Diplomatic relations, cemented by visits overseas by our Governor-General, are important to New Zealand as we develop trade and economic links with key partners globally and advance our interests internationally. Our current head of state cannot carry out these functions for us. When the Queen or Charles travel abroad they can only advance the interests of the UK. Unlike most other countries we have a head of state who can’t work for us overseas.
We have in recent years had a succession of excellent governors-general who have worked tirelessly in our interests but when they travel overseas they are only “vice-regal”, so their role and function are confusing for foreign governments unfamiliar with the title of Governor-General as a “stand-in” head of state.
Questions are inevitably asked: Should they receive the Governor-General as if he or she were equivalent to New Zealand’s head of state, or should they treat them as No2 in New Zealand’s constitutional hierarchy? This makes a huge difference to the manner in which they are received and in which New Zealand is perceived overseas.
In a globalised world it is no longer appropriate to have a head of state who is not a New Zealander. An absentee head of state who is also foreign no longer accords with how we see ourselves. We are now mature and independent enough as a country to have our own head of state.
This does not mean we would have to leave the Commonwealth or make big changes to our constitutional arrangements. We simply need to turn the role of Governor-General into our head of state. As a representative of Britain, Prince Charles should be received by a New Zealander in the role of head of state who stands alongside him as his equal and not as a subservient deputy in the form of the Governor-General.
A change would be very easy to do.
- Replace references to the Sovereign/Crown with the Governor-General
- Make appointment of the Governor-General by three quarters majority in Parliament so only non-partisan nominees with wide-spread support can be appointed
We’d still have royal tours as members of the Commonwealth, but they would be as head of the Commonwealth, not as our absentee Head of State.