Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Kaye and Ardern on the republic

For the past few weeks, the Herald has been running "Broadsides", paired columns on a common topic by Jacinda Ardern and Nikki Kaye (both young MPs and the Labour and National candidates for Auckland Central). This week, they asked them whether it is time to ditch the monarchy. The answer? A resounding yes. Here's Ardern:

If we were to start from scratch and redesign the way New Zealand was governed, I doubt we would start with the model that said our head of state should be based on nothing more than birth right. It's just not very Kiwi, and more than that, it's not our own.

There are hurdles between us building the independent governance that comes via a republic, but none are insurmountable. The Treaty of Waitangi was a partnership between the Crown and Maori and these relationships would need new constitutional footing if we were to remove the monarchy from the picture. And, of course, we would need a replacement head of state. Michael Cullen recently spoke on this subject and I think set out a plausible path, that a new head of state be elected by a super majority of parliament upon the death or incapacity of our current monarch, and that the Governor General play a transition role. Whatever the next steps look like, they're steps I believe we need to take.

And Kaye:
I'm one of those who believe the constitutional arrangements of our country should be modernised to reflect our changing culture, while recognising that the monarchy reflects an important part of a shared heritage.

I personally believe that hereditary privilege should not determine our Head of State and that person should be a New Zealander. One of the things I love about New Zealand is that we are a very egalitarian society and we don't tolerate class structures.

This is why a republic is inevitable: because regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum, younger New Zealanders - and their MPs - see the current arrangements as outdated, inegalitarian, foreign, and absurd. The only question is when we start to change those arrangements to reflect modern society, rather than that of our grandparents.

At the same time, Kaye is a bit disingenuous, saying she opposed Keith Locke's Head of State Referendum Bill because "any changes should be made by public referendum" (which the bill would have done; its right there in the title), and directing people at the government's constitutional review which specifically will not discuss republicanism. She's right to say that we need to have a conversation on the issue; the problem is that the current government (led by a royalist toady and which has reintroduced feudalism rather than eliminated it) is steadfastly refusing to have that conversation. She should be honest enough to admit that, rather than trying to hide it, and look at other ways of advancing the issue.