Can someone remind me again why we are celebrating the Queen’s Birthday this weekend?
I like a good long weekend as much as the next person. But it seems slightly odd (in fact a bit North Korean) that the country has a holiday to celebrate the birthday of the head of state. And very odd that our head of state lives on the other side of the world, and only visits here very occasionally.
Sometimes I realise with a bit of a start that the British Queen is “our” queen, as if waking from a dream that New Zealand was a modern, democratic state with a New Zealander as head of state. It is a shock to realise that hasn’t happened yet.
Parliament will soon be debating the Royal Succession Bill which will end discrimination against female royals but will still mean a New Zealander can never be head of state of New Zealand. It also leaves in place the rule that no Catholic can ever be Monarch. Now if the Brits want to maintain this feudal institution good luck to them, but really, is this what we want for New Zealand in the 21st century?
We’ve had a succession of pretty good Governors General during my adult lifetime. Why we don’t just change the law and make the office of Governor General our new head of state is beyond me.
It wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference to the Maori relationship with the State. The British Crown has never taken any role in negotiations with iwi since 1840. It has always delegated that job to the New Zealand state. Appointing a New Zealander as head of state wouldn’t necessitate any other constitutional overhaul. We could even still belong to the Commonwealth if we wanted to.
Conventional wisdom has it that people feel very affectionate about Queen Elizabeth and would not contemplate any change while she is still on the throne. Charles and Camilla as our reigning monarchs, that is maybe a different matter. I say we start debating the idea of a New Zealander as head of state now, so that when Queen Elizabeth’s long reign comes to an end we’ll have a plan and a process worked out.
Anyway, it is not even her real birthday.