which will enrich the minds of generations of constitutional law students”.

See Geoffrey Palmer “New Zealand and the Glorious Revolution” [1976] NZLJ 265 at 267.

A collision primarily between political expediency and constitutional principle. A robust and determined Prime Minister, fresh from a landslide election victory, wagering that none would challenge his suspension of an unpopular statutory obligation a few months ahead of Parliament reconvening to repeal it.

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Every law student, lawyer – and a good many others – know what it stands for.

My renewed interest in Fitzgerald v Muldoon arose from a case that came before me in 2012.

Although Fitzgerald v Muldoon is a prominent part of our constitutional canon, it is not an easy case to teach today’s law students.

They vote under a proportional representation electoral system. Results often turn on tortuous coalition negotiations, taking days and weeks.

The new electoral system, beginning with the 1996 general election, transformed the relationship between executive and legislative branches of government. Radical politics of the kind that gave rise to Fitzgerald v Muldoon seem a thing of the past. In today’s world the Falstaffian figure of Robert David Muldoon, possessed all at once of an absolute parliamentary majority of 23 and itching to exercise The purpose of this essay, then, is not only to illuminate the arguments in, and legal and political consequences of, Fitzgerald v Muldoon.

It is also to illuminate the context in which it was heard, and the economic consequences of the debate over compulsory superannuation that gave rise to the case.The minister was not a lawyer, but he did not need Fitzgerald v Muldoon explained to him.He said he knew it meant he could not base any of his licence decisions “on proposed legislation or future intentions”.Two months later the Chief Justice, Wild declared the statement an unlawful purported suspension of statutory obligation, in breach of art 1 of the Bill of Rights 1688.The decision was heralded as a “triumph of the rule of law”, a “signal example of the contribution that tradition in the culture of the law can make to ordered liberty” and a rare example of judicial attention to the basic elements of New Zealand’s constitution, enriching its somewhat “sterile” constitutional law.Wild CJ in Fitzgerald v Muldoon [1976] 2 NZLR 615 (HC) at 622.