Republicanism 'recipe for disaster'

Last updated 05:00 26/11/2013
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Should NZ become a republic?

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The question of whether or not New Zealand should become a republic is one that has been raised time and time again, only to come to the same conclusion each time: a resounding no.

One would be forgiven for wondering just what becoming a republic would achieve. The simple answer is not much at all. In fact, becoming a republic could even hinder our progress as a nation.

Polls dating as far back as 2005 put support for a republican New Zealand between a meager 27 percent and a slightly more impressive 42 percent. It is likely that more Kiwis support becoming a state of Australia than breaking ties with the crown (with 41 percent support). Nevertheless, overwhelming public opinion is that our country should remain a constitutional monarchy and for good reason.

First, consider the status quo. The precious few remaining prerogative powers of the Queen are held by the Governor General who is duly appointed by the parliament.

The Governor General is politically neutral and does not do much more than provide assent to legislation. In a republican system, this role would disappear. The Head of State (who would likely be the leader of the coalition in power) would assume the role, removing the single failsafe we have to ensure that abhorrent laws are not passed.

Republicanism would also disadvantage Maori, whose support for change is quite high. One possible explanation is that a constitutional restructure could include concepts of Tikanga Maori and Tino Rangatiratanga. However with the majority of the population being non-Maori, these principles would probably not make it into a new constitution.

The current National government has increased the rate of Treaty settlements hugely. Under a republican setting there is a very real possibility that these settlements would be forgotten and past grievances left unresolved. The settlement processes in place would be at risk if we were to leave control over the three arms of government in the hands of one person, especially when that person would in all likeliness be the head of the legislature and executive.

The knockout blow for the republican movement though is in our system of governance. The MMP system allows for minor parties to win seats in Parliament and push fringe issues such as these.

If it were the case that New Zealanders supported a republican future, it would be clear in general election results. However, this is not the case, the Greens and United Future (who are clear supporters of republicanism) commanded just 11.66 percent of the popular vote between them.

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It is often said that while the Sovereign reigns, the Government rules. Issues of unbridled power and dealing with Maori interests in good faith would suggest that republicanism is a recipe for disaster. This, as well as a lack of public support, would suggest that New Zealand is not ready, now or anytime soon, to become a republic. We have more pressing issues to deal with as a nation and this question could surely be put away for another few years at the very least.

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