Attorney General’s essay prize

In recognition of the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, the Attorney-General announced an essay competition for young New Zealanders to enter essays setting out what Magna Carta means to them and its significance to New Zealand in 2015. Over 20 essays were submitted by the Friday 1 May 2015 deadline. You can read further details on the competition here. 

At the reception in the Grand Hall at Parliament in Wellington to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta on June 15th Attorney General, Chris Finlayson congratulated the winners of the Attorney-General’s Magna Carta 800 Essay Competition.

The winners were Max Ashmore of Auckland (University Student category) and Liam Booth of Wellington (High School Student category). Click on their respective names to view their essays.

Max argues “that we must disconnect our claims of Magna Carta’s constitutionality from the text itself; moving forward with our constitutional law, it would be preferable to codify the importance of the “principles” of Magna Carta in our law, rather than the text itself… Magna Carta’s contemporary judicial role is more based on a myth of what Magna Carta represents than the actual text… This does not imply that we should discard Magna Carta from our constitutional thinking; the narrative of Magna Carta has been integrated into many other constitutional documents, and the aspirational clauses – however different their original meaning, and however few in number they are – are almost unique in our law, and fill a vital constitutional role. Nonetheless, recognizing this fact is important if we are to move towards a more explicit constitution in future years; Magna Carta certainly has a role in any putative written constitution, but can only be integrated in the form of principles, rather than the text itself.”

Liam does a great job linking ideas around Magna Carta and the current war against extremism, suggesting that the Magan Carta “… inspired a mythical tapestry of constitutional history, shaping subsequent documents, movements and persons. It is the source of fundamental attitudes extant in the threads of such abstract ideas as freedom under the rule of law… We must comprehend and upkeep the noble tradition Magna Carta has set – not just for the sake of identity. So that when we are faced with the threat from a foreign force we can act accordingly. Youth will bear the effects of the war against Islamic extremism and the changing natures of nations in a globalizing world. When the country meddles with fundamental freedoms such as privacy and security youth must be critical.”

“We received a number of high quality entries and I would like to acknowledge all those who took the time to consider the role of Magna Carta in modern day New Zealand,” Mr Finlayson said.

While the deadline for submissions has passed, teachers and students can still see our resources page for relevant Magna Carta information.

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