Did New Zealand get it backwards? Should the debate have been on becoming a republic, and then worry about the flag? Many people I know in real life have said that all along. In the wake of the flag change referenda, people are again talking about bigger change.
My personal view is that New Zealand will inevitably become a republic, though I doubt it will be during the reign of the current Queen of New Zealand. Even so, it would be good to talk and think about what a Republic of New Zealand might look like, how it might be structured, how we can ensure the Treaty of Waitangi is central to the new republic, and so on. If we spend years talking about it, maybe the actual debate could be orderly and civil.
And, if for some reason New Zealand somehow remained a monarchy, at least it would be after years of discussion and thought about it, unlike the decision to keep the colonial flag, That’s got to be a good thing.
I shared these sentiments on Facebook when I shared a link to a segment on Story, the magazine show on TV3. While I don't like the show, some segments are sometimes good, as this one was. I think it also exposed the dumbest argument of royalists.
The pleasant young man arguing to keep the monarchy suggested at one point the old, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” argument, saying that the monarchy has “worked well”, so we shouldn't remove it. Seriously?! By that logic, the USA should have kept slavery.
It’s absurd for a country to have as its Head of State someone who wasn’t born there, who has never lived there, and who has only ever even visited a few times—yet that’s exactly the situation New Zealand is in right now. New Zealand’s Head of State should be a New Zealander, end of story. This has nothing to do with the current Queen, her heirs and successors according to law, but about a sovereign, independent country being led and ruled by its own people, not foreigners.
The simplest and most obvious solution is to have the Governor General replaced by a President selected by Parliament, and requiring and extraordinary 75% of votes in Parliament to ensure the person selected is an eminent and respected New Zealander, someone who has widespread, multi-partisan support and is never a party hack of whatever party is then running the Government. This is, it seems to me, the easiest, most straightforward, and most obvious way to have a New Zealander as Head of State without also requiring further dramatic constitutional change.
I have no idea when New Zealand will take on the question of whether New Zealand becomes a republic, but like most people, I’m sure it will and the monarchy will end, but whether that happens at the first attempt or later is another question altogether. Even so, the fact that New Zealand will one day be a republic seems pretty obvious to me.
Then, maybe, we can get the flag right, too.