NZ steers future of Royal succession

02:46, May 10 2011
Prince William and Catherin Middleton
HEIRS TO YOU: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge kiss on the balcony at Buckingham Palace.

New Zealand has "chairmanship" of a bid to change the Royal succession laws.

The claim, made by Lord McNally in the House of Lords earlier this year, was this morning confirmed by Prime Minister John Key.

The Government was pressing other Commonwealth countries to change the rules so that daughters of the Sovereign had equal rights of succession to the throne as their male siblings.

Currently, male children of the reigning sovereign take precedence in line to the throne, regardless of age. A female can only assume the throne if there are no direct male heirs.

In January, Lord McNally told the House of Lords: "There have been consultations ... the previous Administration initiated discussions among Commonwealth countries. Those discussions are proceeding under the chairmanship of the New Zealand Government and we will continue to keep the matter under consideration."

Asked this morning about the accuracy of that description, Key said he was "not uncomfortable" with it.

"My belief is that is a cause New Zealand should continue to champion, so we are a strong voice in that debate and if there is change, then I think it would be a change for the positive," Key said.

The issue had earlier been raised with former Prime Minister Helen Clark and Key said he had expected a debate about it at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Trinidad late in 2009.

"We've been putting on the record our case, why we think that makes sense, why we think modernisation of those rules is important. And we are making it quite clear to anyone who will listen that we think this is important," Key said.

He would not say which countries were against the proposal.

"In this area, New Zealand has got a great track record and true credentials. It's my view that we can lend our voice in this area and actually make positive change.

"There shouldn't be discrimination so we should push that through and I think we'll be successful actually."

The issue of Catholics being barred from the throne "may be separated out" as an issue for debate, Key said.

"But from our point of view, we accept the view that they shouldn't be discriminated against."

The issue of Royal succession has been raised again after the Royal wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton.

Prince William is second in line to the throne, behind his father Prince Charles, who some believe would not be as popular a sovereign as his son.

Key said he was "super impressed" by Prince Charles when he met him in London before the Royal wedding last month.

"He was, I thought, very in touch with issues around the world. He was extremely personable and the reality is that there is automatic succession anyway at the point that the Queen passes away, to Prince Charles," he said.

Labour leader Phil Goff said he would not make "personal comments about the qualities of individuals like Prince Charles."

"I'm sure he'd do his very best," Goff said of Prince Charles potentially becoming King.

"I have enormous respect for Her Majesty the Queen. I think as long as she's alive she will be the Queen of New Zealand. At the point that she is no longer Queen, New Zealanders will probably want to think about what they do for the future. It's not a decision for individual politicians - it's a decision that all of us will need to make about what our future head of state might look like."

The monarchy was very popular at the moment, Goff said.

"If it was a referendum then people would, in my estimation, vote to maintain the monarchy. But as time passes, attitudes change."


Meanwhile, Key revealed he personally opposes New Zealand becoming a republic.

Grilled on the BBC's Hardtalk during his recent visit to Britain for the royal wedding, Key reiterated his view that it was probably inevitable that New Zealand would become a republic one day but said: "Not under my watch."

"I actually don't think New Zealand should be a republic, but my view is one day probably it will happen."

He believed New Zealand's historic links with Britain still mattered and the argument over republicanism was about whether New Zealanders should elect their heads of state or have them appointed by the Government in the form of the governor-general. "There's certainly no great benefit in New Zealand electing a president."

During the half-hour programme, which screened yesterday, Key was also forced to defend New Zealand's "100 per cent pure" marketing slogan and disputed suggestions that its reputation as a clean green country was undeserved.

"For the most part, you jump in any New Zealand river or stream, breathe the air, walk up a mountain ... if you don't believe it's clean and green, you need to show me a country that's cleaner and greener."


John Key
NO REPUBLICAN: John Key in London for the Royal Wedding.