Paul Little on Prince Charles

November 11th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Paul Little writes:

, the plant whisperer, falls into that rapidly growing category of people who were “greenie before it was trendy” and have “always been a bit of an environmentalist in my own way”. Good for him. But he has also been revealed over the past seven years to be someone obsessed with secrecy and whose dealings with the British government tread a very fine constitutional line at best.

He has gone to great legal lengths to prevent publication – sought by the Guardian newspaper under official information legislation – of 27 letters written to MPs lobbying over matters close to his heart. 

Topics included, according to testimony by law professor Adam Tomkins, “the perceived merits of holistic medicine, the perceived evils of genetically modified crops, the apparent dangers of making cuts in the armed forces, his strong dislike of certain forms of architecture”.

The merits of his opinions are not the issue. The issue is that he is attempting to influence politicians – something which, as monarch, he will be prohibited from doing – and does not want the British public to know this.

After seven years of legal actions, a tribunal of three British judges ruled a month ago that the letters should be released. This decision was vetoed by the Attorney-General who effectively confirmed the letters were damaging by saying their release would “have undermined (the Prince’s) position of political neutrality”.

In other words, he is not politically neutral. There is now – after pressure from the Royal Family – an absolute block on any future publication.

Why should we care about Charles’ efforts to stop British people knowing what he thinks? The British tolerate the institution of monarchy in part as a money-spinning tourist attraction. For us, it doesn’t even have that benefit.

Constitutionally, he will be New Zealand’s head of state when he ascends the throne. But do we want as head of state – however notional the role – someone who not only flouts constitutional convention by attempting to influence politicians but also tries to conceal the fact when attempts are made to bring it to light?

All very good points. Our Head of State should be politically neutral – and be a New Zealander.

The Republican Movement has a “It’s time for change” campaign to coincide with the visit.

If we do not change, then one day Charles will be King of New Zealand.

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72 Responses to “Paul Little on Prince Charles”

  1. Pete George (22,863 comments) says:

    Charles Chauvel on Prince Charles:

    ‏@charleschauvel
    Charles and Camilla have arrived in NZ. Cringeworthy. Time for a resident for president.

    One could be called a twit.

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  2. TimG_Oz (917 comments) says:

    If we do not change, then one day Charles will be King of New Zealand.

    Assuming he does not abdicate, which is likely

    [DPF: Not at all likely. One abdication in 950 years. Kings resign until they die]

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  3. mikenmild (10,766 comments) says:

    We have had far worse monarchs than Prince Charles. I would take issue with Little’s description that the prince is ‘attempting to influence politicians’ and that is a thing ‘which, as monarch, he will be prohibited from doing’.
    As I understand it the sovereign’s duty is to listen, to counsel and to warn. The sovereign could still be called upon to make significant political choices and cannot preside over a government without being in close contact with politicians.
    It seems to me that most objections to the prince succeeding, here or in the other realms, are concerned with his personal qualities. That is something irrelevant in a hereditary monarchy.
    I’m all for a NZ republic, with a head of state exercising the limited powers of the present governor-general and elected by direct popular suffrage for a long term. As a gesture to our goodwill towards the royal family, perhaps we could stipulate that any descendant of Queen Elizabeth II would be eligible to be a candidate.

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  4. Keeping Stock (10,107 comments) says:

    Pathetic, small-minded jealously from Little. Did he not see last night’s One News poll that showed 74% of NZers back the Monarchy

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  5. Pete George (22,863 comments) says:

    Assuming he does not abdicate, which is likely

    Why is this likely? It seems nothing more than a wishful thinking celebrity selection. It would be unprecedented and make a mockery of the monarchy.

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  6. mikenmild (10,766 comments) says:

    For every Prince Charles, I could name several elected leaders completely unsuitable for their role. It doesn’t seem to matter too much whether a president or monarch is elected, appointed or anointed in terms of capability to govern; what matters is broad acceptance of leadership by consensus or specific mandate.

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  7. Grant Michael McKenna (1,156 comments) says:

    I give up.

    Otaki?
    Waikanae?

    What is the town just south of Levin?

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  8. Doug (405 comments) says:

    This will really upset the republicans.
    A One News/Colmar Brunton poll of more than 1000 people showed just 19 per cent of New Zealanders wanted to dump the monarchy and replace it with a republic, down 6 per cent from a similar survey four years ago.
    Support for the Queen as head of state was at 74 per cent, with 7 per cent of those polled unsure.

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  9. bhudson (4,734 comments) says:

    Perhaps the drop in support for a republic is a reflection of New Zealanders strongly believing that we have far more important priorities to focus on

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  10. mikenmild (10,766 comments) says:

    Depends on the definition of ‘town’ of course. Ohau, Manakau, but most likely Otaki.

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  11. TimG_Oz (917 comments) says:

    Why is this likely? It seems nothing more than a wishful thinking celebrity selection. It would be unprecedented and make a mockery of the monarchy.

    Firstly, if the Queen lives as long as her mother, then Charles would be at his coronation in a walking frame. You may argue that Edward VIII is not a precedent, although I think it is. Also, to abdicate to his son William, who is hugely popular with the people, would hardly be making a mockery of the monarchy.

    [DPF: The throne doesn't go to the most popular member of the royal family. It goes to the next in line. In future most monarchs will live to 100, so the average age of a new King or Queen will be 70ish]

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  12. Mike78 (83 comments) says:

    What a stupid billboard. I thought it meant Wellington and was some sort of smart ass he doesn’t even know Wellington attempt. The whole republican thing is a failure this is an indication why – its always some sort of academicy, intellectual argument that just does not resonate with anyone but a small group. No wonder labour is all over it. The republicans have tried the same arguments over and over, no one cares in fact it’s going backwards. Time for some new ones.

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  13. Pete George (22,863 comments) says:

    This will really upset the republicans.

    Why? I haven’t seen any really upset republicans.

    I’m a sort of republican, I’d like to see New Zealand independent of even a theoretical higher ruler from the other side of the world, but the monarchy arrangement is sort of convenient without being intrusive.

    And the replacing of our links to monarchy won’t be easy – I think that puts a lot of people off supporting change.

    So I would be happy to see an end to our historical links to England but I’m not unhappy to take the easy path and change nothing. It’s simply not a big deal.

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  14. JeffW (320 comments) says:

    Far rather Charles than a home grown socialist or Treaty activist, the probable alternatives.

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  15. Pete George (22,863 comments) says:

    Also, to abdicate to his son William, who is hugely popular with the people, would hardly be making a mockery of the monarchy.

    Celebrity rules? That would be farcical, albeit possibly in step with the times.

    And I suspect after beiing prepared and preparing for taking over for sixty, seventy or maybe eighty years I suspect Charles may be reluctant to simply forgo the chance to feel his bum on the throne and the crown on his dome.

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  16. mikenmild (10,766 comments) says:

    I believe there is very little likelihood of the Queen abdicating: the sense of inheriting a duty is too engrained. Likewise, there is no chance of her son abdicating in favour of his own son. It’s not much point having a hereditary monarchy if the rules of succession are not followed. It has been over 70 years since Edward VIII’s rather odd abdication and well over 300 years since a monarch was driven from the throne by the people (well, the landed aristocracy who were all that counted at the time).

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  17. krazykiwi (9,189 comments) says:

    KS – There’s a difference between backing the monarchy and being prepared to turn a blind eye to their [ab?]use of privilege. Have to say the ascension of this cloth-eared bafoon to the throne will have me retiring my monarchist support.

    Also, his dad is a right nutter: “In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, in order to contribute something to solve overpopulation”

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  18. mavxp (494 comments) says:

    You want him to be dumb, smile and wave, patronise charities, and cut ribbons to open new hospital wings, and then point to that and say “how pointless, let’s have our own President.”
    Now when he is shown to be an independent thinker, and exercises discretion on how his views are aired, you criticise him for not being neutral. “Let’s have our own President”. The poor guy cant win.

    I don’t agree with all of his views – some of the them are plainly wrong, some dangerous (such as his support for radical Islam to set up mosques in London) others highly subjective (e.g. architecture), but the republicans need to be clear what the alternatives are and what the pros and cons are – lest we become a banana republic with a corrupt broken system. They have to convince an apathetic public that the devil we don’t know will be better than the devil we do. And frankly the current devil is stable, familiar and provides good theatre and connection with our past, and with our friends in the UK, Australia, and Canada.

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  19. MT_Tinman (2,993 comments) says:

    How the hell are … “the perceived merits of holistic medicine, the perceived evils of genetically modified crops, the apparent dangers of making cuts in the armed forces, his strong dislike of certain forms of architecture” political?

    Me thinks the schoolteacher Topics included, according to testimony by law professor Adam Tomkins, is doing exactly what schoolteachers are reknown (in NZ anyway) for doing to facts.

    Why should Charles not have an opinion? Why should he not express that opinion given that the Monarchy has no political power?

    I disagree with most of what he says but I would far rather have Charlie than the boy married to the stripper or some bloody Helen clone as figurehead for NZ.

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  20. Manolo (13,386 comments) says:

    The Republican movement is on a hiding to nothing.
    It’s another campaign driven by latte-sipping Aucklanders and Wellingtonians that is destined to fail in the short/medium term.

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  21. Warren Murray (280 comments) says:

    Must be a slow news day for this topic to be given another run.

    My sentiments are very similar to Pete George’s, although i might be more relaxed about being described as a monarchist. In general i hold the view that our current constitutional arrangements with an absentee monarch and a proxy that is changed at regular intervals to be not only working very well, it is better than all the alternatives.

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  22. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    Manolo, I think you will find many working class people are opposed, or indifferent, to our continued links to the British Monarchy.

    I am unsure about how those folk enjoy their coffee :)

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  23. marcw (227 comments) says:

    I like the tradition we have with the Monarchy, but would be prepared to begin to prepare for change when we can have a significant majority, (say 2/3rds), of the population agree that we have someone who we could respect as President. So who do people think we could respect as president in the current environment? Winstone? JK? Sheep Shearer? Shane? Jock Anderson? Sir Graham? Valerie Adams? Ritchie? According to certain groups, all these are considered able to walk on water. Maybe Hone? or finally, apparently one who thinks he should be held in awe by us all, Kevin Hague?

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  24. Nigel Kearney (864 comments) says:

    He may not ever be king if his mother outlives him. And if he is, it is unlikely to be for very long. Between the Queen and Prince William, we will have a more sane and sensible head of state under a monarchy than we could expect under a republic. The republican movement must be really short of decent arguments if the best they can come up with is that Charles is a bit of a dork.

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  25. Kevin (1,122 comments) says:

    Why does one of NZeds leading bloggers always quote columnists who spout their own opinions and are often less intelligent and less well informed than many commenters here?

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  26. backster (2,081 comments) says:

    I would rather swear allegiance to himand what he stands for than to the treaty of Waitangi and what it has come to mean.

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  27. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    Why does one of NZeds leading bloggers always quote columnists who spout their own opinions and are often less intelligent and less well informed than many commenters here?

    So that we feel smarter than we actually are ? ;)

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  28. Kevin (1,122 comments) says:

    The problem is that conservatives who want to prove their liberal credentials with the centre left see republicanism as a safe option.

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  29. Jimmy Smits (246 comments) says:

    Keeping Stock (8,300) Says:
    November 11th, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Pathetic, small-minded jealously from Little. Did he not see last night’s One News poll that showed 74% of NZers back the Monarchy

    It is interesting to hear that you are suddenly in favour of the majority being right. I presume then that you are now obviously in favour of gay marriage given that Christians are in the minority now.

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  30. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    I am not opposed to the idea in principle, but have grave concerns over what may replace it, given the current NZ environment. I think cutting the ties with monarchy would result in a full on assault of our freedoms, by Maori and the left.

    I would vote for it though, if any further treaty claims were dealt with directly by the British Crown.

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  31. ChardonnayGuy (1,136 comments) says:

    Notably, though, most of the anti-republican sentiment appeared to focus predominantly on respect and admiration for the reigning monarch (fanned by WindsorCorp’s public relations machinery). It seems to be quite responsive to changes in the public mood. If there’s another Embarrassing Royal Incident, then it may fluctuate somewhat, as it did over the Diana years…

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  32. Longknives (4,466 comments) says:

    Wouldn’t King Charles be preferable to President Hone or President Mutu?
    Make no mistake- This sort of scenario is our future if we ditch the Monarchy….

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  33. Longknives (4,466 comments) says:

    http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/why-treaty-based-constitution-disaster-new-zealand-rv-131542

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  34. Kevin (1,122 comments) says:

    I agree kea but on past history at political reform we attempt will end badly, that’s my reservation.

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  35. Kevin (1,122 comments) says:

    Thanks for the link long knives. This current national brown nosing policy is so flawed even academics and some lefties are against it. Why oh why has the national party rank and file allowed it? Only a small number of them stand to gain from this wealth transfer to the iwi elite.

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  36. orewa1 (428 comments) says:

    Hey, I don’t get the billboard. Am I being dense? Please can somebody explain?

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  37. lcmortensen (38 comments) says:

    How do you define “New Zealander”? Legally, the Queen is as much as a New Zealander as Irene van Dyk is.

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  38. Harriet (4,524 comments) says:

    “A republic is not established by cowards; and cowards will not preserve it” – Elmer Davis

    It is therefor not possible for socialists, of which NZ is plentiful, to ever preserve a Republic: Public debt creates weak Senators.Vice versa. :cool:

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  39. henrietta (7 comments) says:

    Where is the national pride of the monarchists ? Do they some how feel we, as a nation, are incapable of having a native head of state ? In the same week that we witness the election for the US presidency, a position that can not be held by one of foreign birth ? Supporting an institution that determines OUR head of state in a sexually and religiously discriminatory manner is archaic and not for me. Time to move towards being a republic and shruheifer the mother England cardie that is familiar but dated and embarrassing

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  40. henrietta (7 comments) says:

    Where is the national pride of the monarchists ? Do they some how feel we, as a nation, are incapable of having a native head of state ? In the same week that we witness the election for the US presidency, a position that can not be held by one of foreign birth ? Supporting an institution that determines OUR head of state in a sexually and religiously discriminatory manner is archaic and not for me. Time to move towards being a republic and shrug off the mother England cardie that is familiar but dated and embarrassing

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  41. Kevin (1,122 comments) says:

    Bottom line, we don’t need a head of state,monarch, president, a bloody upper house or any more frecken politicians. We are a tiny little nation in the pacific, smaller than many cities run by a mayor and a few councillors.

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  42. Dave Stringer (183 comments) says:

    Point of order Mr. Speaker.
    How can the heir be confused with the monarch?

    As of now, Prince Charles in Heir to the throne, and Prince of Wales. He pays taxes on all his income in the Dutchy of Cornwall, as is entitled to a vote in a general election. When he is KIng, it will be rediculous for him to give himeself taxes and he will not be able to vote in elections. Until then, he has, and should be afforded, all the rights of access to members of parliament that any other tax-payer/voter is entitled to, And also the right of privacy over his correspondance with said members.

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  43. ChardonnayGuy (1,136 comments) says:

    And whoever said that only leftists are republicans? I know some classical liberals who are equally as supportive of an elected head of state as I am. And some leftist ‘anarcho-monarchists’ (!!!) ;)

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  44. OneTrack (2,614 comments) says:

    Better Prince Charles as head of state, living in a far away land, than Sian Elias as El Presidente of Aotearoa. Wonder what our (their – I doubt they wil listen to my opinion) Constitution will look like. Maybe it would even define what the “principles” of the treaty actually mean. Unfortunately it would enshrine those principles into the highest law of the land.

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  45. Griff (6,817 comments) says:

    I was once a republican
    No more
    big ears would make a better head of state complete with building hugging and water based curealls
    Than some trumped up racially selected proponent of moarifacation that we would receive instead

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  46. Scott (1,709 comments) says:

    I like the monarchy and will always support it. I am glad most NZers support it. Good on us.

    If we get rid of the monarchy we will get a President such as a Jim Bolger and Labour would definitely put in Helen Clark.

    So just remember- a vote for Republicanism is a vote for President Helen!

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  47. Keeping Stock (10,107 comments) says:

    Jimmy Smits said

    It is interesting to hear that you are suddenly in favour of the majority being right. I presume then that you are now obviously in favour of gay marriage given that Christians are in the minority now.

    Sorry for not having responded sooner Jimmy, but I was at church, and then lunch with the minister; very nice it was too! But in reality, all I was doing was pointing out that Paul Little’s well-known anti-Monarchy views seem to be out of step with public opinion, and that those in favour of New Zealand becoming a republic have dropped in number by around 20% since the issue was last raised.

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  48. Tautaioleua (282 comments) says:

    I can’t name any towns “just south of Levin” to be perfectly honest. In fact, I wouldn’t even be able to point to Levin on a blind map of NZ.

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  49. mikenmild (10,766 comments) says:

    Jim Bolger would make a very fine President of New Zealand. Or a monarch, given his extensive brood. Of other (fairly) recent senior politicians, we should rule out Geoffrey Palmer (too smart), Mike Moore (too crazy), Helen Clark (too busy), and John Key (too young/untried). Leaves only Jim Bolger or Jenny Shipley.

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  50. Harriet (4,524 comments) says:

    “…..Leaves only Helen Clark, Jim Bolger or Jenny Shipley…’

    Bob Jones would be in with a show as he has kept both politicians and their parties in line when needed.

    And he simply does it with a few well choosen words. No process, no law change, no bother……it’s what I expect a true leader should do. And I might add, the Queen currently does it with her GG’s.

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  51. Manolo (13,386 comments) says:

    Bolger and Shipley, both Labour lite self-serving politicians and troughers. No good.

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  52. V (668 comments) says:

    dpf, you can poll all you like but the vast majority of people realise there are far greater issues to be solved than the one of becoming a republic or changing the flag.

    “Our Head of State should be politically neutral – and be a New Zealander.”

    And where in God’s name are you going to find such an individual?

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  53. Jack5 (4,595 comments) says:

    I disagree with DPF on this:

    Our Head of State should be politically neutral – and be a New Zealander.

    Bit xenophobic alongside DPF’s criticism of “xenophobia” against some who questioned the sale of the Crafar farms to big money from the People’s Republic of China.

    What sort of New Zealander, DPF? Born in NZ (as US Presidents must be born in America), or naturalised? If a New Zealander: man or woman, Maori or identifying-as-white, straight or gay, ethnic minority?

    Republicans will say, of course, that an election would settle this.

    Our current Head of State, the Queen, fills a symbolic post. We are a pseudo-monarchical state, that is, a covert republic, with the monarch’s role chiefly ceremonial (delegated to Sir Jerry at present), and providing a head for the obverse of coins. It is dirt cheap, with Britain providing and paying for the casting. The Head of State has virtually no political power. It gives light government with a respectably low ratio of politicians to citizens. An elected president would undoubtedly come with a political retinue and, compared witht eh present set-up, an extended symbolic retinue.

    And where do NZ’s republicans stand on the hereditary status of the Maori King? Would they require that position to be voted on as well. Perhaps even to be renamed Maori President?

    An overt NZ republic would be far more expensive and would add to NZ an additional bureaucracy and set of taxpayer-financed big noters.

    As for the political neutrality, how does Charles having strong opinions on plants and genetic modification compare with having as president some ex-National or ex-Labour hack? Or a President who is a local politician or ex-politician with a social agenda, whether it’s about booze, or pokies, or gay marriage, or whatever?

    Let’s keep our present low-cost covert “republic”.

    There may be one transparent advantage in NZ becoming an overt republic, however. With our long time balance of payments deficits carrying us down river towards fiscal waterfall plunge, the new status and title would facilitate our classification with the world’s banana republics.

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  54. Mark (1,366 comments) says:

    I am not sure we have the politicians that have the bottle to have the big constitutional debate. We should have a NZ head of state and cut the ties with GB.
    I want to see a republic but I do not want the debate hijacked by the Treaty of Waitangi and I suspect it is going to be a process that whichever way it goes will be divisive for NZ

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  55. Mary Rose (393 comments) says:

    I’m waiting for someone to explain that billboard – please? Whether the answer’s supposed to be Otaki, Wellington or whatever, I don’t get it either.

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  56. bhudson (4,734 comments) says:

    Well Mary Rose, if the billboard is intended to intimate that if Prince Charles cannot name the town then he is not fit to be our sovereign, and New Zealanders can’t name it either, then it would surely suggest that we aren’t fit to be our own sovereign either?

    So I can only deduce that the republican movement are actually saying, in a round about way, that things should stay as they are.

    God save the Queen!

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  57. tvb (4,210 comments) says:

    The Head of State role is largely meaningless entertainment, uniforms nice clothes smiles shaking hand and platitudes. A NZER doing this stuff is unlikely to do it as we’ll. I do not think our HEAD of STATE will be anything more than a figurehead. Prince Charles will be ok. So long as he sticks to his constitutional role.

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  58. Harriet (4,524 comments) says:

    bhudson#

    I support that view…..your one……not the one you based it upon!

    Well done. :cool:

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  59. duggledog (1,361 comments) says:

    Harriet yes I agree with you on Bob Jones. Also because he is what I call a real New Zealander. Smacked that journalist on the nose for hassling him when he wanted to go fishing, classic

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  60. Steve (North Shore) (4,499 comments) says:

    What is the name of that Town just south of Levin?

    Well if the people who live there can figure it out we are doomed :)

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  61. orewa1 (428 comments) says:

    Whatever you might think about Chas and Camilla, they both had the fortitude to hang on in after the humiliating tampon episode. That takes real guts.

    In my books, and despite the negative connotations of inherited power, Charles is a far better prospect than any of the ego-inflated failed politicians of any persuasion that NZ might currently offer up for the role.

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  62. kowtow (7,644 comments) says:

    The alternative will be an Aotearoa version of head of state. Given the direction that our masters are driving us it will be a Maorified incarnation. So there will be even more meaningless entertainment ,funny outfits ,nose rubbing and poking tongues but 89% of people will oppose it,unlike the current situation which works so well and which a majority support.

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  63. eszett (2,337 comments) says:

    Scott (1,082) Says:
    November 11th, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    I like the monarchy and will always support it. I am glad most NZers support it. Good on us.

    If we get rid of the monarchy we will get a President such as a Jim Bolger and Labour would definitely put in Helen Clark.

    So just remember- a vote for Republicanism is a vote for President Helen!

    However you seem unfazed by the possibility of GG Helen Clark, which is far more likely and easier to achieve under the current arrangement.

    Actually the best argument for the republican movement would be just that. Next Labour PM to suggest Helen Clark as GG.
    Now, that would be fun, wouldn’t it? :-)

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  64. bhudson (4,734 comments) says:

    eszett,

    As a staunch advocate for a NZ republic, I’m sure Helen Clark’s high level of integrity would demand she refuse, don’t you think?

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  65. mikenmild (10,766 comments) says:

    I can’t imagine Helen Clark being interested in the role of governor-general.
    Before we get ahead of ourselves, the country as a whole would have to agree on a succession of steps:

    1. Deciding whether to remain as we are; make some changes to the constitutional monarchy; or become a republic

    2. In the event of change, agree on a method of selecting a head of state

    3. Electing, appointing or anointing that new head of state.

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  66. BlairM (2,288 comments) says:

    I can’t think of any constitutional change more trivial than ditching the monarchy.

    I’ll settle for an elected Governor General and a Senate.

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  67. Scott (1,709 comments) says:

    No ezsett, I don’t want Helen Clarke in charge of anything. Given the choice between King Charles 3 and President Helen, I am happy to stick with Charles.

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  68. mikenmild (10,766 comments) says:

    Some form of inherited monarchical power seems to me to work pretty well, so long as it is intrinsically linked to the country concerned.

    We could import a minor prince from a European royal house, as so many newly independent states did in the 19th and early 20th centuries. We would have to make their acceptance of a throne here conditional on a plebiscite after a few years, just to be sure.

    We could ennoble in some way a prominent New Zealander with a few kids and take the Kingdom or Prinicipality of NZ from there.

    There are other models too. Malaysia, for example, rotates the kingship every few years among the sultans. We could do this with paramount ariki from the main tribal groupings.

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  69. kowtow (7,644 comments) says:

    The monarch is intrinsically linked to NZ.Always has been. No need to change.

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  70. Elaycee (4,304 comments) says:

    Head Grinch as President????

    Wash your mouth out. At least twice. :(

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  71. ChardonnayGuy (1,136 comments) says:

    My picks for President would be Steve Maharey on the left, and Ruth Richardson on the right. That would be interesting…

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  72. rouppe (916 comments) says:

    What is the name of that town just south of Levin?

    I don’t get it. If Manakau is the answer it doesn’t make sense. Still doesn’t make sense of the answer is Otaki. Maybe he means Wellington… But if you have to explain the point, then the point is lost…

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