Hon­ours: John Key’s got this one wrong

Central Leader - - News -

It’s sick­en­ing to see so much sup­port for Prime Min­is­ter John Key’s idea that we start dish­ing out knight­hoods again.

Why we awarded ti­tles when we were part of the Bri­tish Em­pire is easy to un­der­stand. Those were the days when many New Zealan­ders, even Kiwi-born, saw Eng­land as “home”, and the bonds be­tween us strength­ened dur­ing two world wars.

But things have moved on in 60 years. Bri­tain de­servedly lost its em­pire, and Com­mon­wealth coun­tries like Canada, Aus­tralia and New Zealand have a sub­stan­tial his­tory of es­tab­lish- ing their own iden­ti­ties.

Part of our iden­tity is a dis­taste for priv­i­lege, posh ac­cents, un­due wealth and any signs of a su­pe­ri­or­ity com­plex. It’s an egal­i­tar­ian ap­proach to life we like.

Nat­u­rally there are those who are im­pressed by ti­tles, pos­ses­sions and sta­tus. And there are still those who look to Bri­tain as if that’s where we’ll find the guide­lines of how we should be­have and sound. But just be­cause there are Ki­wis who don’t ap­pre­ci­ate the strength of our egal­i­tar­ian style doesn’t mean we should aban­don those val­ues.

He­len Clark copped criti- cism for the hon­ours sys­tem she in­tro­duced but she was on the right track. It was time to do away with Kiwi sirs and dames, a sys­tem that was ob­jec­tion­able for sev­eral rea­sons. Too of­ten ti­tles went to men who’d done noth­ing more than make money or do their jobs as politi­cians or judges.

Gov­ern­ments, not neu­tral pan­els, de­cided who should be re­warded. For ev­ery Kiwi who has de­served an ac­co­lade, such as Mur­ray Hal­berg or Howard Mor­ri­son, there have been sev­eral – Bob Jones and Roger Dou­glas, for in­stance – who have war­ranted no such hon­our.

Where Clark went wrong was in re­plac­ing the sys­tem with one too com­plex and clumsy for us to em­brace. But our en­ergy should be di­rected at get­ting rid of all that Bri­tish stuff and com­ing up with some­thing sim­ple with a Maori and Kiwi flavour.

John Key has made a few good calls since he took over. But he’s got this one wrong.

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