Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dunne on the republic

Peter Dunne has long been a supporter of a republic, and last night at the Republican's book launch he argued that we can make this transition within five years and laid out his preferred process:

He proposed a three-stage process:
  • A binding referendum as early as next year on whether New Zealanders wished to have their own head of state.
  • In the event of a positive outcome, a further binding referendum in 2012 on whether the head of state should be elected or appointed, and to confirm the powers of the head of state.
  • The transition to the republic could then occur during the Parliamentary term commencing in 2014, when the new head of state would be chosen and take office.
Mr Dunne said this was a realistic and achievable timetable, which allowed for maximum public involvement.
This is similar to the two-stage process proposed by Keith Locke's Head of state (Referenda) Bill, though with a slightly different arrangement of questions. IMHO, Locke's version - which asks voters first to choose between a republic with an elected head of state, a republic with a head of state appointed by Parliament, or the status quo, then asks them to confirm it - is preferable, for much the same reason as the original MMP referendum process is preferable to National's pig in a poke: it keeps the republic front and centre in each vote, making it crystal clear what we are voting for at every stage. And it gives us the option of saying "not that republic" if the politicians try and sell us something we don't want.

Its also worth noting that there's no need to wait for a republic to elect our head of state - we could for example move to an elected Governor-General regardless of who they are a figurehead for, a move which would be more likely to preserve the constitutional convention of a powerless figurehead utterly subservient to Parliament, and which would improve our democracy regardless of who we choose as a head of state.