Let's elect our Head of State

Martin's Christmas message

MARTIN VAN BEYNEN
Last updated 08:08 25/12/2010
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Press columnist and reporter Martin Van Beynen.

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Martin van Beynen

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OPINION: My dear fellow New Zealanders. As you gather with family and friends to celebrate this Christmas and all it means to you and your loved ones, I would encourage you to consider this very important question.

Do you as an independent and diverse country really need the British monarchy? One is touched when one sees the excitement in the colonies at the exciting news of the engagement of Prince William and his lovely, sensible fiancee Kate Middleton, who is such a nice young woman despite being a commoner.

But the time comes when every nation must stand strong and alone and choose, using the ballot box, its own head of state. This would show the world that New Zealand is indeed a unique and separate country.

One might say, what does it matter if the British Monarch is the Head of State. Her Majesty is but a symbol, one might suggest. But is having her Majesty, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith, as Head of State, sending the right signal to the rest of the world? Many visitors to this country are surprised to find that New Zealand's currency still bears an image of the Queen of Great Britain. It suggests to them that New Zealand is still a colony or, even worse, a part of Australia.

While no-one disputes the exemplary way the present British monarch has conducted herself in carrying out her many duties, one must now accept the wider Windsor family is a rather different kettle of fish and more like a sad group of tawdry celebrities. If there was any mystique or grandeur attached to the monarchy before the current crop and their ill-considered spouses took the stage, it has now very much been dispelled.

One must also question what impression having a super wealthy old woman living in splendid luxury in the English countryside surrounded by dogs with legs too short for their bodies, as Head of State, is conveying to the world about how New Zealand sees itself.

It is time for New Zealand to choose its own Head of State, even if that person turns out to be dysfunctional. Every New Zealand subject, sorry citizen, should be able to aspire to the position which currently is open only to someone from the British royal family. We no longer need to fight for queen and country. Country is quite sufficient.

One must remember Christmas is a time when nations around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus. If one recalls the Bible story correctly, it was the kings and rulers who came to worship Jesus at the crib in a humble manger in Bethlehem. The message this story seeks to convey is that in the stable of life, the mighty are just like you and me, but just give better presents.

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Her Majesty represents a class- ridden system which upholds the belief that some people have some sort of divine right to lord it over others. This right has usually been acquired at the point of a sword and by bestowing favours on powerful friends. That New Zealand accepts a relic of this system as its Head of State is a sad reflection on the confidence we have in our nation and in the principle of Jack is as good as his master. Gaining office on the basis of inheriting it is not something we should be encouraging in this day and age.

One hesitates to bestow more onerous duties on ordinary voters, but electing the Head of State would enhance our democracy and make the chosen person accountable to all New Zealanders.

Christmas is a time when we think about the less fortunate. If New Zealand were a republic, those dealing with disadvantage and worry could look forward to the day on which they could elect a Head of State who was familiar with their concerns.

Some might suggest a move to republicanism would endanger New Zealand's place in the Commonwealth and unnecessarily remove valuable tradition and constitutional legitimacy. Neither of these things is true. The country could remain in the Commonwealth and the Treaty of Waitangi would remain as our founding document.

This does not mean we should not reconsider our national anthem and our flag, neither of which portray New Zealand in a positive light. A move to a republic could be combined with a jolly good revamp of the flag and anthem.

In conclusion, my wife and I wish you fellow New Zealanders a safe and happy Christmas. I am confident, and one does not want to assume too much here, that you will give my thoughts on a republic your deepest consideration.

- The Press

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