9 July 2012
Today is a major constitutional milestone for New Zealand. But of course we don’t celebrate it. It is the anniversary of the Royal Assent being granted by Queen Victoria in 1900 following the passage through both Houses of the British Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Bill. The Bill was developed during 1897-98 by a convention of the Premiers of the colonies. New Zealand had not signed up as an Original State by 1 January 1901 when the Constitution came into force, and seems unlikely to ever do so.
Australians don’t pay much attention to 9 July either. Although there was confirmation cabled to Australia and New Zealand, the celebrations at the time were muted. (Australia had telegraph connections to Britain from 1873, and a cable linked New Zealand in 1876.) Australia marked the centenary on 9 July 2000, but subsequent commemoration seems limited to the Australian National Archives and to citizenship ceremonies arranged by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
(Australia Day on 26 January marks the first settlement being set up at Port Jackson in 1788.)
New Zealand is described as one of the States eligible to be part of the Commonwealth;
“The Commonwealth” shall mean the Commonwealth of Australia as established under this Act.
“The States” shall mean such of the colonies of New South Wales, New Zealand, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, and South Australia, including the northern territory of South Australia, as for the time being are parts of the Commonwealth, and such colonies or territories as may be admitted into or established by the Commonwealth as States; and each of such parts of the Commonwealth shall be called “a State”.
9 July has more profile in New Zealand as the anniversary of the Parliamentary passage of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in 1986. The first part of the Act decriminalising male homosexuality passed its Third Reading with 49 Ayes to 44 Noes today in 1986.
But of immediate interest today is the Annual General Meeting of the New Zealand Institute of Public Administration. An address by Len Cook, the IPANZ President, to precede the AGM, is on the topic of “Government Performance – Thought or Theatre”.