Better Democracy NZ is a non-partisan, non-profit organisation.

Our mission is to foster the improvement of New Zealand's democratic system and encourage the use of direct democracy through the

Veto, Citizens' Initiated and Recall referendum.


Thursday, 15 April 2010

NZ: Monarchy or Republic?

What's your opinion? Is it time to remove links to England and the Queen? Is it still appropriate to have the Queen as Head of State?

Although it hasn't been in the headlines lately, debate over this issue raises it's head from time to time with many arguments for and against. If we create a Republic what format should it take? All comments welcome.


Anonymous said...

Personally I rather love The Queen. Is there a politician who could do a better job?
In an odd sort of way having a mystical Crown to remind us of our heritage and traditions seems more appealing than having some politician whose motives must always be a little suspect.
The power of the Crown is not the power which it has but the power it denies to others.
Anyway, that's my take on it all, but then, I am only an Australian.
I send my very best wishes to all in New Zealand and especially to all at Better Democracy.

Lewis Holden said...

Ah, all the usual nonsense in defence of the monarchy.

The Crown doesn't deny power to anyone - specifically politicians. It hands it to them on a silver platter: none of the Royal prerogatives, which are exercised on politicians' behalf by the Queen, are reviewable in the Courts.

I believe New Zealand ought to have an elected head of State of its own. Doing so merely signals our independence and nationhood to the world.

Rusty Kane said...

I'm for the New Zealand Republican State of Australia... we are to small and can't afford to prop up a family monarchy of our own separate system of government... Less bureaucracy not more... But we will first have to wait for Australia to become a Republic first... The fact that some of as want to be called Sir or Dame relates only to our insecurities of small nation disease and need for prestige. It has little to do with our loyalties to the Queen. More like im a Sir there for better than you.. It may get them better service in a prestige restaurant and the Americans love it... But its just not Kiwi... The last thing we want is a social tare system most of our ancestors immigrated from for a better life of equal opportunities for them and their families.

Anonymous said...

Lewis if you are correct then there is no point in having an elected president either ,the Queen is a free service and her longevity in office and the experience and continuity this brings has a value in the advice she can offer the political leader of the day who like John Key has limited experience in government etc and her ability to be untainted by politics is probably invaluable. I shudder to think of the likely cost of an elected president.

Helen said...

I agree with Rumpole. I absolutely feel that we should retain the Queen as Head of State. Even though our country is far removed as far as distance is concerned most of us still feel our links to England. The Queen has stature, continuity etc. and I can't even begin to think of a politician as our Head of State with our Head of State possibly changing each election. No way do I want to see a Republic - ever.

Lewis Holden said...

The Queen might be "free", but NZ doesn't get any "service" as you suggest. John Key has only met with the Queen once in his 100 days in office - are you really suggesting that in one hour HM imparted all her experience in dealing with British PMs? Key has spent more time with Lee Kuan Yew than QEII.

In any case, the New Zealand taxpayer spends $11m per year paying for the Queen's representative, the Gov-Gen, to fly around the world doing the Queen's job as head of State. By contrast, the President of Ireland, a country with a similar population to NZ, last year cost Irish taxpayers $6.7m (NZ). Still shuddering at the cost of an elected President? The Presidents of Israel and Germany, both parliamentary systems with non-executive heads of State, cost less than our Governor-General, who isn't even our head of State.

What's worse is that the Gov-Gen is de facto appointed solely on the advice of the Prime Minister. We're already electing our de facto head of State - only it's a one-man election by the Prime Minister.

Steve Baron said...

I too admire the Queen and think she is a very intelligent lady. However why do we even bother with the pomp and ceremony (not to mention the expense) of the Governor General. We know Cabinet runs the show, there simply is no need for a head of state or even a President for that matter. The Prime Minister is the President. However, I do still agree with having Knighthoods. To me they acknowledge those New Zealanders who have made us proud and they deserve the recognition. Something a QSM or OBE doesn't do. Sir/Dame is a title that is internationally recognised and something to cherish.

Lewis Holden said...

Steve - we need a President or Governor-General because it's important to keep the positions of head of state and head of government separate. In a parliamentary system it makes sense to give the head of state certain reserve powers (such as the ability to prorogue or dissolve parliament and force an election). The Governor-General is meant to act as a check on the power of the Prime Minister. That they currently don't is a good reason to make the position the actual head of state, and an elected one.

In most parliamentary republics around the world, the President also has additional reserve powers - such as the ability to send legislation to referendums (as in Ireland and Iceland) or refer Bills to a constitutional court (Germany).

Steve Baron said...

If we had a codified constitution and binding referendums we wouldn't have to worry about any of that would we?!

Lewis Holden said...

Well yes, but referendums under the head of state's reserve powers usually occur as a result of a citizens' petition - in other words, they are a form of CIR. Also, in most codified constitutions it is a requirement that constitutional amendments be put to referendums. It's somewhat ironic that the Irish constitution requires all international treaties to be ratified by a referendum, while in Great Britain it only requires the Queen's stamp (on the Prime Ministers advice, of course).

In not actually aware of any constitutional monarchies that have binding citizens initiated referendums. Switzerland, the example I see cited most often for BCIR, is the world's oldest parliamentary republic. I don't think that's a coincidence.

Steve Baron said...

Why do we need to give powers to someone that isn't needed?

Lewis Holden said...

Well, because under a parliamentary system they (the head of State) are needed - you have to have someone who is the ultimate referee over parliament and the parliamentary executive (the PM and Cabinet).

Otherwise you could repose the reserve powers in the judiciary (as in South Africa and Botswana). However I'm not convinced that would work in a multi-party system, and could lead to the judiciary being involved in politics.

The question for me is whether an elected head of State is better than a de facto one appointed by the Prime Minister. I know which one I'd prefer.

Steve Baron said...

The Head of State is not needed whatsoever and I don't think you know what you are talking about Lewis. They have no control over the parliamentary Executive and to say that is just ridiculous. Parliament is a referee over the Executive but even then, if the government has the numbers it can control Parliament and is therefore not answerable to it. The only other group that controls the Executive and Parliament is the people themselves, once every three years at an election. Which itself is not satisfactory in my view. That's only one day of democracy and three years of an elected dictatorship. A lot of water can flow under the bridge in three years and a lot of damage can be done and a lot of election promises can be broken. At the end of the day a government can do what ever it likes so there is no need for a head of state which is a fictitious belief and a mirage.

Lewis Holden said...

"They have no control over the parliamentary Executive and to say that is just ridiculous."

I agree that the head of state under the status quo in New Zealand today has no control over the parliamentary executive. (Apart from sacking them as was the case in Australia in 1975). This is despite what the most ardent monarchists will tell you. However, when it comes to Presidents in Parliamentary republics, the most definitely do act as a check on the parliamentary executive.

There are plenty of examples: in Iceland the President sent a controversial piece of legislation to a referendum. Facing imminent defeat, the government withdrew the Bill before it was put to a vote.

In Ireland, the President has referred 5 bills to their supreme court during her term in office. In all instances either the bills were struck down, or parliament was forced to amend them.

"Parliament is a referee over the Executive but even then, if the government has the numbers it can control Parliament and is therefore not answerable to it."

Of course. What I'm talking about is creating a head of State that would be a check on the Parliamentary executive also.

At the end of the day a government can do what ever it likes so there is no need for a head of state which is a fictitious belief and a mirage.

Like I said, this is from the viewpoint of the monarchy. The idea that the Queen or the Governor-General keeps our politicians in check is a fictitious belief. However, there is plenty of evidence to support the proposition that an elected head of state in a republic does keep politicians in check.

Dominic Baron said...

Steve, I keep having to agree with you! I would just add that the most important basic fact to recognize is that sovereignty rests inalienably with the people. Only the people as a whole can decide who they want to recognize as a head of state, if we need one!
Take a look at the Swiss Confederation. That state in effect, is headed by 7 people who each take the role of President for one year in rotation. This year the President of the Federal Council is Hans-Rudolf Merz, Last year it was Micheline Calmy-Rey. Should the Queen pay an official visit to Switzerland, she will be welcomed and greeted by the Federal Council.
To me, that is the way to go. We avoid completely the posturings of a Sarkozy, of a Berlusconi, of a Medvedev, or (dare I say it?!) of an Obama.
As an Argentine I look at the pathetic parade of egomaniacs that keep strutting over my home country and over Latin America as a whole... frankly, who needs such (expletive deleted)holes?!

Lewis Holden said...

Dominic - it's certainly true in Presidential systems the fusion of head of state and government creates the sort of issues you raise. But I'm talking about Parliamentary republics, which is what Switzerland is (as an aside, it should be pointed out that the Swiss Federal Council is actually less powerful than New Zealand's Cabinet - the Council is a grand coalition of all parties in the Swiss Federal Assembly, not simply the governing party or coalition, and the Swiss Cantons have a lot of power compared to regional councils in New Zealand).

Dominic Baron said...

Lewis, thanks for your comment on mine. I have no objection to whether we have an elected President or a Constitutional Monarch as the figurehead for our country. But the decision about this belongs exclusively with the people of NZ. However, the Swiss Federal Council concept appeals to me even more if, as you say, it is less powerful than the NZ cabinet!
Curbing the arrogance of our politicians is something that needs to be done, and urgently!

Unknown said...

Interesting comments...however when one considers the legal ramifications..does the Queen actually head NZ?..No! under the UK laws the Queen requires approval of the UK Parliament. So why do we continue to believe the Queen heads NZ? Ah its what you call one will find a very interesting challenge on the Sovereignty of Australia..I daresay it applies to NZ. The crown is the Corporate City of London (in other words its a private corp like K Mart...all agents to the crown are also corporations...even New Zealand is a name of a corporation...not a country!! The Queen vacated her post when NZ got its independence...or did it...if NZ a corp how can it gain sovereignty. It cant NZ/Aust/Canada operate under a defacto as opposed to a dejure govt

Unknown said...

I find it interesting that there is even a debate regarding monarch v republican. The Queen is a figurehead and can NOT do anything without the approval of the UK Parliament particulalry in a foreign country. No Governor General has been appointed by the Queen in Australia..dare I say Aetearoa as well. Folks check Dun and Bradstreet or the US Securities and Exchange (SEC) the Commonwealth of Australia is a corp and so is the company called NZ...the crown agents work for the crown which is the corporate city of London..dont be duped by side issues. I think your Social Credit Party over there in NZ has some very good ideas coupled with Binding Referendums your country would fare as well as Switzerland. Your resources like most Commonwelath countries have been sucked dry by transnational corporations...imagine if the produce of NZ was used first for its population then for export. I wouldnt trade using dollars..I wld trade goods for hangi basket of food to Japan for car parts perhaps?

al loomis said...

the queen of new zealand doesn't really matter, except that by continuing this tradition, the blind submission typical of subjects of her majesty leaves the nation vulnerable to politicians of unusual ambition.

stick with tradition while you have a populace of political illiterates, for custom is your only defense against politicians.

someday, if and when you are ready to enter the 21st century, skip over the evolution and go direct to a swiss constitution. have a generation of discussion in high schools first, so young people can perform the duties of citizens, leading their elders.