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Republic?

Entry 678, on 2008-01-19 at 22:06:14 (Rating 2, News)

Here in New Zealand we seem to dredge up one old favourite topic every few months: should New Zealand convert to being a republic? Currently the Queen of England is officially our head of state but she makes practically no contribution to New Zealand society, not even a ceremonial one. So why do we persist with this outdated idea of the monarchy? After all, New Zealand has been an independent country for many years.

The debate often arises as a result of some real or perceived indiscretion from the royal family. The latest problem has been when our head of state couldn't send a representative to the funeral of Sir Edmund Hillary. Ed was perhaps New Zealand's most respected citizen ever. In 1953 he was the first to climb Mount Everest (as part of a British team) and since then has lead many expeditions in the mountains and in the Antarctic. He has also been responsible for a lot of charitable work, especially for the people of the Himalayas.

So why couldn't one of the royal family attend the funeral? Well, they could have attended, of course - it just wasn't a priority for them. I am no fan of royalty myself and I believe the royal family are irrelevant but there are still many (especially older) people here who cling to the old beliefs regarding the royal family. I think it really would have been appropriate for some fairly senior member to attend the ceremony.

Polls indicate people are fairly evenly split between the idea of retaining the Queen as head of state and moving to becoming a republic. But even those who want the status quo mostly do so because they distrust the idea of an elected president. The best thing that can be said about the Queen is that she does nothing. Oh well, I've often said that the best type of politician is one who does nothing!

But the objection people have to a republic probably stems from the example of the US. American politics must be the best example of how a good system can be hijacked and corrupted by various groups, such as the conservative religious right and big business. It shouldn't be necessarily used as an example of an ideal republic. President's don't need to have the power that they are given in the US. There are many examples in Europe where a better balanced model is in place.

So if we do move to becoming a republic we should think carefully about what sort of republic we want, until then there is no harm in keeping the Queen as the theoretical ultimate power - as long as she keeps doing nothing!

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Comment 2 (1032) by OJB on 2008-01-22 at 05:10:17: (view earlier comments)

But you surely agree that big business does invest a lot of money in both political parties and expects certain favours in return. I hear all the time in fairly politically neutral forums about laws being passed which favour the music and movie industry for example. I don't hear much about the influence of the unions. But also, I did say "various groups, such as...". If unions also hijack the process then that is just as bad.

The problem is that if you have plenty of money you can have a big influence on the outcome of an election. That's why the US government is often called "the best democracy money can buy".

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Comment 3 (1043) by SBFL on 2008-01-29 at 01:14:11:

Well, in NZ at least, I'd like to see some evidence where big donations equate to votes. And as for favours, unions are just as guilty as big business for 'demanding' favours in return for their support. Also many corporates donate to both major parties, here and in the US.

As for the movie and music industry - well they are notoriously known for being of a left-wing bent. Influence, infiltration and favours don't just come in a monetary form. I think it would be safe to say both sides are just as guilty as the other. Come on, no system is immune, it's human nature!!

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Comment 4 (1049) by OJB on 2008-01-29 at 09:37:03:

I didn't say this was happening to a significant extent in New Zealand yet. Whether big business donates to both parties or not is fairly irrelevant - in fact it makes it even worse - because you can bet they will be asking for similar favours from whichever party wins.

The music business left wing? We're talking about the top management here - they are the ones who decide on what donations to make. Most people see both US parties as being about the same - neither does much for the average working person, and neither is even close to being left wing.

I agree that it is human nature to use border-line tactics (I'm being generous) to influence politics but we need to have a system where everyone has equal ability to use those tactics if they want to!

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Comment 5 (1068) by SBFL on 2008-01-30 at 00:28:44:

...so following on from your last sentence, are you advocating dirty-tricks as long as everyone has an equal opportunity to exercise it? Well at least you recognise one of the pitfalls of "democracy"!

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Comment 6 (1104) by OJB on 2008-02-02 at 20:19:38:

Yes. I am not so naive that I think everyone will play fair, but if everyone has an equal opportunity to play dirty that would have to be good enough. And I am very aware of the problems with democracy. I don't think democracy works very well at all, but as Churchill said: Democracy is the worst form of government, apart from all the rest!

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