Story: Constitution

Constitution cartoon

Constitution cartoon

Prime Minister Helen Clark and United Future Party leader Peter Dunne survey some of the elements that make up New Zealand's constitution in this 2004 cartoon. The symbols include a crown (the monarchy) and a tīpare or headband (Māori and the Treaty of Waitangi). The cap with a silver fern on the front is perhaps intended to represent New Zealand in a general fashion through a sporting motif. The fact the constitution is housed in a dark, cobweb-filled room suggests it is not a topic much thought about by the average New Zealander.

The cartoon refers more directly to the creation of the Supreme Court of New Zealand, which was established as New Zealand's highest court by the Supreme Court Act 2003. Previously New Zealand's highest court of appeal was the Privy Council, based in England. The can of white paint next to the cardboard box representing the new Supreme Court suggests the cartoonist is critical of the change – the paint has connotations of judicial whitewashing and seems to imply that having a New Zealand supreme court would result in a less transparent and trustworthy judicial system.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: DCDL-0004621
Cartoon by Ashley W. Smith

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Matthew Palmer, 'Constitution - What is a constitution?', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 30 May 2024)

Story by Matthew Palmer, published 20 Jun 2012