Wednesday, September 23, 2009


A bunch of Kiwi politicians are pushing to turn the country into a republic.

It's not the first time the subject has come up. It's a good old standby for politicians who want to increase their own TV face-time, or who think that the current direction of news coverage isn't going well for them. The real risk is that one day, they'll succeed...

It's one of those issues - like Quebeçoise independence in Canada, or Scottish independence in the UK, or any given EU treaty - where one side just won't take "Fsck off and die, you timewasting gits" for an answer. No matter how many times it's rejected, there's nothing to stop the next generation of hacks from raising it all over again, just as soon as a reasonable number of people have forgotten about the last time.

To me the drawbacks are obvious. The queen may not be a New Zealander, but the Treaty of Waitangi was a treaty between Maori peoples and the crown. If the crown no longer has a role in New Zealand, then those 500-odd Maori chiefs who signed the Treaty, as an agreement between sovereign rulers, may or may not consider that the agreement is transferrable - we'd need to hear from the legitimate heirs, if any, of each and every one of them to be sure. So although the republican movement's website claims that "Creating a republic does not require any change to the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand's flag or Commonwealth membership" - these being the three untouchable issues in Kiwi politics - it seems to me that it's entirely mendacious here. They can't possibly know that.

It'd be a bonanza for lawyers, and for Maori politicians on the make; existential purgatory for the rest of us.

It's not clear whether these idiots (Phil Twyford, I'm looking at you) want to see a political head of state (like France, the USA, Italy), or a purely ceremonial one (like Ireland, or Germany). Please not the former. Most politicians in this country don't exactly inspire me with trust, and politicising the head-of-state job would mean far more pressure than any of them could stand. (Look at America, for pity's sake.) No, if we must have a president, let's have someone decent - not a businessman or a politician or a lawyer. Give the job to Jonah Lomu or Tim Finn. At least they wouldn't be a national embarrassment.

Seems to me there's a hidden benefit in outsourcing the head of state's job. As well as saving the trouble, the publicity, the campaigning and expense of maintaining our own president, it also removes the temptation for the head of state to claim any sort of authority. Even if some sort of constitutional crisis in the UK forces a split between the crown and country - as in 1936, for instance - that doesn't affect us here.

Effectively, we're spared an entire series of the soap opera of politics.

But bring the job in-house, and there'll be no avoiding those little upsets from time to time. It's not a big deal, but it's a distraction we don't need.

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