Article 27 of the Constitution establishes "a sovereign Parliament for the Cook Islands, to be called the Parliament of the Cook Islands", consisting of 25 members (up from 22 in 1965) elected by secret ballot under a system of universal suffrage. Subject to the Constitution, Parliament "may make laws (to be known as Acts) for the peace, order and good government of the Cook Islands" (Article 39(1), including "laws having extra-territorial operation" (Article 39 (2)). Bills passed by Parliament only become law when they have been assented to by the Queen's Representative (Article 44(1)).
Subject to the provisions of the Constitution, Parliament's law-making power includes "the repeal or revocation or amendment or modification or extension, in relation to the Cook Islands, of any law in force in the Cook Islands" (Article 39(3)). Amendments to the Constitution require, inter alia,
(a) at both the final vote thereon and the vote preceding that final vote, the affirmative votes of not less than two-thirds of the total membership, including vacancies, of the Parliament; and
(b) an interval of not less than 90 days between the date on which that final vote was taken and the date on which the preceding vote was taken (Article 41(1)).
Sections 2 (relating to definitions) to 6 of the Cook Islands Constitution Act 1964 and Articles 2 and 41 of the Constitution are "entrenched" in that they can only be amended if the conditions in the preceding paragraph are met and the proposed amendments(s) have been supported by not less than two-thirds of the valid votes cast in a poll of the persons entitled to vote as electors at a general election of the members of Parliament (Article 41(2)). With the Cook Islands Parliament thus having the power to amend or even to repeal the above Sections and Article 2, the Cook Islands is free at any time to terminate its relationship of free association with New Zealand.
As originally enacted, Article 46 of the Constitution enabled the New Zealand Parliament to pass laws for, and with the advice and consent of, the Cook Islands. This allowed the Cook Islands, with insufficient legal resources in the early post-1965 period, to benefit from New Zealand legislation in often complicated areas (see, for example, the Extradition Act 1965 (NZ), which was applied, mutatis mutandis, to the Cook Islands under Section 18 of the Act by virtue of Article 46 of the Constitution). By 1980, however, it was considered by the Cook Islands Parliament that local resources and conditions had developed to such an extent that the above arrangement was no longer required. In accordance with Constitution Amendment (No 9) Act 1980-81, Article 46 now reads:-
"except as provided by Act of Parliament of the Cook Islands, no Act, and no provision of any Act, of the Parliament of New Zealand passed after the commencement of this Article [5 June 1981] shall extend or be deemed to extend to the Cook Islands as part of the law of the Cook Islands".
House of Ariki
The Constitution provides for a House of Ariki comprising up to 14 ariki appointed by the Queen's Representative, the functions of the House being to "consider such matters relative to the welfare of the people of the Cook Islands as may be submitted to it by [Parliament] for its consideration, and it shall express its opinion and make recommendations thereon to [Parliament]" (Articles 8 and 9).
CURRENT MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT