Could a future episode of ‘The Crown’ feature New Zealand’s disengagement from the monarchy? Anthony Hubbard examines the state of the republican cause.
THE royal family in 2018: a fistbumping, action-hero prince marrying his African-American fiancee, a magnetic Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcoming their third child, and a monarch who at 91 is the very essence of stability and strength in a fickle, ever-changing world. No longer do the Windsors conjure up cringeworthy images of Charles talking to his cabbages, of infidelity, of Diana sitting alone at the Taj Mahal. Sure, Prince Philip still makes the occasional racist gaffe when he’s let out, but he’s been put out to pasture now. As Prince Harry’s visit in 2015 showed, the royals are undergoing something of a renaissance in popularity in New Zealand. And with a new season of The Crown on Netflix, and a royal wedding only months away, the monarchy’s place in pop culture looks like being cemented in 2018. And yet there remains a small but determined republican movement in New Zealand, committed to seeing us cut the colonial apron strings once and for all. Its current head, Dean Knight, of the New Zealand Republic lobby group, says the Queen doesn’t fit as the head of our independent state because she can’t reflect our unique New Zealand values – instead, our head of state should be ‘‘one of us’’. ‘‘The British monarchy and the British royals seem to fit uncomfortably with how we do things in New Zealand.’’
Arguing the case for the Queen remaining on our banknotes is Monarchy New Zealand, headed by Sean Palmer.
‘‘I think given the modern world we live in and how quickly we move, how many New Zealanders themselves live on the other side of the world, I think it’s a global society and quite frankly it’s not that big an issue any more,’’ he says.
He rejects the if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it argument as ‘‘absurd’’, though it is one often used by monarchists.
‘‘We have a system that is far better than not broken. We have a system that is the most effective in the world,’’ he says.
The trouble with all this, says Knight, a Victoria University law lecturer and constitutional adviser to New Zealand Republic, is that New Zealand must share the Queen with 15 other Commonwealth realms.
‘‘The reality is she is the British monarch and we’re stuck in the situation where we’re a bit player in that. That’s really unfortunate.’’
As for pushing our policies, he says, that’s for our prime minister to do – and Jacindamania means the prime minister now has a global platform.
Knight says it’s not xenophobic to require our head of state to be a New Zealand citizen, he says. It’s ‘‘only that we shouldn’t outsource a national civic institution. In the same way we say to be a Member of Parliament or of the executive government, you’ve got to be a citizen.’’
We want our most senior representative to be one of us because the role is designed to reflect who we are.
‘‘One of the great failings of the monarchy in the New Zealand context is we will never see a Maori as our head of state in New Zealand because the monarchical line is a British line.
‘‘A young Maori kid under this system can’t aspire to hold the