James Shaw on Republicanism

writes in the Dom Post:

Over the past 20 years, a slew of prime ministers have told us they believe it’s inevitable that New Zealand will become a republic. Generally while ducking any chance of letting it happen on their watch.

If it is inevitable, what can possibly be holding us back?

Do we really prefer the lottery of genetics and the trappings of bygone years to the will of the people, simply expressed? Is it the pageantry and splendour? We have our own, should we want to spend up large on it.

Is it the special character of the royal few? Charles seems like a good bloke. He and I support many of the same causes. His heart is in the right place and he’s coming to celebrate a special occasion for his mum. We can all relate to that.

We should wish them both and their family well and accord them every respect due a visiting foreign dignitary. Because in the end he is not a Kiwi, and nor is his mum. And we can’t expect them to be. When England faces the All Blacks, which team should the British Royal Family cheer for?

Exactly. A New Zealander should be our Head of State.

For a fully self-governing, mature nation to maintain the fiction of a monarchy that lives on the polar opposite side of the planet makes no sense.

For a multicultural, pluralistic, liberal democracy to personify itself symbolically in a hereditary monarch, is not merely illogical, it is bizarre. It is the relic of a bygone era, a political anachronism whose persistence is increasingly difficult to explain.

This is not to deny the cultural and intellectual inheritance that New Zealand has received from Britain. Our parliamentary system is modelled on Westminster, infused with a tradition of justice and rational self-rule that reaches back to the Magna Carta.

We have, if anything, done our Kiwi best to improve upon the model we inherited. We have pared away the vestiges that we don’t need, and adapted to changing circumstances. Our system works for us because we have made it our own. And yet we haven’t. Not entirely. Not quite. Why is that? It should be a simple matter to reform the means by which our head of state is selected. We could put it directly into the hands of the voting public. Or we could leave it to Parliament, as we leave it to them to appoint the governor-general. That seems to work pretty well.

I’d make the Head of State appointed by a 75% majority in Parliament, which will mean no politician or partisan could be appointed to it.

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