James Shaw on Republicanism

November 12th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

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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49 Responses to “James Shaw on Republicanism”

  1. Graeme Edgeler (3,274 comments) says:

    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.

    Support it, or not, it makes plenty of sense. “Ain’t broke, don’t fix it” isn’t an unreasonable starting point, especially when discussing constitutional law.

    Or we could leave it to Parliament, as we leave it to them to appoint the governor-general. That seems to work pretty well.

    And the clincher. Let’s never listen to this person discuss constitutional matters ever again. If you don’t even know how the current system works, the idea that you’ll present an alternative system that will work is unedifying.

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  2. bhudson (4,736 comments) says:

    Our system works for us because we have made it our own. And yet we haven’t. Not entirely. Not quite.

    Yes we have. NZ is the only country in the world that the Queen of New Zealand is sovereign of.

    Not to mention that a recent Colmar-Brunton poll shows only 19% in support of a republic – 74% either want to retain the status quo, or believe that the country has far more important issues and priorities to focus on. That is an overwhelming endorsement not to change what we have

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  3. backster (2,106 comments) says:

    DPF “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.”

    You are JOKING, thats the kind of swindle they would try on, and thats why I say God bless the Queen long may she reign over us.

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  4. Mighty_Kites (81 comments) says:

    This is all fairly redundant, as 78% of NZers want to maintain the status quo. I think I can fairly state that this is due in large part to apathy brought on by the fact that it has worked out so well. As Graeme said, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

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  5. dime (9,607 comments) says:

    Dime likes the Queen. Dime will also be happy with King Charles.

    Have as many tantys as you like “republicans” but change aint happening for a long time yet.

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  6. James Stephenson (2,077 comments) says:

    “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

    Well that’s just exactly the same problem as we have with our politics more generally – voting against something we don’t want, rather than for something we we do.

    I suspect that if offered a system that would guarantee a well-liked and respected, non-politician Kiwi, people would jump at it. As it is, the fear of “President Helen Clark” is more than enough to keep Elizabeth Saxe-Coburg in the chair.

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  7. smttc (710 comments) says:

    Change will not be happening any time soon James old boy regardless of how illogical you think the current arrangements are.

    Far too many difficult comnstitutional issues to resolve before we can become a Republic.

    In meantime, I will happily live with the Queen of New Zealand and the current arrangements any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

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  8. Bill (19 comments) says:

    “President Shearer” Frightens me.
    How about leaving it alone, haven’t we got bigger things to worry about?

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  9. tas (596 comments) says:

    (i) The monarchy is part of our history and embodies our ties with the commonwealth. Do you think NZ would have the same relationship with the UK, Australia, and Canada if we didn’t have the monarchy? We would still have a good relationship, but would NZ citizens resident in the UK be allowed to vote and stand for office there? I doubt it.
    (ii) Why do we oppose sharing our head of state with other countries? Why do we want to sever our ties? Wouldn’t it be better to work on strengthening our ties with the commonwealth? (If we do become a repulic, I’d like the idea of sharing our head of state with Australia.)
    (iii) I’d be very happy if most of our politicans were shipped off to the other side of the world too. Who needs another politician in NZ?
    (iv) If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Who knows what shenanigans a president would get up to.

    Also, DPF, what happens if you can’t get 75% of parliament to agree on a candidate? The current system also demands agreement of the opposition when nominating the Governor-General, without specifying what happens if they can’t agree. But if you’re going to write a constitution, you have to cover this case.

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  10. RRM (9,606 comments) says:

    Fuck You James Shaw – yes it is the pageantry.
    RRM likes reminders that New Zealand is an offshoot (and an improvement) of something much older.

    We don’t need to invent some bullshit office of the President of New Zealand (lulz) – our democracy would be better served by re-establishing some sort of Upper House.

    We already have the physical Upper House, someone just needs to dust off the seats and install new lighting on the desks.

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  11. smttc (710 comments) says:

    Hey Bill. How about President Helen Clark? That doesn’t frighten you? Because she has more prospects of getting the job than Shearer.

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  12. East Wellington Superhero (1,151 comments) says:

    Half the Republicans are Lefties that probably want the UN to run world. So their cry for a NZ Head of State if already half-baked – if they could had over control to the UN they would.
    Anyone who has spent just a small amount of time living overseas knows how parochial New Zealand is as a nation. Auckland is really just a big Timaru. So it is my preference is to have greater international scope when it comes to the ship of state. ‘Lest the Labour Party gets control of the whole darn show.

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  13. dime (9,607 comments) says:

    also, if we make the change, we wont get to watch these twits embarrass the nation every royal visit.

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  14. davidp (3,551 comments) says:

    People seem to want to be ruled by a monarchy. Maybe the solution is that the current monarchy should move to NZ? That way, within a generation or so they’d feel like Kiwis and we’d get all the pomp and ceremony. Every five years or so, they’d go on a royal tour and include England, Scotland, and Wales on their trip.

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  15. Mark (1,406 comments) says:

    Graeme is right to a point. It isn’t broke is a good starting point and becoming a republic is going to be a fairly divisive discussion in NZ especially around the inclusion or not of the Treaty of Waitangi in our constitutional framework.

    Personally I would want to see all of the past grievance issues dealt with a finally settled before we have a discussion on the constitutional framework for a republic otherwise their grievance industry will become never ending as it seems to be currently.

    I have no doubt at some point we will become a republic and the debate needs to be had but it is not an urgent issue.

    EWS
    “Half the Republicans are Lefties”

    Does this mean that the other half are righties :) – Your not related to Murray Mexted are you?

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  16. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    Fuck it, abolish the monarchy, abolish Parliament – benevolent dictatorship FTMFW!!!!!

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  17. Graeme Edgeler (3,274 comments) says:

    Yes we have. NZ is the only country in the world that the Queen of New Zealand is sovereign of.

    The Queen of New Zealand is also the sovereign of the Cook Islands, and of Niue, but thanks for playing.

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  18. Scott (1,729 comments) says:

    Love the Queen. Down with more lefty opinion. A vote for a republic is a vote for President Helen Clarke. Give me King Charles any day!

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  19. bhudson (4,736 comments) says:

    @Graeme,

    Bugger. That didn’t quite work out as planned.

    (I could make noises about Niue and Cook Islands being territories of the Realm of New Zealand, however I am mindful of Whaleoil’s maxim that “explaining is losing”.)

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  20. iMP (2,312 comments) says:

    Constitutional Monarchy ain’t broke, why “fix” it?

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  21. Graeme Edgeler (3,274 comments) says:

    (I could make noises about Niue and Cook Islands being territories of the Realm of New Zealand, however I am mindful of Whaleoil’s maxim that “explaining is losing”.)

    I’m happy to play that game, I just don’t think the explanation would work. Niue and the Cook Islands are indeed territories of the Realm of New Zealand (which is why the Queen of New Zealand is also their Sovereign), but that doesn’t stop them from being countries distinct from the country of New Zealand, which was your claim :-)

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  22. Barnsley Bill (982 comments) says:

    David, we have discussed this before and at the end of this comment I will issue the final warning with regard to Republic posts.
    But first, think about this.
    Maori have a treaty. It is with the crown. No more crown means no more treaty, which means no more Waitangi tribunal, which means hundreds of lawyers will starve. All good so far.

    And now for the warning.

    I have repeatedly asked/ begged/ pleaded and demanded you to stop posting about a republic until Clarkula is dead.
    The thought of the baby killer coming back here to become president should fill all of us with dread.
    David, one more republic post and I will give you a f@cking wedgie that will produce a scream that can be heard from space.

    [DPF: What part of a 75% majority in Parliament is hard to understand? Clark could never be appointed President under that model]

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  23. bhudson (4,736 comments) says:

    Graeme,

    Yes “country” was a poor choice of term. State might have been better as both Niueans and Cook Islanders are citizens of New Zealand and therefore arguably they are part of the State of New Zealand (but separate nations, to use the distinction as made within political science.)

    But losing is losing nonetheless :-)

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  24. Pete George (23,165 comments) says:

    It isn’t broke is a good starting point and becoming a republic is going to be a fairly divisive discussion in NZ especially around the inclusion or not of the Treaty of Waitangi in our constitutional framework.

    That sums it up.

    In principal I’d like to see an independent New Zealand, which would mean ditiching the monarchy and becoming something like a republic. England and it’s queen have little to do with our country in the 21st century.

    But it’s easier to procrastinate and continue as we are, deferring a republic debate to the too hard for now basket.

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  25. Peter (1,653 comments) says:

    NZ Republicanism just isn’t very glamorous. Everyone knows we’d only get a local political appointment, so most prefer the pomp, spectacle and ceremony of celebrity monarchy.

    It makes people feel part of something bigger.

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  26. krazykiwi (9,189 comments) says:

    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.

    Owen Glenn’s chequebook would be El Presidante in no time ;)

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  27. big bruv (13,454 comments) says:

    “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.”

    Lol!

    If you believe that DPF then I have a bridge that I would like to sell you.

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  28. Manolo (13,514 comments) says:

    The different speculative theories are fun to read, but are just that: speculation.
    I suspect DPF and his republican mates will have to wait a few decades longer.

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  29. JMS (313 comments) says:

    It makes people feel part of something bigger.

    Except we are not part of something bigger.

    A German or a Frenchman can go and live and work in the UK whenever he so desires, we can’t.

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  30. Mike78 (83 comments) says:

    The republicans best hope is to suggest we dont need a HOS at all, we are a tiny country the size of Sydney and half the size of most major cities. We need less government not more and getting the public or politicians to pick sounds like a recipie for Graham Henry for Head of State – no thanks.

    If they really wanted to get some support or open up a debate they would suggest the Treaty of Waitangi also dies with the monarchy as after all it is an agreement with the crown, and the crown is no longer around. But that would take guts and they dont have that.

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  31. Peter (1,653 comments) says:

    Except we are not part of something bigger.

    But that’s the way it *feels*.

    I understand and agree with the rational argument for Republicanism. But it will go nowhere. People will choose to feel part of the Wills n’ Kate story rather than the alternative – which will be some dour political appointment, probably Maori. Probably a woman. And probably disabled.

    The Royals have a great story. NZ Republicanism does not.

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  32. James Stephenson (2,077 comments) says:

    Change will not be happening any time soon James old boy regardless of how illogical you think the current arrangements are.

    I certainly don’t disagree with that, but then I’m a pommie who would like to see my country, by which I mean England, as a republic again. I’d go with a Lord Protector rather than a President, but the Saxe-Coburgs can keep their heads on their shoulders this time.

    Seems an opportune time when we get another odd-numbered Charles…maybe that’s why he reputedly wants to be “George VII”?

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  33. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    Well – before we throw out the baby with the bathwater lets think about how a head of state would be arrived at…

    Popular vote – no way
    Via parliament – no way (absolutely no way – talk about vested interests and jobs for the boys, “It was you turn last time, its our turn this time” etc, etc)

    The only way would be by impartial appointment – and thats going to be pretty hard to be sure its without influence (sort of like how the current head of state is arrived at – its predetermined and is without influence…..)

    First of all the Head Of State would have to retain the current powers of being able to kick the government out if things got bad. Police and armed forces loyalty would have to be to the HOS.

    Id consider an appointment panel made up of a group as follows (but not limited to them)

    The Chief Justice
    The Attorney General
    The Head of the Armed forces
    The president of the Waitangi Tribunal
    possibly the current HOS
    Someone from a business community body (eg: The round table)
    The chief Union person
    A representative of the Universities of NZ
    and a couple of lay people selected at random from the list of registered voters
    (No MPs or anyone from a political party)

    Thats about the only way it could be done and be seen as a good process. And they would have to vote by secret ballot – maybe with the results made public.

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  34. JMS (313 comments) says:

    There is no reason a republican head of state could not simply carry the title “Governor-General”.

    It would prevent any delusions of grandeur that “President” may produce.

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  35. edhunter (510 comments) says:

    Can someone please tell me where this is working somewhere else in the world? Really please, a non political head of state probably appointed by parliment & exactly what powers does the the president have?

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  36. krazykiwi (9,189 comments) says:

    JMS – I understand the title ‘President’ was chosen to prevent such delusions!

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  37. smttc (710 comments) says:

    barry, you think the Attorney General and head of the CTU are not political? Pfftt.

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  38. E. Campbell (90 comments) says:

    As a republican, I think the issue is moot at the moment. There is no public mood for change and Kate and Wills have re-energised the Royal family in a Women’s Weekly kind of way. There will be no momentum for change until the Australian republic comes into being.

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  39. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    smttc – I didnt say they werent political – but with the right mix it will balance out.

    Of course the best solution is the one we have currently – but if there is to be a change then the selection process has to be balanced.

    The beauty of the Royal family and the GG is that its not Queen Elizabeth, but its The Office of the Queen – or when big ears takes over – the office of the king. The UK has spent several hundred years in conflict both of thought and of war types – arriving at the set of rules and regulations under which the English system of government works. Its a set of rules thats been fairly well tested and seems to work pretty well.

    The trouble with a new system is that there is an awful tendency to by pass lessons learned…………….

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  40. Jack5 (4,785 comments) says:

    This is the James Shaw who is a Greens wacko? And he doesn’t line up with the Royal who talks to plants and has done some quite innovative, practical, and economic things in sustainable agriculture?

    Again, New Zealand’s present status as a de facto republic with a Royal remnant as figurehead, is hard to beat. It’s cheap, keeps the political rabbit numbers under control, and keeps the layers of political bureaucracy to a minimum.

    Why is republicanism so strong in Wellington? Do some Wellingtonians hunger for opportunities from another layer of bureaucracy? Do they lust for the opportunity of additional endless chatter about political trivialities? Don’t they realise their political jibber-jabber bores the rest of the country shitless?

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  41. alex (301 comments) says:

    @Jack5 He’s hardly a wacko, given that he is an international management consultant.

    A more general point though, we should avoid thinking about the monarchy as a political football, or based on who is next, or second or third in line to the throne. This would be a monumental decision either way, we’d be doing away with an institution, rather than the personalities that currently occupy that institution. As such any decision has to be made for more of a reason than just President Clark vs King Charles, because in 10 years time neither will still be realistically in contention for either role.

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  42. mikenmild (11,231 comments) says:

    Election by Parliament would guarantee Presidents who were party hacks but didn’t want to be speaker or high comissioner in London. They would easlity get 75% support on the basis of “your turn, our turn”.

    We should have our own head of state. Direct popular election. Any NZ citizen can stand, including the present head of state and any of her descendants. Run-off election required if no candidate receives 50% of the popular vote. Term to be six years, limited to two terms.

    alex
    Not every international management consultant is a whacko, but one may as well assume so for all practical purposes.

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  43. DJP6-25 (1,295 comments) says:

    E.Campbell 12:59. I’d like to see a republic too. But the likely model the left would saddle us with is far from attractive.

    cheers

    David Prosser

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  44. Barnsley Bill (982 comments) says:

    “[DPF: What part of a 75% majority in Parliament is hard to understand? Clark could never be appointed President under that model]”
    Trusting the troughers to pick a president?

    What part of life endangering wedgie don’t you understand?

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  45. thedavincimode (6,582 comments) says:

    He’s hardly a wacko, given that he is an international management consultant

    Wow. Really? Like Cunners? Well, that settles it then. He should know what’s good for us.

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  46. alex (301 comments) says:

    @davinci – I’ve talked to him a few times and always come away with the impression that he is extremely competent. I’m sure DPF would agree with this assessment, or else he wouldn’t have linked approvingly to him.

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  47. Pundit (8 comments) says:

    Hats off to VCO for arranging a trip with guaranteed audiences – Hairy Maclary a work of genius: “kids, hundreds of them, perfect!- but really. It is just so irrelevant, as the hairdresser ridiculousness is showing. Being nice but weird and living in another country and visiting once a decade is more the CV of an absent expatriate physicist than the set of qualifications required of someone claiming some kind of leadership role in this country.

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  48. SPC (5,472 comments) says:

    The list of New Zealanders appointed Governor General is instructive as to who would fill the position in the future.

    These are the people whom the government recommended to the Crown and are routinely accepted. Upgrading that process to the government

    1. recommending a choice to parliament and if that choice receives 75% support then it is accepted

    or

    2. a range of candidates names go to parliament and all those receiving 75% support as candidates go onto a list and the public decides.

    I prefer the term Crown Governor to president given we are still in the Commonwealth with a Crown head. And because existing commitments (Treaty) remain with the Crown of New Zealand.

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  49. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,819 comments) says:

    Ha ha.

    New Zealand is in the international news thanks to bucket of horse manure man. What must Charles and Camilla think?

    Another triumph for the New Zealand Minister of Tourism.

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