National refuses to take part in constitution review

4.00pm

The National Party will not participate in the Government's inquiry into the constitution because it is a "political stunt", leader Don Brash announced today.

"The Labour Party wants to play politics with this issue, we're saying we're not buying into this charade," he told reporters.

There was a national debate on the issue of the constitution and the Treaty of Waitangi which was started by the National Party, Dr Brash said.

The National Party dislodged Labour from the top of the polls for a while after Dr Brash's January speech at Orewa called for an end to preferential treatment for Maori.

National had made it's position on the Treaty clear and would bring constitutional issues into focus in the lead up to next year's election, he said.

The constitutional review will be chaired by United Future leader Peter Dunne, who has pushed for the inquiry and wants New Zealand to become a republic. It has been welcomed by the Green Party.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters announced yesterday his party would not participate in the review, which he said would be a waste of taxpayers' money.

ACT justice spokesman Stephen Franks said today his party would take part in the review.

"We will do our parliamentary duty," he told NZPA. "But if this turns into a farce, we won't be staying."

With Mr Dunne as chairman it was "doubtful anything useful will be achieved", Mr Franks said.

Helen Clark said yesterday National and NZ First needed to think about their credibility. "I think it would be to the detriment of other parties if they didn't participate, but that's up to them," she said.

The Labour Party released a statement earlier today highlighting cross-party support for an inquiry into the constitution received from a parliamentary committee in 2003.

During deliberations on the Supreme Court Bill, the justice and electoral selection committee unanimously agreed to an inquiry into New Zealand's constitutional arrangements, committee chairman and Labour MP Tim Barnett said.

- NZPA

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