McKinnon says NZ republic is inevitable

April 7th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

It is “inevitable” that New Zealand will ditch the monarchy and become a republic, Sir Don McKinnon says.

Speaking on the eve of the royal visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the former deputy prime minister said the country has been moving towards republicanism “for a long time”.

“I’m quite certain the royal family understands that completely,” Sir Don said.

”[There are] 54 countries in the Commonwealth, only 16 are realms, and I can tell you now that one Caribbean publicly, and three Caribbean, privately are probably going to give up that relationship with the monarchy when the Queen dies. So it is a diminishing group of countries, and the important thing is for us to openly and candidly debate the issue.”

This is significant coming from the former Commonwealth Secretary-General. Especially that four of the remaining 16 countries are planning to become republics when the Queen dies. Arguably that is a sensible time for NZ to do the same. A plus – no King Charles :-)

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The New Zealand Head of State campaign

March 9th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The former Republican Movement has announced:

The Republican Movement is re-naming its entire campaign to make it clear that reforming New Zealand’s head of state is its number one priority. From now on the group will be campaigning under the banner ‘New Zealand Head of State’.

The new campaign Chair, Savage, said “the name-change will focus the wider debate on the specific reforms the group is advocating.”

“A republic can mean different things to different people so we’ve decided to make it very clear we are advocating a New Zealand republic and that a New Zealand republic involves taking the position of Governor-General and transitioning it into a democratically selected and politically neutral office.

“We will not leave the Commonwealth, we won’t be like the United States and it won’t change the legal status of the Treaty. Having our own head of state will resolve the contradictions inherent in having a foreign head of state. Most importantly it will make us constitutionally independent nation for the very first time.”

The British Queen or King will still be Head of the Commonwealth, and NZ would still be a Commonwealth country so we’d still get royal visits in the future even if we have our own New Zealand Head of State.

“Our criteria for a head of state is very clear. Only a New Zealander can be a New Zealand’s head of State and the only fair way to choose that person is through democratic selection. 

Change is unlikely soon, but it will happen!

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Labour votes for a referendum on a republic

November 3rd, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour apears to be inching closer towards republicanism, with delegates at its annual conference in Christchurch giving the green light to a proposal to hold a binding referendum on whether to ditch the monarchy on the death of the Queen.

At yesterday’s conference the party agreed to send a remit on the proposal from prospective Wairarapa candidate Kieran McAnulty, who is also treasurer of the Republican Movement, to a full vote from delegates today. Sources say it is likely to pass without dissent.

That’s good to see. Whether we retain the monarchy or have a New Zealand Head of State is a decision that should be made by the people through a referendum – not by politicians.

The move comes as a new poll shows a small majority of New Zealanders are in favour of such a referendum.

The Republican Movement poll, conducted by pollsters Curia, showed 47 per cent of New Zealanders supported the idea of a referendum on the Queen’s death, with 44 per cent against and 9 per cent uncertain.

A poll in June on support for a republic found 40 per cent support to 53 per cent against.

Note they are two very different questions. The latest poll is on whether people think there should be a referendum. The June poll was on whether people think we should move to a republic. One could well support remaining with the monarchy, yet also support there being a referendum to decide the issue.

Personally I think there would be a vote to change to a republic, if there is a referendum. The recent debate on The Vote showed a dramatic change in preferences from the studio audience after they had listened to the issues for an hour. They started in favour of retaining the monarchy and ended up fairly strongly backing moving to a republic.

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The cost of the monarchy

November 2nd, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

New Zealand is missing out on vital relationships and economic benefits by keeping the Queen as its head of state, says a former top diplomat.

Peter Hamilton, a former Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said his 35-year career had brought home the missed opportunities caused by having the Queen as the country’s titular head.

“We little realise in New Zealand that we have a head of state who – no fault of hers – cannot represent and advocate for us in any meaningful manner internationally.”

It’s a good point, highlighting one of the problems of sharing out Head of State with dozens of other countries. The sensible thing is to retain our links with the Queen by having her as Head of the Commonwealth – but not as Head of State of New Zealand.

Mr Hamilton recalled being invited during his time in Berlin by the British ambassador to an official dinner during Queen Elizabeth’s state visit to Germany.

“It was a grand occasion, but it came as a shock to me to realise that here was my head of state in Berlin and she was completely unable to fulfil a key part of the role required of her – to represent in this case New Zealand’s interests in Germany.

When the Queen is outside New Zealand, she represents the United Kingdom, not us.

While New Zealand’s Governor-General can make official visits overseas, Mr Hamilton said, there was considerable international confusion on the role and status of the position.

“I can think of one European country which has a monarch as head of state which will never receive our Governor-General as equivalent to their monarch, because they know our actual head of state resides not too far away across the Channel.”

Saying “who cares?” missed the huge effect such visits could have on opening doors for New Zealand business, supporting international negotiations and campaigns and advancing the nation’s economic interests.

A New Zealand Head of State could be a dedicated Ambassador for New Zealand and our interests.

Who might be our head of state would be a decision for all New Zealanders, but the transition should happen gradually, he said.

A simple first step would be to keep the system used to appoint the Governor-General but without reference to the Queen.

My preferred option is to have the Prime Minister recommend a Head of State to Parliament, which must be passed by at least 75% majority (which would mean only someone without a partisan party background would be approved).

Mr Hamilton said New Zealand would not have to leave the Commonwealth, and royal visits could continue under that relationship.

Would be the best of both worlds.

The Herald has printed the full speech of Peter Hamilton. One extract:

‘Ok, and who is your Head of State?’

This is where the discussion gets tricky.

‘Our Head of State is Queen Elizabeth. She is represented by a Governor General in New Zealand’.

‘Governor? Why do you have the British monarch as you Head of State. Aren’t you independent?’

‘Yes, well, it’s historical, we were a British colony but we aren’t any more. In NZ, she is not the British monarch but ‘Queen of New Zealand’.

At this point, the conversation ends, with a glazed look in the eye of the person you’re talking to. They are much too polite to say it, but they wonder how a country can be independent and still have a foreigner as Head Of State. It would be inconceivable in their own situation. There is no point in trying to prolong the discussion. Perception is everything. I have found people in Asia, the Middle East and Europe particularly confused about our international persona.

And Hamilton sees a more international focus for a NZ Head of State:

Moreover, we are underutilising the office of Governor General. His or her role is no longer just domestic, although we tend to see it as limited to this.

The Governor General should be tasked to undertake a much more active role of international representation for New Zealand to complement the work of the Prime Minister and other Cabinet ministers, to open doors for New Zealand business, to support our international negotiations and campaigns and to advance our economic interests. The Governor General should be visiting our key bilateral partners much more actively than is currently the case. To not utilise the office of Governor General in this manner is a wasted opportunity.

Admittedly, it will be much easier for the Governor General to do so, and have far greater impact, when he or she goes as our actual Head of State and not as the representative of one.

Indeed.

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The Royal Succession Bill

September 5th, 2013 at 1:49 pm by David Farrar

Just appeared before the Justice and Electoral Committee on the Royal Succession Bill. My points were basically:

  1. Ridiculous that it has taken so long to remove the gender discrimination against women where a younger brother succeeds to the throne ahead of an older sister
  2. That while a welcome move in the right direction, it doesn’t solve fundamental problem of monarchy – that we may end up with a very undesirable head of state.
  3. That if this bill has been in place from NZ’s beginning, then Victoria, the Princess Royal would have become Queen of New Zealand in 1901, and her eldest son would have become King of New Zealand around six months later. That would have been Kaiser Wilhelm II, who would have been King of New Zealand.
  4. The bill doesn’t abolish the requirement for the Head of State of New Zealand to be Anglican, and this religious discrimination should go
  5. This change will possibly affect one woman in around 80 years or so, if Prince George’s first born is female and has younger brothers. Prince George will probably die around 2115, so any impact is a century or so off.

 

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Do we want a lobbyist as our King?

August 13th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

The office of the Prince of Wales has said he had a right and a duty to communicate privately with the government “on any matter he chooses”, after the extent of his private meetings with ministers came under renewed questioning.

An analysis of palace records showing that Prince Charles has held private meetings with cabinet ministers at least 36 times since the 2010 general election was seized on by campaigners for a republic who said it showed he was “a political operator and businessman with direct access to government”.

Charles has met the prime minister, David Cameron, seven times and in many cases held meetings with ministers who have responsibility for areas in which he has taken a particular interest, according to the Daily Mail.

The idea of having a Monarch, is that they are politically neutral. When a monarch is more of a lobbyist than a politically neutral figure, then the rationale for remain with the monarchy weakens. Why should one hereditary lobbyist get unfettered access to Ministers to push his personal views?

Hat Tip: No Right Turn

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Our future?

July 10th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

Three senior judges have ruled that the public has no right to read documents that would reveal how Prince Charles has sought to alter government policies.

The high court judges have rejected a legal attempt by the Guardian to force the publication of private letters written by the prince to government ministers.

Cabinet ministers have conceded that the prince’s private letters – dubbed “black spider memos” because of their scratchy handwriting – contained the prince’s “most deeply held personal views and beliefs” that could undermine the perception of his political neutrality. …

Grieve had argued that disclosure of the 27 “particularly frank” letters between the prince and ministers over a seven-month period would have seriously damaged his future role as king. The attorney general said there was a risk that the prince would not be seen to be politically neutral by the public if the letters were published.

“This risk will arise if, through these letters, the Prince of Wales was viewed by others as disagreeing with government policy. Any such perception would be seriously damaging to his role as future monarch because if he forfeits his position of political neutrality as heir to the throne, he cannot easily recover it when he is king,” Grieve had said.

This is almost Orwellian. It is not the publication of his letters that would damage his political neutrality. It is the fact he is in fact in no way politically neutral. His letters are what damage his political neutrality, not their publication.

The argument for the monarchy is that it provides a politically neutral head of state. It clearly does not. Prince Charles appears to be somewhere between Labour and the Greens in his political views. Good on him, but why should he get to become King of New Zealand?

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Guest Post Responding to Pender

March 11th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Lewis Holden, Chair of the Republican Movement has a guest post responding to the guest post by Nikki Pender:

Nikki Pender argues “we” (New Zealanders) “enjoy a meritocratic constitutional monarchy”, on the basis that no-one forces New Zealand to keep the Queen as head of State. This is a unique way of putting the monarchy, but also a concession that its head is not in anyway chosen on merit. She correctly argues that change from the status quo to a New Zealand head of State “could be effected relatively swiftly” and makes a number of other claims that deserve scrutiny.

The only reason New Zealand keeps the Queen, Nikki says, is because there is “no popular support” for a New Zealander as head of State, and the majority of Kiwis consider the Queen deserves her position. In fact, Nikki’s own comments contain one piece of why “popular support” appears to be with the monarchy. From her comments, it appears that Nikki believes that an independent head of State of New Zealand would mean we have to leave the Commonwealth. Nothing could be further from the truth. The majority of members of the Commonwealth today are republics. Only a handful still have the Queen as their head of State – and of those a number are taking steps to creating their own heads of State. This is sadly not a very well known fact.

The comments on Nikki’s article are also instructive. More often than not the arguments were not for the monarchy in anyway, they were simply against a New Zealand head of State. Claims such as a New Zealand head of State would be all-powerful like the US president, that it means an end to the Treaty of Waitangi are objectively not true, yet often repeated myths.

While we can’t bring about a New Zealand head of State without popular support – and we’d be hypocritical not to as believers in the consent of the governed – the campaign for a New Zealand head of State focuses primarily on refuting these myths. By doing so we get to the heart of the issue – who will be the best head of State for New Zealand, and what is the best way to choose the holder of that office. While Nikki may be right to claim the Queen has been “trained for life” for her role, that misses the point. The fact is the Queen is first and foremost the UK’s head of State, and not ours.

I’d also point out that Prince Charles has been trained for life for his role, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be a good King of New Zealand!

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Guest Post: Defending NZ monarchy

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

A guest post by barrister Nikki Pender.

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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The Royal Succession Bill

February 19th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Judith Collins has announced:

Justice Minister Judith Collins has announced legislation will be introduced to Parliament today to clear the way for changes to laws dictating the line of succession to the throne.

The Royal Succession Bill allows an elder daughter to precede a younger son in the line of succession, meaning the order of succession to the throne will no longer be based on gender.

“The new laws will apply to any children in the Royal line of succession born after 28 October 2011. This means the change will apply to the child of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, due to be born in July,” says Ms Collins.

If we are to have a monarchy, then it is a good thing that women will no longer be discriminated against.

The new rules will also allow a person married to a Roman Catholic to become King or Queen. Currently, prospective heirs who are married to Catholics are disqualified from succession.

The changes will not allow a Catholic to accede to the throne. The rules which require the Sovereign to swear an oath to maintain the Protestant religion will remain unchanged.

Which is just one reason why NZ as a secular country should not be part of a system that prohibits Catholics from becoming the New Zealand Head of State.

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Even Prince Charles says NZ should be a republic

November 15th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Laidlaw writes in the NZ Herald:

There has never been much clarity as to Charles’ attitude towards countries like New Zealand – older Commonwealth dominions which are still ostensibly loyal to the Crown – but which are increasingly seeking their own identities out from under the old British cultural blanket.

An opportunity arose to talk to him about this when he visited New Zealand early in 1997.

A dinner had been arranged in Christchurch for him to meet a variety of outdoor-oriented people, mainly Canterbury farming grandees and captains of local agro-industries. I was included as a conservationist.

The conversation was not scintillating. Not even the best of Canterbury’s new pinot noir could liven it up, although I noticed the Prince of Wales was downing more than his fair share.

Pretty soon I was able to engage Charles in what amounted to a private conversation and I steered the subject round to constitutional matters.

Because he seemed to be particularly open and affable I asked him what his reaction would be if, as King, he was told that New Zealand wished to remove him as Head of State and become a republic. One eyebrow shot up. Had I gone too far?

“I take it you assume that will inevitably happen,” he replied, with just the hint of a wry smile.

“I do, and I support it,” I said.

“Well, to be frank, I think it would come as a great relief to all of us,” said Charles. “It would remove the awful ambiguity we have at the moment. It seems to me that it would be a lot easier for everybody if you all had your own completely independent head of state.

“I certainly never want to be dragged into any constitutional disputes in New Zealand or anywhere else. I simply can’t imagine how difficult it would be to be faced with having to dismiss a New Zealand Prime Minister.”

Prince Charles is right. It would be easier for everyone for New Zealand to have our own independent Head of State.

 

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James Shaw on Republicanism

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

James Shaw writes in the Dom Post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paul Little on Prince Charles

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

Paul Little writes:

Prince Charles, 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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The Queen’s Jubilee

June 5th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The British High Commission hosted a breakfast function this morning for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee at the High Commissioner’s Homewood residence in Karori. It is a beautiful property and grounds – well worth visiting if you are ever invited.

A few people gently hassled me about why a member of the Republican Movement Council would attend a function for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. My answer was firstly that I want New Zealand, not the United Kingdom, to become a republic. So I’m very happy to acknowledge the service of QEII as Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Putting aside the political and constitutional issues, I also have no problem respecting her incredible devotion to duty.  Even at age 86 she still spends much of her time with public duties. She has served as patron to 600 charities, and has toured over 250 countries. These are not sightseeing trips, but working trips.

With the exception of the death of Diana, she has basically not put a step wrong in 60 years of the throne – a serious achievement considering the huge proportion of time she has spent under public scrutiny. If you have to have a monarchy, then the British one is a pretty good one to have (even though Princess Madeleine of Sweden remains my favourite!).

If the Queen lives to the same age as her mother, she will make her platinum jubilee in ten years time, and maybe even her a 75th jubilee also.

Of course poor Prince Charles himself will be 78 in 15 year times, and even Prince William will be 45. With life expectancy for those with excellent health care often making 100, it may mean in future most monarchs will not ascend to the throne until they are around 70. This is one of the issues around keeping a job until death!

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The Royal Succession

October 22nd, 2011 at 11:12 am by David Farrar

Reuters reports:

A plan to overturn a 300-year-old ban on heirs to the throne marrying Roman Catholics and end discrimination against royal daughters is likely to be approved at a summit of leaders of Commonwealth nations next week, the government has said.

Both these changes are welcome steps forward. It means the oldest child of William and Catherine will be the Monarch after William, regardless of gender.

However while a Royal can now marry a Catholic, they can not themselves be Catholic.

This means that so long as NZ remains a monarchy, our head of state by law can only be Anglican. I think such religious discrimination has no place in the 21st century.

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King Charles

May 10th, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Derek Cheng reports:

Prime Minister John Key is a monarchist who thinks Prince Charles would one day make a fine king.

Really?

In an interview on the BBC show Hardtalk, which aired yesterday, Mr Key said his position was not at odds with previous comments he had made that it was inevitable that New Zealand would one day become a republic.

“That’s right, but not under my watch. I don’t think New Zealand should be a republic, but my view is that probably one day it will happen.”

This appears to be the first time Key has said outright he is a Monarchist. His previous comments were more about no change while the Queen reigns. I guess he really did enjoy the Royal Wedding.

He said he saw “no great benefit” in electing a head of state over the status quo of appointing the Governor-General as the Queen’s representative.

Heh, well as the PM gets to appoint the Governor-General, there may be little benefit from his point of view. from my point of view I prefer a system where the Prime Minister doesn’t get to choose the effective Head of State. Jerry Matapaere was a superb choice, but there is no guarantee that future PMs will choose as well. At the end of the day I think it gives too much power to the office of Prime Minister, allowing them to effectively appoint and sack the Governor-General.

“I was the Prime Minister who brought back knighthoods in New Zealand … 85 per cent of the public support that.

As did I. But Titular Honours can remain in a republic also.

“There is absolutely no push for New Zealand to become a republic.”

Not in the week after the royal wedding, but most of the time there is a good 40% or so of the population who would like change.

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Give Kiwis a say

January 5th, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Lewis Holden has an oped in the NZ Herald:

Some time this month the Prime Minister will announce who New Zealand’s next Governor-General will be. While they represent the Queen in London, constitutionally the Governor-General is the highest office a New Zealander can aspire to.

The appointment is entirely the choice of the Prime Minister of the day. The Queen merely rubber-stamps the appointment.

That’s one reasons I support a move to a republic. I don’t think the PM of the Day should solely determine who the effective Head of State for NZ is.

… no New Zealander can aspire to being our head of state – that position is reserved for a family in the United Kingdom. However, we recognise that we have to start somewhere. The Governor-General’s office is an obvious candidate for reform.

The Republican Movement believes nominations for the job ought to be made by the general public, instead of the Prime Minister’s office sounding potential nominees.

The public’s nominee should be subject to approval of three-quarters of MPs and a majority of party leaders in the House of Representatives. It should not be up to the Prime Minister to appoint the officer able to dismiss his or her government from office.

As Lewis says, this would be a good intermediate step – introducing some transparency and democracy around the appointment of the effective Head of State.

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Martin van Beynan’s xmas wish

December 28th, 2010 at 11:01 am by David Farrar

Martin van Beynan writes in The Press:

My dear fellow New Zealanders. As you gather with family and friends to celebrate this Christmas and all it means to you and your loved ones, I would encourage you to consider this very important question.

Do you as an independent and diverse country really need the British monarchy? One is touched when one sees the excitement in the colonies at the exciting news of the engagement of Prince William and his lovely, sensible fiancee Kate Middleton, who is such a nice young woman despite being a commoner.

But the time comes when every nation must stand strong and alone and choose, using the ballot box, its own head of state. This would show the world that New Zealand is indeed a unique and separate country. …

It is time for New Zealand to choose its own Head of State, even if that person turns out to be dysfunctional. Every New Zealand subject, sorry citizen, should be able to aspire to the position which currently is open only to someone from the British royal family. We no longer need to fight for queen and country. Country is quite sufficient. …

Her Majesty represents a class- ridden system which upholds the belief that some people have some sort of divine right to lord it over others. This right has usually been acquired at the point of a sword and by bestowing favours on powerful friends. That New Zealand accepts a relic of this system as its Head of State is a sad reflection on the confidence we have in our nation and in the principle of Jack is as good as his master. Gaining office on the basis of inheriting it is not something we should be encouraging in this day and age.

I look forward to the day that our head of state is a New Zealander, chosen by either the Parliament or the people.

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Queen Kate

November 17th, 2010 at 6:57 am by David Farrar

Prince William’s engagement to Kate Middleton will be the major news story of the day. From what one can tell at a distance, she seems very genuine and down to earth and a good choice for William. In fact she has coped superbly with the years of intensive media coverage/harassment.

It is a bit unfortunate that his private choice, is also a matter of public approval – both in the UK and here. Because William’s marriage to a girl from Leeds, means she will in time become the Queen (consort) of New Zealand.

Now I have to say Queen Kate (or more formally Queen Catherine) is a more pleasant future to look forward to, than Queen Camilla, but it would be nice if one day the marriage of someone in England didn’t have any constitutional significance for us in New Zealand.

But regardless I am looking forward to the royal wedding. I actually will be in the UK next July for a mate’s wedding, so if William can set his date for the same month, I could attend both :-)

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Little calls for a republic

October 16th, 2010 at 10:12 am by David Farrar

Two good announcements from Labour in two days!

Audrey Young at the Herald reports:

Labour president Andrew Little has called for a fresh debate about republicanism following a speech at the party’s conference by former Wallaby Peter Fitzsimons, an outspoken advocate of ditching the monarchy.

Mr Little said that he backed Fitzsimons’ views, and it was time for New Zealand to engage in the debate.

“It’s a cop-out to say, ‘Yes, I’m a republican, but it’s not time’, that it be left up to somebody else.

“That’s a failure of leadership, in my view,” said Mr Little.

He was not saying it was something that had to be done tomorrow.

“But it is saying are committed to making a move and we do it in a courteous and respectful way.”

It was an issue that ought to be actively debated in terms of what constitutional arrangements might be set up, and negotiating with the UK over what a transition might look like.

A minor correction – we do not need to negotiate with the UK. It would be polite to negotiate with the Queen however.

I’m intrigued by Andrew saying it is a failure of leadership to say yes, but let’s wait until later. Fitzsimons also commented:

Fitzsimons was applauded last night when he spoke of republicanism and changing the flag for Australia. He did not think the decision should be put on hold until the Queen died.

“As a sovereign nation we shouldn’t be deciding our politics on the health of an elderly English woman. She’s a good woman, no doubt about it. But we should be carving out our independent way.”

Now look at what Phil Goff said a couple of weeks ago:

Goff said the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign was the logical transition point.

“Succession of the monarchy is the time to have a head of state who is a New Zealander,” said Goff. “We need to start the conversation now. Don’t rush it. Fully consult the people of New Zealand. It’s a major change and needs a reasonable consensus.”

Is this the failure of leadership Andrew was referring to?

Regardless I’m pleased that both the Labour Party Leader and President are supporters of a move to a republic. It means that when there is an inevitable change of Government, there will at least be a silver lining – assuming their preferences becomes some sort of formal commitment to starting a process to allow NZers to decide the issue.

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Top 10 choices for Governor-General

October 3rd, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The HoS reports on the request by the Republican Movement to the Prime Minister, to let Parliament vote on who the next Governor-General will be.

Over 1,200 nominations have been made, through the Movement’s campaign site. The 10 most popular (in alphabetical order) are:

Ray Avery: 2010 New Zealander of the Year, a scientist whose work has enhanced the lives of many in third-world countries through his low-cost healthcare inventions.

Jim Bolger: Prime minister 1990-97. Taranaki-born Bolger oversaw the introduction of MMP and radical economic and social changes.

Justice Sir Eddie Durie: The first Maori appointed to the high court. He was chief judge of the Maori Land Court 1980-98 and Waitangi Tribunal chair 1980-2004.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Co-leader of the Green Party 1995-2010. An MP from 1996-2010.

John Hood: A Rhodes Scholar, Oxford vice-chancellor 2004-09.

Sir Peter Leitch: Known as the Mad Butcher and famous for his charity work and support of sport. Pictured above with daughter Angela.

Lieutenant-General Jerry Mateparae: Current Defence Force chief. First Maori appointed to position in 2006.

Sir Don McKinnon: Commonwealth secretary-general 1999-2009, minister of foreign affairs 1990-99 and deputy prime minister 1990-96.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer: Prime minister 1989-90 and deputy prime minister 1984-89. Currently Law Commission president.

Dame Anne Salmond: Noted historian who is a member of the British Royal Society and was pro-chancellor of the Auckland University 1997-2006.

I’m against politicians being GG, but would be very comfortable with John Hood, Sir Peter Leitch, Lt General Mateparae or Dame Anne Salmond.

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Herald praises Goff

September 10th, 2010 at 11:55 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Hats off to the Labour Party leader, Phil Goff. In suggesting that New Zealanders should start talking about our country becoming a republic, he has gone where influential sitting politicians have feared to tread.

Most, including the current Prime Minister, talk about the inevitability of a republic but are unwilling to do anything to create it.

Others, such as former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen, wait until they have retired from politics to voice similar sentiments. Such passivity has dampened the prospect of debate.

I agree.  It has been frustrating that previous Leaders such as Helen Clark refused to openly engage on the merits of becoming a republic. Instead she did republicanism by stealth – changing individual aspects (such as the Privy Council) one by one, without actually engaging the public in a debate on republicanism.

I don’t want a republic by stealth. I want a republic that New Zealanders vote for, as a better way forward. For that debate to happen, senior political leaders like Phil Goff need to engage on the issue.

Yet this is an issue that, given the absence of stridency on both sides, will have to be galvanised by political leaders.

Mr Goff has acknowledged as much in stating emphatically that a republic would be the “making of New Zealand as a country”. If he has his way, that notion will have seeped into the national consciousness by the end of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.

But we should not wait until then.

Matthew Hooton also writes in the NBR today on a republic:

One day, though, Queen Elizabeth II’s reign will come to an end, the Prince of Wales will immediately become King Charles III of New Zealand, and we’ll panic and rush reform and get it wrong.

(That’s if he calls himself “King Charles III”.  Apparently he’s keen on being “King George VII”.  Go figure.)

The Queen has carried out her duties with impeccable integrity, never once having been known to interfere in New Zealand’s affairs, even privately, and in effect making us a de facto republic throughout her reign.

In contrast, King Charles (or is it George?), is an eco-extremist, advocate for neo-Roman architecture and devotee of quack medicine and cannot be so relied upon to operate as a responsible constitutional monarch.

Plus he talks to plants.

Heh, Matthew does not hold back.

We’re in the bizarre situation where all important New Zealand leaders, once out of office, apparently become advocates for constitutional reform but no one dares put a hand up when they could actually do something as an incumbent.

Exactly. And Phil Goff has an opportunity to say that if he becomes PM, he will push for having a public debate and vote on constitutional reform.

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Well said Phil

September 5th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

Becoming a republic would be the “making of New Zealand as a country” and we need to start talking about it now, according to Labour leader Phil Goff.

In the most direct call for change from any senior politician yet, Goff said the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign was the logical transition point.

“Succession of the monarchy is the time to have a head of state who is a New Zealander,” said Goff. “We need to start the conversation now. Don’t rush it. Fully consult the people of New Zealand. It’s a major change and needs a reasonable consensus.”

Now, Goff has told the Herald on Sunday that when he was foreign minister and trade minister, people he spoke to, particularly in Asian countries, were often confused that New Zealand’s head of state was from another country.

He said discussion about becoming a republic would be a lengthy one that dealt with issues around the Treaty of Waitangi and the flag.

“Let’s begin a formal process now,” said Goff. “Where do we want to be in 20 years?”

It’s nice to have a political leader who will not just say this is a question for the future, but who recognises that we should be starting a process to decide now.

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The republic debate

September 2nd, 2010 at 11:34 am by David Farrar

About to hear from Michael Cullen and Dean Knight on republicanism. Dr Cullen described himself at morning tea as a “moderate monarchist” and not too far away from Dean Knight whom he called a “moderate republican”.

Jim Bolger is the Chairman. He has been talking for around five minutes so far. I should run a book on whether he will end up speaking for longer than the actual speakers :-)

Heh. Dean just said that after reading in the Herald on Sunday that Dr Cullen now supports NZ becoming a republic, he wondered if he should just sit down and claim victory. Jim Bolger retorted that instead he should just not read the Herald, which got good laughs. It seems Dr Cullen feels they mis-stated his position.

Dean advocates a minimal change republic. Promote the Governor-General from being the effective Head of State to the actual Head of State – but with the same powers.

The selection of the Head of State should not be hereditary, discriminatory and foreign, Dean said.

The GG is currently effectively appointed by the Prime Minister. Dean advocates that Parliament should approve any appointment by a super-majority.

In terms of the Treaty obligations, Dean states these have already been transferred from the British Crown and Govt to the NZ Government, and these would not be affected by a move to the republic.

Dr Cullen has said that the GG is indeed our effective head of state. He points out the unusually, the selection is purely by the Government of the day.

He rejects the notion that the Queen is foreign, and that being a monarchy means we are not independent. He says countries like Australia and he UK are not fully foreign, as other countries are. Also says Canada shows you can be regarded as absolutely independent yet they have kept the Queen.

Cullen says if no change is made, Charles will become King of New Zealand automatically when he become King of the UK, even though he will probably be 80 when it happens.

Cullen totally against Judges being able to strike down laws on the basis of supreme law. Will lead to highly politicised Judges. Says if the move to a republic is dependent on having a written constitution as supreme law, then both Charles and Williams will have happy reigns as Kings of New Zealand.

Says if NZ Head of State has executive powers, then elect at large. But if they have no executive powers is silly to have an election for it, as they will have nothing to run on. I agree.

One amusing observation made by Bolger is that he and Cullen are old sparring partners, but now are the Chair and Deputy Chair of NZ Post!

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A welcome u-turn from Dr Cullen

August 29th, 2010 at 10:17 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

Prince Charles is strange and his father so insensitive and prejudiced that he could be a breakfast TV host, says New Zealand’s former deputy prime minister.

Michael Cullen’s comments, contained in notes for a speech he will make in Wellington this week, are bound to outrage supporters of the monarchy.

As a senior Cabinet minister, Cullen described himself as the Labour Government’s “token monarchist” and fought against any move for New Zealand to become a republic.

But, in a major about-turn at a constitution conference on Friday, he will publicly lay out a road map to becoming a republic when the Queen dies.

I’m pleased to see Dr Cullen leave the monarchist camp and join the republicans.

My motivations are not so much the personal characteristics of certain royals. They are:

  1. A republic would provide greater limitations on the role of the Prime Minister
  2. I believe our head of state should be a New Zealander
  3. Hereditary selection for a role is inferior to democratic selection
  4. A move to a republic will probably lead to a written constitution, which would generally be desirable
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