Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Locke gets lucky

Her Majesty the Queen of New Zealand (and some other places)

Green MP Keith Locke's Head of State Referenda Bill has been pulled from the ballot.

It would trigger a referendum on the monarchy, with three options:

1. The status quo, with Her Majesty continuing as Head of State

2. A directly elected President

3. A President appointed by a three quarters vote in Parliament.

If the majority voted for a change, then the two most popular options would have a run-off.

We are inspired to remark on a couple of things.

First, we hope that this Bill will spark some useful constitutional debate about our nationhood and constitutional arrangements.

But there is, that we can see, no appetite for change in our constitution, and there is no appetite for a republic.

There might be one among the elite and the politicians (some of whom have always resented the Monarchy as a colonial overhang), and there are republicans of conviction as well--Mr. Locke is from a well-known socialist family, and doubtless he is one such.

But where are the pressing reasons for change?

We are not opposed to debate on the constitution, and we think that if the monarchy was put to a vote, the status quo would win.

But we are suspicious of the idea that a republic is "inevitable" which is what our politicians and opinion-makers say. And we are opposed to the seeming Australian (and Irish) idea which is "ask until you get the answer you want, (and then, we're betting, never ask again)"

A republic is not the inevitable outcome of constitutional and national maturity (like our constitution needs an extra decade or two on top of the eight hundred we've had already). The march of Progress (dear, outdated, Victorian idea) does not necessarily lead to dreary Presidential democracy.

We think Constitutional reform should not come from a push by the snarkerati, however legitimate it is to put in a private member's Bill. It should come from a substantial public groundswell, leading to popular pressure, and backed by public support.

So here's the question:

Where is it?

Where are the mobs demanding a republic?

Where's the Republican Movement with a hundred thousand members? (In fact, like its Monarchist counterpart, the Movement is fairly small)

Where are the petitions calling for change?

The demands for a New Zealand Head of State?

What is it that necessitates Mr., Locke's referendum?

Where's the fire?

Of course, we would vote No. And, as we said, we think New Zealand would join us.

But why should Parliament indulge one Green MP's excercise in vanity, on his say-so alone?

Here's Hayley Westenra:

Hat Tip: Kiwiblog

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