve New Zealand’s system of government.
“It would make it clearer who has what power. It would remove much of the mystery and uncertainty. It would improve knowledge of how our democracy works by providing a readable single document. It will enable the public to know what the rules are that apply to ministers, parliamentarians, and the public service”.
Speaking directly to the TINZ Board, Sir Geoffrey stated that “A Constitution can make an important contribution to achieving the aims of Transparency International New Zealand. A healthy democracy requires democratic renewal”. He asked for the Board to make a submission on the importance of public servants providing free and frank advice to transparency and to democracy. Similar to the submission he has requested of TINZ on freedom of information, he requested that the submission give thought to how a constitution would be best worded to guarantee these freedoms.
Please provide your contributions to this submission to Eva Lu at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sir Geoffrey Palmer recognized bythe TINZ Board 22 May, 2017