Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year briefs

Just a few short news items this New Year's Day…

Citizenship’s birthday

Today is the 60th anniversary of New Zealand citizenship. On this date, the “British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act 1948” took effect. Before then, the people of New Zealand were British Subjects.

In 1931, the UK Parliament passed the Statute of Westminster granting legislative independence to the self-governing Dominions (which included New Zealand). Technically, New Zealand remained a British possession (albeit a self-governing one) until the NZ Parliament adopted the Statute on November 25, 1947. At that point, the New Zealand Parliament became legally independent. The following year, under its new authority, New Zealand defined what its own citizenship was. In 2003, Parliament passed the Supreme Court Act, which abolished the right of appeal to the Privy Council in London (or, formally, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council), replacing it with a New Zealand Supreme Court. The last formal tie to Britain is that the Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II, is also the Queen of the United Kingdom. If New Zealand becomes a republic one day, as many people think it will, then the last tie to “the motherland” will be gone.

It could be argued that the establishment of New Zealand Citizenship 60 years ago today was one of New Zealand’s biggest moves toward complete independence. Sometimes moments like this, and their importance, get lost in the sweep of history. So, it’s worth acknowledging days like this when they come.

Slappy Holidays

A Wellington shop clerk was slapped by a “well-dressed woman” who shouted at the clerk, telling her it was illegal for the shop to be open on Christmas Day, one of 3½ days when there’s a “trading ban” in effect. However, the truth is that businesses deemed to be providing “essential services”, including obvious places like petrol stations, pharmacies and dairies (convenience stores, like 7-11 in the US or small, independent grocery stores). Actually, there are other exceptions, including video shops and even beauty parlours, providing they only rent things or provide services but don’t sell any products.

The woman left after slapping the clerk, tried to close the shop doors, shouting, “Keep it closed!” Understandably, the police want to talk with the woman. To me, it just goes to show what happens when someone acts on what they think the law says about something. Most people, like this woman, don’t have a clue about laws and obviously should have left enforcement to those who are paid to do that (though in this case the store was open legally).

Permanent holiday?

Speaking of Wellington, the New Zealand Parliament is on hiatus until February 10. I doubt very much that anyone’s noticed its absence. Any chance we could get Parliament to stay on holiday?

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