October 31

What New Zealanders are really interested in

I received the following message from Peter FitzSimons not so long ago.

(So did a few hundred thousand readers of The Sun Herald: 24/10)

 And speaking of the Queen, Professor David Flint will no doubt be interested to hear that your humble correspondent was delighted to make the keynote address to the New Zealand Labour Party Conference in Auckland on October 15, where, among other things I warmed to the theme of the virtues of republicanism and getting rid of the Union Jack from our flag.

But here's the interesting thing, professor! Not only did both the Labour Party president and Opposition Leader support me in their public comments afterwards, so did the mighty New Zealand Herald.

In an editorial the following day it said: "The conference also heard the party president, Andrew Little, reinforce [opposition leader] Mr Goff's earlier call for a debate on New Zealand becoming a republic. This, also, is territory where too many politicians have been too timid to go.

There is no obvious electoral appeal in such a policy, but it is the right thing to do."We are getting there, prof, we are getting there!

Congratulations on your trans Tasman invitation, Mr.FitzSimons, and on the  warmer reception you received than the one at the Leichardt Town Hall on the flag. I suspect New Zealanders have more on their minds than handing over more power to the political class.

 The Herald editorial was predictably republican, following on an earlier one on 10 September.   That did not stir up much interest, but Verbatim’s comment  (Remuera) summed up what is probably a widespread view: (continued below)





I used to think we should be a republic, but now I don't.

NZ as we know it was created by an agreement between Maori and the Queen, I.e., the Treaty of Waitangi.

I believe there is a special place for and a special relationship with the UK and the English Monarchy that should be recognised as long as NZ is recognised.
The more I learn of NZ history, the more I realise how special and unique this relationship is.

I think people climb on this republican bandwagon for the sake of publicity or because they have aspirations of presidential grandeur.
I think it is a bandwagon with no horse.



…why are they so republican? 


Why do editors bother with republicanism when the system is working so well?   


Sir David Smith has the answer.  He cites the leading Australian editor Paul Kelly,who  explained that the media are interested in constitutional change because the media has a vested interest in change.

Change, he says equates to news and news is the lifeblood of the media.

In his magisterial book, Head of State, Sir David says at page 189:

In other words, the media support constitutional change, not becaus it is good for Australia but because it is good for their business. 

Sir David says the way the media allow their personal views to intrude into the news is unprofessional and unethical.

… more interested in this…

 I suspect that New Zealanders would be more interested in improving their control over the politicians, rather than increasing their power in some politicians’ republic.

They will no doubt be considering  writer and commentator Amy Brooke’s well named  “100 days Campaign”.This is  to introduce facultative referendums into New Zealand. Her paper, “100 Days — Claiming Back New Zealand”, has been posted on a new website, http://www.100days.co.nz/.


…100 days campaign….

She summarises the reasons for the proposed measure in these words;

Essentially this provision ensures that, although parliament can pass any law, including those insufficiently debated, typically late at night, or on Christmas Eve — or through any profoundly undemocratic trade-off with a minor party manipulating the system… whatever law is passed actually can’t come into effect for 100 days.

During this time, if 50,000 citizens are concerned enough to call for a referendum, it has to be put — what is called a facultative (optional) referendum — and the country’s verdict is binding.

The different, citizens-initiated referenda, where proposals come from the people themselves, are a separate and interesting issue. But it is the facultative referenda that we most urgently need to put a stop to our now perceived lack of genuine representative democracy — so very well illustrated by the scandalous ignoring of the country’s wishes in parliament’s infliction of the anti-smacking legislation.

…anti smacking legislation..

Dr Brooke is referring to a New Zealand citizens-initiated referendum in reaction to “anti-smacking” legislation removing parental discipline as a defence to assault against children.This is possible  under the Citizens-Initiated Referenda Act, 1993. This is not direct democracy, as a referendum on these terms is not binding.

 New Zealanders were asked in 2009:

Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

In a postal ballot closing on August 21, 2009, with 56.09 per cent of the electorate participating, 87.40 per cent voted No and 11.98 per cent with voted Yes, with 0.72 per cent votes declared informal. 

The National, Labor and Green parties refused support for a private member’s bill introduced by ACT MP John Boscawen legalising smacking less than a week after the ballot.

That outraged many New Zealanders.

Can you imagine the answer if they were asked this question:

Do you want to give the politicians more power, or would you rather subject them to more control as with binding citizens' initiated referendums?



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