Give us the freedom to choose

Last updated 05:00 19/11/2012

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In his piece, We are lucky to have the Queen, Jim Cable implies that I am a fool who has not examined the advantages of the monarchy and an idiot because I support New Zealanders' right to choose their own head of state. His opinion is based on several common fallacies and closely mirrors the arguments put forward by the campaign group Monarchy New Zealand.

Mr Cable has confused support for the Queen with support for the monarchist system as a whole and he conflates her role as Head of the Commonwealth with her role as monarch of the UK.

Yes, the Queen is popular in the 16 realms still left in the Commonwealth but in all of these countries there are divergent opinions.

The monarch and the monarchy are also unpopular in all of the realms. For this reason there are organised campaigns to replace the monarch as head of state in the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia and Jamaica.

In all 16 realms there are some people who support hereditary leaders and there are some people who do not. At the heart of the issue is not their personalities, it is the fairness of having Prince Charles assume the role of head of state and then wield influence and cultural power in an undemocratic way. It's also about having a governor-general who is politically appointed and potentially ineffectual. It's about freedom of choice and open government.

For some the Queen (and soon Charles) represents family, faith and public service. For others the monarchy represents imperialism, inequality and arcane ritual. Both are fair interpretations of the monarch's cultural position. To claim that one view is more valid than another is to deny diversity and political debate. The monarch is a very problematic national symbol. Legally there is a New Zealand monarch but we all know that Elizabeth and Charles are not New Zealanders.

Retaining the British monarch denies New Zealanders a chance to shift to a more effective and democratic way of choosing our head of state. It undermines our constitutional structure and denies all New Zealanders the opportunity and mana of, one day, assuming the role. We have a governor-general who costs about $6 million a year and we would be better off electing a New Zealander to that office and making it our own. Streamlining the position from two unelected positions to one democratically chosen one. With that straightforward move we would become a parliamentary republic.

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The claim that "a republic" would cost us "billions" is so extreme it is almost not worth commenting on. An elected governor-general would cost us no more than it does now and instead of paying for a royal tour every few years we could simply elect our head of state every six years (possibly at the same time as the general election). Hardly destabilising in any way. A cheaper option, of course, would be to let MPs vote on our behalf - an option favoured by those who don't want too much electioneering.

The Queen is popular with some but continuing with the monarchy and allowing Charles to become head of state does not allow New Zealanders autonomy and the freedom to choose.

It is not luck that gives us the Queen. It is birth order. We have no say in the matter. Becoming a parliamentary republic with a politically neutral head of state is the only reasonable and fair solution to the problem Elizabeth and Charles represent.

Savage is Deputy-Chair of the Republic Movement.

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