Republic must be legacy of Labour Government
Fri, 30 Dec 2011 12:02p.m.
Opinion by Darren Zhang
The Labour government has historically made remarkable contributions to the distinct New Zealand identity we have today.
The first Labour government laid the foundations for the world’s first welfare state, and the second raised taxes after Britain’s butter prices collapsed, costing it the elections.
The third Labour government formed the Waitangi Tribunal and progressed major social initiatives during a time when New Zealand could no longer depend on Britain to trade with upon her entry into the European Economic Community.
David Lange’s fourth Labour government stood up to the US and the UK on nuclear weapons. Months later the Rainbow Warrior never reached Moruroa after she was bombed by France, drowning Dutch photographer Fernando Pereira in Auckland Harbour – which both the US and UK failed to condemn.
Under Helen Clark’s ministry we were able to finally recognise Kiwis through a completely New Zealand-based honours system, make a final appeal for justice in our own national Supreme Court, and title our senior lawyers Senior Counsels in line with other Commonwealth countries. Two of these reforms have been reversed, or have reversal pending.
It is the duty of David Shearer’s sixth Labour government to now realise the long held aspirations of New Zealanders and pave the way for Kiwis to play a role at the head of our nation.
The head of our state’s role is to serve as the face of Kiwis, symbolising New Zealand by representing our nation when making or hosting state visits, attending state functions, recognising the achievements of New Zealanders and nominally being the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces.
Historically New Zealand was a communal subsistence society consisting of various iwi where authority was vested in the respective tribal leader – hence no single “head of state”.
When British humanitarianists, including the Aborigines’ Protection Society, lobbied the Whig Government to protect indigenous Maori from commercial exploitation by Edward Wakefield’s New Zealand Company, this and other concurrent concerns led to the despatching of William Hobson to negotiate a voluntary transfer of sovereignty to the Crown.
Te Tiriti o Waitangi put in place Queen Victoria as the head of the New Zealand state. The treaty ceded the Crown the right to govern, in return for protection and tribal authority for Maori to manage their own affairs.
The English translation, on the other hand, gave Britain “absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty”, establishing the country as an Imperial colony.
Over generations the New Zealand identity has developed, and since the Second World War we have become virtually independent in our decision-making and laws, acting independently of the traditional Commonwealth realm.
We already see ourselves as a nation of the Pacific and our small island neighbours receive the largest portion of the New Zealand Aid Programme’s budget; plus, our security and trade focus is on the Asia-Pacific region.
In an Aotearoa New Zealand republic, the last remnants of a hereditary class-based hierarchy would be removed and at the top of the ladder would be a person any Kiwi could easily relate to.
The head of the New Zealand state could be either directly elected, as is done in Ireland, or appointed by our democratic national parliament, which is the method used in Germany. Either way, young Kiwis would be empowered to actively participate in an entirely democratic society with the New Zealand head of state serving as an example for all to follow.
However, provisions should be made to transfer the title on the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who has been the reigning monarch since around the time we abolished the appointed Legislative Council.
From then on, Kiwis can have a locally presiding head and finally face the challenges of the 21st century, acknowledging our rich and colourful past, embracing our unique, increasingly multicultural and ever-changing identity of the present, and facing an uncertain future confident in our ability to carve the future ahead without constraints.
In March 2002, then Prime Minister and now Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme Administrator Helen Clark said she “would go as far as to say that we are already a de facto republic, as is Australia. We have, to all intents and purposes, the nominal Head of State in our Governor-General”.
The National Party cannot constitutionally support an independent New Zealand republic as loyalty to the monarch is specifically a party value, despite ex-Prime Minister Jim Bolger’s belief that it is “‘inappropriate’ for the Queen of England to exercise her powers in New Zealand.
The recent saga surrounding the parliamentary oath only highlights the need for change.
The traditionally innovative and progressive Labour government has not made a bold policy move since its deregulation and privatisation days, and it is time Shearer rose up to be worthy of carrying this time-honoured torch.
Darren Zhang is working with UNICEF as part of the 3Youth project, an upcoming section of the 3 News website focusing on social issues and written by young people.
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2/12/2012 7:55:29 a.m.
Everyone's comments below are missing the point about the article above. The whole rationale behind making NZ a republic is not driven by an anti-monarchy stance or sentiment. It is concerned with NZ having a NZDer as a Head of State, not a foreign figure based 20k km away. It is about being an ENTIRELY independent and sovereign nation as we move towards the future. New Zealand is mature enough to make this transition and to all those scaremongers who say that republics are not as stable clearly display their ignorance about world politics in the 21st Century. Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Ireland, Singapore, and the USA are well-known and established stable republic democracies. Skeptics would also point out to the Republics of Congo or Somalia. But unstable, despotic and totalitarian governments also exist in monarchies- see UAE, Thailand, just to name a few. So to allay any fears about NZ becoming a republic- Republics don't make nations ungovernable, as long as the institutions and framework that regulate them are sound. New Zealand is small enough where checks and balances can be implemented to ensure that maximum transparency is kept and that the balance of power is maintained. And no, I do not agree with the out of date term, "if it is not broken don't fix it." This is about our our national identity and pride, where as kiwis, we can rightly and genuinely justify our place in the South Pacific. As a frequent overseas traveller, I proudly display my silver fern and kiwi bird. The union jack? Maybe in another life, should I be Born an Englishman. To quote whatPrince Charles once said to the former Australian GG, "why the hell are you still part of an out of date system for?" I couldn't agree more with the Prince himself!
28/07/2012 10:31:52 p.m.
Alex "saaabol" Smith wrote:
what is she trying to say????
15/01/2012 2:52:17 a.m.
I LIKE IT THE WAY IT IS.CHANGE FOR THE SAKE OF CHANGE IS POLITICAL
14/01/2012 10:38:22 p.m.
I hope people reading this will realise that removing HRH Queen Elizabeth II would have absolutely no change to the political system of NZ other than the fact we will have to vote for a Head of State who has the same political power as the Queen herself. Alternatively removing her we may have to re-write our political system and reduce the powers of Prime-Minister and Parliament and increase that of the elected Head of State, which really is a waste of time. To top it off removing the Queen will not (if anyone thinks it will) decrease the costs of the everyday New Zealander. If anything it would increase. New Zealand does have a New Zealander to greet foreign leaders in occasions of State, the Governor General is a New Zealander who (although answers to) exercises the same power as Her Majesty. In occasions of visiting foreign nations our Prime-Minister acts as it's "face".
31/12/2011 3:05:47 p.m.
Darren should quietly slip away from the PC drivel he has put before us. It is totally embarrassing propaganda for an idealized Labour Party which hasn't existed other than in Darren's personal delusions. Sad that he should actually believe in this stuff!!!
31/12/2011 12:03:18 a.m.
Roger Douglas wrote:
"David Shearer’s sixth Labour government"? Someone is getting a bit ahead of themselves.
30/12/2011 10:54:21 p.m.
If New Zealand is to break with the British monarchy all options should be considered including creating our own parliamentry monarchy. Why change the whole framework of the Crown when we could replace the Queen with our own monarch either elected or chosen by parliament. This would save us from dangerously meddling with our westiminister political system and potentially ruining a system which has successfully served us since the seperation of the British Crown from the New Zealand Crown.
30/12/2011 1:16:32 p.m.
This article;e lost credibility when it tried to present successes of various Labour governments. Despite this the debate on republicanism will face us in the future - but not in the next 2 or 3 terms of government at least - there are much bigger issues to face before we address this. The issue of what we will base a NZ constitution on will be divisive and troubling and a major distraction from building a solid economy and committed public focused on building an independent and prosperous NZ. It simply is not worth the hassle.
30/12/2011 1:00:41 p.m.
Mark Wgtn wrote:
Agree with Alex. The only cost to NZ to maintaining HRH as our head of state is the housing for the GG. I for one do not object in the slightest to paying this. Although some would say the monarchy is irrelevant these days, I think they are more relevant than ever. There's got to be someone well educated with an overview up the top.
30/12/2011 12:45:58 p.m.
I don't think it's in our best interests to leave the Commonwealth or absolve the Queen as our head of state. We are pretty much an independent country with our own government and the queen has no more power in Great Britain than she does in our realm. The person we 'easily relate to' should be our Prime Minister.
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