Guest Post: Defending NZ monarchy

February 21st, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by barrister .

Brian Rudman’s column in the NZ Herald today, A Charade of Heirs and Graces,  made me think.

An obviously devout republican, Rudman says:

How a liberal-minded modern politician can see any form of inherited monarchy as 21st century is beyond me. Especially one living in a realm on the other side of the globe from the home of said royal head of state. Suggesting this law change is a victory for human rights is a joke as far as ordinary Britons and New Zealanders are concerned. It doesn’t help any one of us becoming head of state of the democracy we live in.

But don’t we in fact enjoy a meritocratic constitutional monarchy?

No one forces us to remain part of the Commonwealth nor to retain the Queen (and her descendants) as Head of State. If there was general, popular support for a change it could be effected relatively swiftly.  But there is no popular support. Which is another way of saying that the majority of Kiwis consider that the Queen deserves her position.  And those who succeed her know that they too have to meet the same high standard – and ward off any competition – otherwise they’ll be dumped.

And frankly, who else on the planet has been trained from birth to fulfil what is a lifelong tour of public duty?

It works for me.

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95 Responses to “Guest Post: Defending NZ monarchy”

  1. davidp (3,319 comments) says:

    >If there was general, popular support for a change it could be effected relatively swiftly.

    Our current system of parliamentary elections involves a poll on a regular and automatic basis. You’re arguing that the head of state should serve on a perpetual basis and this is okay since people have the ability to organise to effect a change, even if that is difficult and expensive. That is a novel argument.

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  2. Pete George (21,798 comments) says:

    Which is another way of saying that the majority of Kiwis consider that the Queen deserves her position.

    I question that.

    There doesn’t seem be sufficient popular suport to dump the monarchy, althought that hasn’t been properly debated and tested by referendum.

    But I’d suggest a significant number of those who don’t see a need to change do so because
    - it’s a system that works reasonably well despite the oddity of having a foreign queen
    - changing would provoke a debate on ToW and constitution here that many would rather avoid
    - apathy

    I suspect the number of people who think the Queen deserves her position as figurehead head of New Zealand would be relatively small.

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  3. Nikki Pender (18 comments) says:

    You’re arguing that the head of state should serve on a perpetual basis and this is okay since people have the ability to organise to effect a change, even if that is difficult and expensive.

    You’d only need to do it once as once we’d committed to a different system, we’re never likely to go back. My point is that we are in fact tacitly exercising choice now, and the general consensus is to keep things the same.

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  4. Redbaiter (6,464 comments) says:

    “And frankly, who else on the planet has been trained from birth to fulfil what is a lifelong tour of public duty?”

    Pete George thinks he has.

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  5. Nigel Kearney (747 comments) says:

    I care more about the practical stuff than the formalities. As far as I can see there are three practical consequences of an elected head of state instead of the current system.

    1. We would have to pay for the elections.
    2. A politically partisan HOS could be a problem if there is an election with an unclear outcome, which is quite likely under MMP.
    3. Politicians could not resist the chance to use the switch to a republic as an opportunity to slip in other changes, beyond simply replacing the queen and GG with an elected equivalent.

    All of these suggest to me that the status quo is better.

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  6. Pete George (21,798 comments) says:

    Red – very poor form trying to disrupt a guest thread.

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  7. queenstfarmer (696 comments) says:

    This is not particularly compelling reasoning. The main reason to keep the monarchy for NZ is because there seems to be no discernible benefit to changing it. It ain’t broken, so why change it.

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  8. SPC (4,634 comments) says:

    If it was a “meritocratic” constitutional monarchy, then the public would select the most able member of the royal family, not the first born. And there is nothing meritocratic about applying a religious test for a position as head of our government.

    Why not open up the office of monarch to all members with proven legitimate descent from former royals and let them compete for our approval on a game show – one for the males and one for the females. Call it I want to be Prince of Wales and I want to be Princess of Wales.

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  9. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    Nikki Penderis obviously a very smart intelligent person who is able to see thru the haze and rubbish that surrounds the subject.

    And Nigel Kearney is pretty smart also.

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  10. Nikki Pender (18 comments) says:

    Pete George, and probably because we don’t have a clear idea of what an ideal Head of State would look like.

    The other obvious example in a democratic system is the President of the US who also tends to enjoy royal like status – albeit for a limited time. But the POTUS is necessarily a political office unlike the Queen who is apolitical (as is the GG).

    Interestingly, one concern about Prince Charles is his tendency to dabble in the political arena (advice to Ministers etc). Perhaps that trait might tip the balance in the future – if we’re going to have a political animal as Head of State, why not go the whole hog? (no pun intended)

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  11. SPC (4,634 comments) says:

    Nigel,

    1. there is no reason we cannot appoint a President as we do the Governor General. All we would need was broad parliamentary consent.

    2. The Oz precedent shows there is little difference between a GG or a President in these matters – the Oz GG did not take instruction from the Crown. The Crown does not get involved in these matters, the GG has as much independence as a Presdient.

    3. a presumption that one change would come with others is a conservative rationale for doing nothing on anything ever. Are you saying that if the change came alone then there is no real change in substance at all. Then we agree.

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  12. Redbaiter (6,464 comments) says:

    “Nikki Pender is obviously a very smart intelligent person”

    She must be because I agree with her. (except I think the Queen has done a pretty piss poor job)

    Nikki is pretty cute too.

    http://www.legalempowerment.co.nz/images/nikki.jpg

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  13. MT_Tinman (2,790 comments) says:

    Quite honestly I can’t see a single reason to retain the Pom/German/Greek outfit except for the obvious.

    President Helen.

    Long live the Queen!

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  14. Pete George (21,798 comments) says:

    Nikki – I think there are varying degrees of liking the current Queent to total apathy but as has already been touched on, there’s just no compelling reason for us to do anything about it and it’s easier and possibly cheaper to just not to do anything.

    One day something might trigger a determination to create our own independent identity, as you say it could be a dabbling (or embarrassing or…) future King, but at the moment most don’t care enough to try and change anything. Or care a lot about the debate it would initiate.

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  15. SPC (4,634 comments) says:

    Nikki, it is only heads of state who hold real power who need to be elected. Our head of state is symbolic, it infers that political players agree to abide by the consitutional rules of government.

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  16. Nikki Pender (18 comments) says:

    SPC – so do you think it is the apolitical, symbolic nature of our constitutional monarchy that makes it so enduring?

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  17. Pete George (21,798 comments) says:

    I knew it wouldn’t be long before someone introduced the threat of Helen, that’s just a nutty attempt at scaremongering.

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  18. Tauhei Notts (1,509 comments) says:

    The only advantage I can see in republic status is that at present one minority race has very expensive claims against “The Crown.”
    Presumably, if our country adopted republic status those claims against “The Crown” could then be forgotten about by New Zealand taxpayers as they are a claim against “The Crown” and New Zealand would no longer have any connection with “The Crown”.

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  19. Redbaiter (6,464 comments) says:

    Much hotter than Cactus right?

    [DPF: If you want to comment on how attractive you think a commenter is, do it elsewhere please]

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  20. Adele Keyshia (39 comments) says:

    I don’t think it means New Zealander’s think she DESERVES the position, so much as they are indifferent. I agree it doesn’t make much difference to the human rights of ordinary New Zealander’s but I think it is a very important symbol! To suggest that the monarchy respects men and women equally.

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  21. Redbaiter (6,464 comments) says:

    “To suggest that the monarchy respects men and women equally.”

    Wrong babe, the hierarchy is boys before girls. An elder sister has to give way to her younger brothers.

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  22. SPC (4,634 comments) says:

    Nikki, I would say that the apolitical symbolic nature of the monarchy is what allows it to be a non problematic form of constitutional government. Thus it’s continuance is easily accepted.

    It’s support comes from

    1. inertia, a conservative status quo provides political stablity cover for nations going through the change of globalisation and increasing wealth and income disparity

    2. attachment, a conservative status quo provides political stablity cover for nations going through the change of globalisation and increasing wealth and income disparity.

    A profile of those nations that have become republics and those retaining the monarchy shows that the attachment is to the ancestral homeland and its cultural heritage (including the concept of a Christian throne above the colonies).

    I see our inability to celebrate Waitangi Day as indicating a nationalist immaturity and the clinging onto the throne is a recognition of that. Yet while Oz is more mature as a nation, its geo-political insecurity, recognised in its security alliance with the USA, so they offer us no leadership in this matter.

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  23. nasska (9,489 comments) says:

    PONZ Klarkula? PONZ Bolger? No way….we’d be better off with Idi Amin! Retaining the British monarchy is one of the only true bargains we are ever likely to see in our lifetimes.

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  24. Redbaiter (6,464 comments) says:

    Deleted by commenter.

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  25. tvb (3,938 comments) says:

    The whole notion of the monarchy is what I do not like. We are subjects, we bow and curtsey. We are treated as inferior before people who are born into the role. Yes sure the Queen comes across as a humble person and Prince Charles seems OK. AND THE Duke and Duchess of Cambridge seem ok too. Though I hope the Middleton family do not get above themselves. There is some chit chat he should be an Earl o. The grounds He is a Grqndfather of a future monarch. God I hope he resists that. Let us see. That Pippa is sailing very close to acceptability. The whole appeal of the Middletons is their business success and middle England niceness. Being faux aristocracy would be a bad mistake.

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  26. Redbaiter (6,464 comments) says:

    “Retaining the British monarchy is one of the only true bargains we are ever likely to see in our lifetimes.”

    Jesus- A bargain??

    You’ve got to be joking. These losers have sold the UK down the tube. Stood by and whined about global warming and handed out honours to degenerates while the UK crumbled about them. Attended rock concerts where broken down losers held court to drunkards and drug addicts. Remained mute while their country is invaded by foreigners who are intent on dismantling everything that once made Great Britain a globally respected nation.

    The idea of a Monarch as head of state is OK. Its just a pity that the current family of gape jawed PC losers (possible exception the duke of E) has done so much to tarnish that idea.

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  27. rangitoto (144 comments) says:

    The thought of President Clarkenstein would give anyone nightmares.

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  28. Nikki Pender (18 comments) says:

    SPC, I don’t agree that support for a conservative status quo is necessarily a sign of national immaturity. If an exciting, inspirational alternative had been put up and we’d ignored it out of fear of change, then maybe there would be room for criticism. But unless and until that comes along, aren’t we quite rational to continue with the status quo?

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  29. gump (1,228 comments) says:

    We can stay in the Commonwealth even if decide that we don’t want the Queen as our head of state.

    I lost a bet recently regarding this matter (I was sure that Tonga wasn’t a Commonwealth country – but I was wrong)

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  30. Jack5 (4,216 comments) says:

    Rudman:

    It doesn’t help any one of us becoming head of state of the democracy we live in.

    The nightmare thought of Raving Rudman as head of state surely occurs only in a druggie’s bad trip.

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  31. Redbaiter (6,464 comments) says:

    “If an exciting, inspirational alternative had been put up and we’d ignored it out of fear of change, then maybe there would be room for criticism.”

    So I take it you’re not a fan of the upcoming Constitutional review?

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  32. SPC (4,634 comments) says:

    Nikki, I’d debate the point further but my post was not put up, then gets called duplicate and now despite variation in wording spam. I’m apparently being blocked from doing so.

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  33. nasska (9,489 comments) says:

    The British royal family are effectively a titular monarchy Reddy…..they started ceding power at the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 & it has been all down hill since then. Today the Queen holds only “prerogative powers” which she exercises “on the advice of her ministers” — i.e., they tell her what she should do & she does it. Her authority in countries other than the U.K. is obviously exercised through her Governor Generals & I doubt that she’d have a clue as to what they were doing in her name.

    It is probably a bit tough to blame the monarchy for the state Britain finds itself in….similar as to any woes we have here but I like the non political aspect of retaining the Crown as head of state. In a small country such as ours we could guarantee that adoption of a republican system would result in lacklustre political hacks being rewarded with the presidency just to get them out of Parliament.

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  34. SPC (4,634 comments) says:

    When we feel more secure, about both our own sovereign nationalism and also our place in the world at large, then change in the head of state arrangement would be a formality. It is a mundane procedural thing and is about apolitical head of state arrangments, so there should be little exciting or inspirational about it.

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  35. nasska (9,489 comments) says:

    SPC

    ….”It is a mundane procedural thing and is about apolitical head of state arrangments”….

    It won’t be exciting & it won’t be aspirational but as sure as hell it will be political.

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  36. SPC (4,634 comments) says:

    The reassuring attachment meantime is to part of a larger group to represent our values and nationalism in the wider world

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  37. SPC (4,634 comments) says:

    The difficulty now is getting the words inner circle of the Commowealth Crown, and white English speaking people colonies and 5 Eyes group past the spam filter.

    … free at last …

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  38. Nikki Pender (18 comments) says:

    SPC, I have my doubts that such a significant constitutional change could ever be a mere formality.

    I was living in Australia when the republican debate was going on. If you recall, Paul Keating whipped up a frenzy for a republican Australia, master of its own destiny etc etc. Had a referendum been held then, change would have been a given. Then it was sent off to a Committee to sort out mundane procedural things and once they’d stripped the issue of anything remotely exciting or inspirational a change in the head of state arrangement became anything but a mere formality. Keating had moved on and there was no one with the same passion to replace him. Instead, the monarchists filled the emotional vacuum by instilling fears of dictatorships and party hack appointments etc etc. The (probably) once-in-a-generation referendum to change the Head of State was defeated 55/45.

    The moral that I took out of this story was that, while a rational process to sort out formalities is a good thing (revolutionary coup d’etats tend to be messy things), you need an equal measure of passion to push significant constitutional change over the line.

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  39. Redbaiter (6,464 comments) says:

    Nasska- the Queen actually represents the “common” people and holds the country in trust for them, signifying that they are the real owners, not the parliament and or politicians.

    As such the King/ Queen has a duty to speak out in times when Parliamentarians are betraying the common people, and there has never been in recent times a more disgraceful betrayal as what we have witnessed since the sixties onwards.

    Rather than speaking out softly against this betrayal, this Queen and her family have participated enthusiastically in the ruin perpetrated by the politicians. She should at the very least have stayed above it.

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  40. UglyTruth (3,002 comments) says:

    But there is no popular support [for change].
    Which is another way of saying that the majority of Kiwis consider that the Queen deserves her position.

    Or that they don’t care, or that they don’t know about the dark side of the house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (aka Windsor).

    The English monarch is traditionally the “Supreme Governor” of the Anglican Church. The story of the crimes committed against children kept in Anglican & Catholic residential schools in Canada is a story about religious education which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 50000 children from disease, neglect, abuse, and murder over about a 100 year period.

    http://canadianresidentialschools.blogspot.co.nz/2012/06/canada-excavation-in-indian-residential.html

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  41. SPC (4,634 comments) says:

    Nikki, sure an incoming PM in their popular phase can get momentum for new policy/direction – though I am not sure this is an issue on which politicians should do this.

    The Oz referendum outcome simply speaks to the obstructionism of process – even if a majority want a republic they may not want the form of republic proposed. If the process had been

    stage one – status quo or republic
    stage two – what form of republic is preferred

    Oz would now be a republic.

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  42. SPC (4,634 comments) says:

    Redbaiter, the concept that the Crown represents the sovereignty of the “common” people and holds the country in trust for them, signifying that they are the real owners, not the parliament and or politicians is valid – in that the person in Crown office is the peoples first public servant. But in Britain people are called subjects, when they are simply members of a collective whose (common) laws they accept. So there is still the backsliding to the days when people were serfs under a heirarchy of authority they were subject to.

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  43. Mike Wilkinson (64 comments) says:

    Nikki, as a member of the Republican Movement, I post my resounding agreement with SPC. I think there is a better lesson for you to take from the mess that was the Australian republican referendum in ’99. It’s that the process used for such significant constitutional change is of fundamental importance.

    One might argue that it was because Australia got this process wrong that it ended up holding a referendum between the status quo and a Parliament-appointed Head of State. Given that wasn’t the republican structure the majority of people wanted, one might suggest it was inevitable that an Australian republic was defeated.

    There are alternative ways for running such a process that may arguably be better. For an example, you may wish to take a look at the process preferred by the Republican Movement: http://www.republic.org.nz/policy

    Cheers,
    Mike

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  44. SPC (4,634 comments) says:

    Back to Oz, one reason why the republic issue will not be revisited there for some time is that sentiment for a republic has diminished.

    In the 1990′s with the Cold War over, it was the time of the peace dividend and Oz was secure – since Sept 9 2001 and the choice of Oz to be deputy sheriff for geo-political reasons (the end of history myth of western triumph and US global supremacy exposed) and the possibility of instability caused by AGW, this is no longer the case.

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  45. Redbaiter (6,464 comments) says:

    “So there is still the backsliding to the days when people were serfs under a heirarchy of authority they were subject to.”

    A benevolent monarchy is frequently judged as the best of all forms of government.

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  46. davidp (3,319 comments) says:

    So we’re actually subjects of the monarch, rather than citizens of a republic. The monarch lives in the UK. Presumably she is a citizen of the EU. Does that mean the European courts have jurisdiction over NZ’s head of state? Maybe the European Court of Human Rights will review the current bill, which is anti-Catholic, has bizarre limitations on six people’s freedom to marry, and is anti-democratic?

    People worry about the privacy implications of offshoring data to overseas cloud providers since the data is then subject to the jurisdiction of foreign police and courts. It’s a valid worry. But our head of state is subject to the jurisdiction of both UK and European courts. Isn’t this a problem for anyone?

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  47. Nikki Pender (18 comments) says:

    Hi Mike and SPC. I don’t disagree with you about what happened in Australia, but that’s what I meant about the monarchists filling the vacuum left by Keating and hijacking the process. Without an energetic, charismatic champion leading the charge on the other side, the momentum that had gathered earlier fell away and the referendum was lost.

    Mike, I’m sure your policy is perfectly sound, but that’s part of the problem. You’ve met the “reason” half of the equation I was talking about at 6:36pm above, but are lacking the passion required for the other side of the ledger. You need an inspirational vision of something better than the status quo. And your website needs to exude passion, excitement and, frankly, sex appeal. Otherwise you’ll be constantly trumped by royal weddings and babies. Seriously.

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  48. Redbaiter (6,464 comments) says:

    “sex appeal.”

    What?

    Careful.

    Guardian Farrar will be issuing you with another of his frantic PC admonishments if you don’t watch it.

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  49. Pete George (21,798 comments) says:

    A benevolent monarchy is frequently judged as the best of all forms of government.

    By whom? And for whom is it best?

    What examples are there of it working well?

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  50. UglyTruth (3,002 comments) says:

    What examples are there of it working well?

    King Alfred the Great. Kicked out the Vikings & established English common law (which was nothing like the common law that the state describes).

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  51. Redbaiter (6,464 comments) says:

    Ugly- like many socialists, PG has to be spoon fed knowledge.

    Here’s a clue Petey. Search for “monarchy the best form of government”

    (without the speech marks)

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  52. Pete George (21,798 comments) says:

    Times have changed a tad since Alfred the Great. I suspect there could have been a bit of disparity between landowners and peasants.

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  53. Mike Wilkinson (64 comments) says:

    Nikki, thanks, your advice is taken (although I very much doubt our policy is “perfectly sound” – these things can always be improved upon).

    I agree that finding sensible ways to overcome voter apathy is an important issue for the Movement. Creating sexy websites might be one way. I’d suggest that appealing to NZers’ nationhood and sense of fairness might be others.

    Whichever way we go, I note that time is on our side, In particular, there are two important “game-changers” that could occur: one, the passing of our much-respected Queen Elizabeth and the other, Australia (finally) becoming a republic. Were either of those things to take place, the Duchess better be ready: she’ll need to start turning out babies every couple of years at least into her sixties if she’s to trump NZ’s republican aspirations. (That would be another reason to feel sorry for her, she already faces such high expectations.)

    If I may, I’d encourage you to think about why exactly you favour the baggage that is our current political structure. Surely, it’s not royal weddings and babies that makes you do so. Becoming a republic would not stop you enjoying them. After all, plenty of Americans do and they got a new political structure centuries ago. Isn’t it time we followed suit?

    Cheers,
    Mike

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  54. Redbaiter (6,464 comments) says:

    Mike- the reason I reject any change from the current situation is just because of the outcomes you describe.

    The thought of our present uncivilized ignorant of history and thuggish citizenry giving birth to a Constitutional Republic similar to that of the US (forged from their real battle for freedom) is less than zero.

    Without a doubt they will cheer for and open the gate to the most despicable tyranny.

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  55. Redbaiter (6,464 comments) says:

    Sorry- too late to edit.

    Meant “The chance” rather than “The thought”.

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  56. Pete George (21,798 comments) says:

    Mike – another thing you’re battling against (a battle I support) is the trivialisation of media and the widespread obsession with ‘celebrity’.

    Red – it’s easy to find sites supporting monarchy as the best form of government. And the opposite.

    There’s a major failing with some monarchies – the quality of the monach. If you inherit a crappy one you are stuck with them for life, that’s hardly a positive for good government.

    And if monarchies were so good where are they all? Most remaining monarchies are symbolic only. That doesn’t suggest much effectiveness.

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  57. nasska (9,489 comments) says:

    PG

    What Reddy’s suggesting is close to another highly effective form of government…..a benign dictatorship. A good one is the best form of governance known but it tends to get a bit dicey getting rid of a crap one.

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  58. Redbaiter (6,464 comments) says:

    Petey, you need to develop a new debating technique. Prefereably one that avoids the asking of dreadfully ignorant questions. You just looked up “Monarchy” on Google or some such service, and all the information would have been there for you.

    I’ve experienced a number of them, (Oman for one example) and in terms of delivering to the people, they pissed all over the disaster that is laughingly referred to as democratic government in NZ (for example).

    If the people are not (1) educated and (2) informed, (and by intent they are not educated or informed in NZ) democracy is derelict.

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  59. SPC (4,634 comments) says:

    I suppose you regard the trend towards democracy in Singapore with some trepidation.

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  60. Redbaiter (6,464 comments) says:

    I just hope someone helps all those oppressed Singaporeans escaping on rubber tyre rafts to Malaysia.

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  61. Pete George (21,798 comments) says:

    I didn’t realise you were a fan of Islamic Sharia Red. Is that why you avoid talking about your religious preferences?

    Oman is an absolute monarchy in which all legislative, executive, and judiciary power ultimately rests in the hands of the hereditary sultan, and in which the system of laws is based firmly on Islamic sharia.

    The administration of justice is highly personalised, with limited due process protections, especially in political and security-related cases. A 2012 report by Bertelsmann Stiftung declared that while Oman’s legal code theoretically protects civil liberties and personal freedoms, both are regularly ignored by the regime. Oman, therefore, cannot be considered free.

    I don’t see how that would be goer here.

    Nasska – yes, it seems that Red fancies himself as King.

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  62. Redbaiter (6,464 comments) says:

    You don’t know anything Pete, (apart from where to find the best whorehouse in Dunedin).

    I was so much freer in Oman than in the destitute mess you and other progressives have made of this country.

    In fact I was even freer in Libya.

    That may sound hard to accept, but believe me it is a fact.

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  63. Mike Wilkinson (64 comments) says:

    Redbaiterat 7.52, the US has a federal republic, one that many NZers despite. No one I know of entertains a republican NZ getting a similar structure. Instead, a more acceptable one might be a parliamentary republic, basically what Ireland has now.

    Also, if the citizenry is thuggish and ignorant of history, what’s to stop us opening the gates to tyranny right now? You’re not kidding yourself that the Royal Family would step in and save us from ourselves, are you? Since it would give us our own elected head of state, becoming a republic might make such an outcome less likely, not more.

    Cheers,
    Mike

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  64. Nikki Pender (18 comments) says:

    Hi Mike, the US model doesn’t inspire me at all. I really do prefer an apolitical head of state (rather like a grandparent, instead of a parent). I’m open to being persuaded but waiting to be inspired.

    I found the controversial Hilary Mantel speech about Royal Bodies fascinating. There seems to be such a psychological complexity about the whole monarch/subject relationship that I wonder whether we first need to unpack and understand that dynamic before we can truly come up with a replacement.

    The Americans cut their British ties more than 200 years ago, but seem to have pined for a royal replacement ever since. They certainly do their own style of pomp and ceremony just as well as the Brits do. Currently our GGs fly pretty much under the radar. We don’t monitor their every move, or comment on what they (or their spouses) wear, or attach a lot of ritual to their public appearances. I wonder if that situation would change if the GG office was converted into the Head of State? I guess we’d have to appoint Lockwood to find out for sure :)

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  65. Redbaiter (6,464 comments) says:

    “If the citizenry is thuggish and ignorant of history, what’s to stop us opening the gates to tyranny right now?”

    Nothing, and sadly you are indeed busying yourself doing that right now. Especially by means of the shadowy Constitutional Review that is being held virtually out of public sight by an anointed elitist few just slavering to hand the country over to racist demagogues.

    The US is a Constitutional Republic and as such it has (until government committed crimes against that Constitution) stood as the most successful nation in world history, rising in a few centuries to global preeminence and being a magnet for people from all corners of the world.

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  66. Pete George (21,798 comments) says:

    Nikki, you touch on an interesting conflict. It’s often said democracy with as much input from everyone as is feasible should be the targeted ideal, but in reality many people want to ignore most politics and look up to pomp and glamour. Hence a powerless head of state with a big clothes budget may be the best option.

    We have no background of heriditary monarchs here apart from the Kīngitanga movement and that was set up to mimic the British monarchy.

    Maybe all we need is a TV show decided celebrity to provide the glitz, leave a GG type to do the ribbon cutting and honour bestowing and leave our parliament more or less as it is, it works ok now and would only need a bit of tweaking to improve it.

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  67. Pete George (21,798 comments) says:

    the shadowy Constitutional Review that is being held virtually out of public sight by an anointed elitist few just slavering to hand the country over to racist demagogues.

    You’re grossly overstating it’s importance, it’s just an effort to stimulate a constitutional discussion. It will decided nothing on it’s own.

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  68. Mike Wilkinson (64 comments) says:

    Hi Nikki, yes, as I wrote to Redbaiter, the US is a Federal Republic and few NZers like it. I for one have absolutely no idea how NZ would implement a federal structure. Instead, it’s easy to imagine us becoming a Parliamentary Republic: we’d keep our Parliament, but replace our Governor General with an elected Head of State. That’s the system that basically Ireland operates.

    In Ireland, the President doesn’t make policies: they leave that to Ireland’s (bicameral) Houses of Parliament. In that sense, they are very much non-political. I understand it’s a norm for Irish presidents to resign their membership of political parties when they get elected to the office.

    It’s easy to envisage NZ, if and when it becomes a republic, merely electing the last Governor General to the post of President. If it’s your dislike of politics that sees you favour our constitutional monarchy, I really don’t see anything much changing under a republican structure. Or am I missing something? Is there some other reason you favour the monarchy?

    Cheers,
    Mike

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  69. UglyTruth (3,002 comments) says:

    I wonder whether we first need to unpack and understand that dynamic before we can truly come up with a replacement.

    The oath of allegiance is a good place to start. An oath is an act of religion, so the role of deity must be considered as well as the traditional issue of loyalty to a king. In the case of the English monarch the articles of religion describe something different to the deity of English common law. One difference is the physical aspect, which does not exist within Anglican religion but can be determined as being much the same as that of a man or a woman from the context of King Alfred’s “doom book”.

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  70. Redbaiter (6,464 comments) says:

    A high proportion of Irish choose not to live in Ireland.

    They prefer to live overseas and sing about it.

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  71. Johnboy (13,342 comments) says:

    Better spuds over here Red! :)

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  72. Mike Wilkinson (64 comments) says:

    They do bring some good stuff with them, though Johnboy. Consider a world without Guinness or even the dreary Irish pub. Where else might we watch the Tri-nations when caught short on a lazy Saturday morning somewhere like Madrid or Warsaw?

    Cheers,
    Mike

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  73. Nikki Pender (18 comments) says:

    Mike, a Governor General role would function perfectly adequately, no doubt about it. But would it have the pomp, the ceremony, the colour? Even their, at times, dysfunctional family dramas all form part of the royal charm.

    The Queen, Charles, William – they’re spent their lives being trained for the role. I’ve always thought that if Britain decided to advertise the position and any one of them applied, they’d be hard to beat :)

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  74. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    But our head of state is subject to the jurisdiction of both UK and European courts. Isn’t this a problem for anyone?

    Our monarch is the Queen of New Zealand and is not subject to the jurisdiction of UK or European courts. That the person currently holding that position is also the Queen of the United Kingdom and, in that role, may be is of no consequence to us.

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  75. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    There doesn’t seem be sufficient popular suport to dump the monarchy, althought that hasn’t been properly debated and tested by referendum.

    @PG,

    Then let those that would promote change get the necessary signatures for a CIR. Given the last poll had support for a republic at 19% I would say they’d have Buckley’s.

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  76. davidp (3,319 comments) says:

    bhudson>Our monarch is the Queen of New Zealand and is not subject to the jurisdiction of UK or European courts.

    Our monarch is a resident of the UK and a citizen of the EU. What makes you think that she isn’t subject to the jurisdiction of the European courts? I work for an Australian company, but I live in Wellington. If a NZ court tells me to do or not do something, then I can’t ignore them on the basis that I’m at work at the time.

    I think the mistake you’re making is assuming that because the Queen is monarch of the UK and NZ and has a special place in our constitutional arrangements, then that overrides the European law that governs her place of residence. I’ve seen no evidence to suggest that is true.

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  77. UglyTruth (3,002 comments) says:

    Then let those that would promote change get the necessary signatures for a CIR

    That would not be an effective remedy. Citizenship implies the existence of authority vested in the state, so it would simply be a request when it should be a demand. The main problem in this process is that corporate media has no interest in eliminating the basis of its own existence, which is what dissolution of the state implies. The alternative media is slowly picking up the story of the Canadian residential schools, but there is a long way to go before the public are sufficiently aware of the nature and scale of the problem before an informed consensus can be reached.

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  78. Mike Wilkinson (64 comments) says:

    Hey Nikki, you’re going to have trouble convincing me that NZers will be happy to accept Charles as King of New Zealand. As for whether he and other Royals have trained for life for the work, I think you should be careful not to overplay their role. Yes, they are figureheads and at times that’s no easy thing. However, they’re hardly beacons of diplomacy who go ’round trying to bring things like peace in the Middle East.

    I’m enjoying our mature discussion. However, I’m still having real trouble understanding why you favour the monarchy? Are you of British heritage and believe NZ would somehow be less if starts reducing its ties with the motherland?

    This thread has gone a little cold overnight. I’ll try to look back later in the day to see whether you’ve posted, anything. I remain interested in your answers.

    Cheers,
    Mike

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  79. Nigel Kearney (747 comments) says:

    If we did become a republic, it’s a total waste of time and money to have an elected figurehead of state.

    Instead, we should just have bills become laws as soon as parliament passes them, the prime minister give out honours, the chief justice do the government formation and deformation stuff, and put the GG’s old house on trademe.

    Actually we can probably do all of that without becoming a republic.

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  80. SPC (4,634 comments) says:

    Nigel, by that logic the PM could appoint himself GG under the Crown.

    And after all he tours the country like someone acting as ceremonial head of state now.

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  81. Pete George (21,798 comments) says:

    A key question Mike – how to build sufficient interest in change? There needs to be a compelling reason, a focal point, or apathy will reign.

    Nigel – I think you could be right, we pretty much operate like that in practice now anyway, with a bit of royal fluff as an overhead.

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  82. SPC (4,634 comments) says:

    Does not anyone realise the appearance of propriety in having the separate and distinct office of GG is actually quite important of itself?

    Doing way with it means a directly elected PM/President who is a politician.

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  83. UglyTruth (3,002 comments) says:

    There needs to be a compelling reason

    The connection between the house of Windsor and the mass murder of children in the name of religious education isn’t a compelling reason?

    Doing way with it means a directly elected PM/President who is a politician.

    That’s assuming that a republic is the only alternative. A country could be administered apolitically by regional and national judicial groups, with political interest groups responsible for their own supply issues. The judicial model has some historical precedent in English common law (i.e. the hundred).

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  84. Nikki Pender (18 comments) says:

    Hi Mike, I didn’t really mean this post to be about me personally. It was more an observation that we as a nation are exercising choice in retaining the Queen as the Head of State given that it wouldn’t take much effort to change things if there were general dissatisfaction. The discussion then moved onto why that might be and I added some thoughts that were partly from a personal perspective and partly general observations.

    As far as I know, I have English, Irish, Danish and Spanish heritage. But the ties are tenuous only as all but one of my four grandparents were born here and the fourth emigrated from England when she was three. However like many Kiwis, the Queen has always been the monarch during my lifetime and there is some comfort in the tradition and continuity that comes with that.

    I was interested that even a staunch republican like yourself acknowledges that nothing is likely to change while the current Queen reigns (unless an Australian move to republicanism also sparked some momentum here – it didn’t in the 1990s). It will be a fascinating period when the Queen does finally pass (which could still be some years away if she has her mother’s longevity). Will we accept a King Charles, who could be close to 80 by then, or take the opportunity to change? There are so many variables, that I’m not as convinced as you are that we will inevitably cut our ties with Britain, although I do accept that there is a good probability.

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  85. UglyTruth (3,002 comments) says:

    it wouldn’t take much effort to change things if there were general dissatisfaction

    Assuming for argument’s sake that general dissatisfaction did exist, what would be involved in changing things?

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  86. Right of way is Way of Right (1,125 comments) says:

    Is there really any pressing need for a change? Whilst I admit that there are a number of arguments that have been presented for us to have a head of state from New Zealand, I have issues when it appears that the office itself may become excessively politicised.

    There are many commentators who ask why we have a head of state who lives on the other side of the world, but I’d ask why not, when the most compelling reason they can come up with is something about us ‘being able to feel better about ourselves as a country!” Are we really that insecure?

    Our Governor General is, for all intents and purposes, our Head of State. He or she is one of us, who serves both our country and our monarch in equal measure. And it works. It really works! Can anyone really tell me of a system that is better?

    I’m reminded of the the words of Petronious Arbeter, Emperor Nero’s Satirist, who died in AD66

    “I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by re-organising. And a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress, while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation.”

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  87. SPC (4,634 comments) says:

    Right of way is Way of Right

    I think the better way of puting it is, when we mature as a country, then the change will occur.

    That requires we work further through the Treaty issue and then move on so we feel more united. It also requires that we feel more secure about our nation’s place in the world – that requires a more stable and promising geo-political situation.

    When we feel better about going it alone we will.

    I agree about the GG’s place now, the Crown is just a means of association with other English settler colonies – a way to be part of a group in the world we feel comfortable with.

    The relevance of that declines with each passing generation – as we change demographically and the world becomes more inter-connected.

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  88. UglyTruth (3,002 comments) says:

    Is there really any pressing need for a change?

    Need is driven by threat. Any discussion of threats leads to conspiracy theory, a term which is used by some people to indicate that the subject matter is now taboo. The fact that this subject is generally off-limits within the main stream media suggest that a real threat does exist.

    the most compelling reason they can come up with is something about us ‘being able to feel better about ourselves as a country!”

    Another reason is that when the head of state lives and works within the same environment as the people of the country, their interests are more likely to be aligned that when the head of state lives abroad.

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  89. Mike Wilkinson (64 comments) says:

    Thanks for the further thoughts, Nikki.  I guess I was inferring too much about your personal opinions.  (I had reckoned few people go as far as to write guest posts for Kiwiblog on things other than personal opinions, although you may well be an exception.)

     

    I strongly disagree with the idea that New Zealand is exercising choice in retaining the Queen as our Head of State.  In fact, I’d go as far as to call this a preposterous notion.  New Zealanders have never been offered a serious choice (i.e. in a referendum) about whether we wish to retain her.  That republicanism would probably have been defeated if we had is beside the point.  The point is, New Zealanders have never been offered the choice!

     

    I fear you are mis-interpreting my words about the passing of the Queen.  I didn’t say nothing would change before that happened.  I said it was a “game-changer” in order to question your assertion that Royal weddings and babies would trump republican sentiments “every time”.  Even if the Queen stays with us for decades yet, it’s easy to envisage republican sentiment rising because countries like Jamaica become republics.

     

    As for your comment that it isn’t inevitable we become a republic, are you really suggesting that NZ would do without its own Head of State even as the number of citizens with any attachment to Britain dwindles to nothing?

     

    Cheers,

    Mike

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  90. UglyTruth (3,002 comments) says:

    I care more about the practical stuff than the formalities. As far as I can see there are three practical consequences of an elected head of state instead of the current system.

    1. We would have to pay for the elections.
    2. A politically partisan HOS could be a problem if there is an election with an unclear outcome, which is quite likely under MMP.
    3. Politicians could not resist the chance to use the switch to a republic as an opportunity to slip in other changes, beyond simply replacing the queen and GG with an elected equivalent.

    1. Not if elections were funded by licencing.
    2. The HOS could function in a judicial role rather than in a political role.
    3. What if the politicians had no control over the judiciary? Surely that would be less dangerous than the current system in which the judiciary is directed by the body politic?

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  91. Nikki Pender (18 comments) says:

    Ugly Truth

    Assuming for argument’s sake that general dissatisfaction did exist, what would be involved in changing things?

    The nuts and bolts of changing things: s.2 of the Constitution 1986 states that the Sovereign is our Head of State, so that provision would need to be amended or repealed, along with a number of related Imperial Acts. As far as I know none of this legislation is entrenched, so it would take a simple Parliamentary majority to change them.

    Practically though, I would expect such a significant constitutional change to follow a referendum (although we didn’t have one before abolishing the Privy Council). Tricky issues like what to do about the Crown’s obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi could be dealt with by simply having the new system assume full responsibility for them.

    How would these changes be put in motion? General dissatisfaction creates its own momentum. Natural-born politicians instinctively pick up on the vibe and step up to champion the cause. The flow of the tide then carries the changes through.

    Hence my point that there there must be general satisfaction with the status quo, otherwise we would have changed already.

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  92. Nikki Pender (18 comments) says:

    Mike,

    I strongly disagree with the idea that New Zealand is exercising choice in retaining the Queen as our Head of State. In fact, I’d go as far as to call this a preposterous notion.New Zealanders have never been offered a serious choice (i.e. in a referendum) about whether we wish to retain her.

    See my reply to Ugly Truth above. A referendum would naturally follow if a momentum gathered. There is no such momentum, hence no referendum.

    As for your comment that it isn’t inevitable we become a republic, are you really suggesting that NZ would do without its own Head of State even as the number of citizens with any attachment to Britain dwindles to nothing?

    I don’t know the answer to that but it is an interesting question. Is the attachment one stemming from heritage or a less tangible affiliation? Has the inevitability that you talk about been reversed because the younger generation of royals are popular and our youth admire them? What do immigrants who are not from Commonwealth countries think? Do they find it weird, or are our traditional ties to Britain part of what attracted them here in the first place?

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  93. Mike Wilkinson (64 comments) says:

    Ugly Truth at 10.49, assuming dissatisfaction does rise, the Republican Movement has put some thinking into how we could become a republic.

    Briefly, our suggested process involves two referenda of the public and a Constitutional Commission to generate the details. You can have a read here: http://www.republic.org.nz/policy

    From my perspective, I fear our process is a risky one. Unlike Nikki, I do think a republic inevitable. Sooner or later, I think we’ll have to cross this bridge. The Movement’s policy is currently our best attempt at minimising the associated risks. There but for the grace of God go we.

    Cheers,
    Mike

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  94. UglyTruth (3,002 comments) says:

    Tricky issues like what to do about the Crown’s obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi could be dealt with by simply having the new system assume full responsibility for them.

    Which would be unjust, since a new system would not have been responsible for them. Also, your changes would not remove the influence of the (ex) head of state over the body politic because of the oath of office of individual members of parliament.

    From the Republican Movement’s Policy Statement:

    Our Head of State has the same functions and powers (exercisable in accordance with current constitutional conventions) as the Sovereign and Governor-General have presently

    Those “powers” are based on the Anglican articles of religion (Article XXXVII), they are not lawful powers derived from the consent of the governed. While the state does grant religious liberty to its citizens, this liberty does not extend to those who have sworn an oath to the head of state because of the religious nature of an oath.

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  95. Mike Wilkinson (64 comments) says:

    Nikki,

    Are you confusing popularity in women’s magazines with political popularity? In recent polling, the Herald found only one in three NZers wanted Charles as our next Head of State. http://www.republic.org.nz/media/herald-poll-shows-new-zealanders-want-choose-next-head-state

    What immigrants to NZ think very much about our absentee Head of State? I doubt they think very much. Would any of them come hear because of that weird political structure? Id be astounded if so.

    Cheers,
    Mike

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