Scottish Independence and a New Zealand republic

The outcome of this week's referendum on Scottish independence is hard to predict but campaigners here in New Zealand will be watching the result closely. Irrespective of what Scottish voters decide there will be lessons to learn from how the Yes and No campaigns were run and what factors swayed voters to choose one option over the other.

At the same time the general election here in New Zealand will give republic campaigners a clearer picture of what the next three years will bring and how the incoming government's policies will affect the campaign for a New Zealand head of state.

Clearly, the Scottish referendum is far more complex then the debate over New Zealand's head of state. In Britain, Scotland and England are enmeshed economically, politically and socially. Independence is a huge issue with far reaching implications.  It will alter both countries forever. 

New Zealand is almost completely independent and the transition to a Kiwi head of state is a relatively straight-forward final step in the 175 year long journey from colony to sovereign nation. The British Monarch is head of state in name only. It is a symbolic throw-back to New Zealand's past. All of the actual work of the head of state is done by the Kiwi Governor-General.

Conjecture as to what the outcome in Scotland might mean for the head of state or flag debates in New Zealand is unnecessary this close to the actual result being announced. Friday night will provide the answer to a decision polling experts are saying is too close to call.

Two things are known. If voters vote Yes, Scotland will not become a republic in 2016. It will instead take its place alongside the other Commonwealth realms and keep the Monarch as Head of State. If voters reject the proposed change then further powers will be devolved to the Scottish parliament. In either case Scotland will have moved closer to being a fully independent nation-state.

The latest polls here in New Zealand are still showing a likely win for the centre-right but this last week of campaigning may see a swing to the left. Again, conjecture as to the final result is unnecessary. Far better to just wait and see what happens.

We know that both Labour and National have policies on a flag referendum. We know the Greens are supportive in principle even if they disagree on whether it is a priority. We know Labour and the Greens support a referendum on an independent and democratically selected head of state. We also know that both NZ First and the Conservative parties are opposed to both a flag and a head of state referendum.

We will know the result in Scotland by Friday night (NZ time) and we should know the result of the New Zealand election by late on Saturday night. The result of coalition negotiations won't be known until later.

Once both results are known the republic campaign will have a better sense of what is happening in Britain and in New Zealand. Armed with that knowledge we will improve our campaign structure and increase our effectiveness. New Zealanders deserve a better head of state and we are focused on making sure it happens regardless of which parties are in government.

Only a New Zealander can be our Head of State

News from London that Prince William and his wife Kate are expecting a second child will be of interest to followers of the royal family but it will have no effect on the campaign for a New Zealand republic.

Achieving an independent and democratically selected head of state is about New Zealanders gaining control over their head of state. The role can only be awarded to someone based on their career and hard work. It cannot be given to someone just because they were born into the right family.

It is important that we reform the position of Governor-General so that it reflects the needs of contemporary New Zealand. At issue is not about how many members of the royal family there are or what they are named. It is about New Zealanders and how we live together as a diverse and modern nation.

Pregnancy can be a trying time for any couple and the happy news is always tinged with caution. For parents all that matters is that their baby is born healthy and that both mother and baby remain well throughout. William and Kate are no different and if royalists really want to help the couple they will leave them alone and let them enjoy the pregnancy away from the media glare.

William himself recognises how relevant the issue is in the greater scheme of things.  Commenting on the announcement he said "It's important that we all focus on the big news and the big international and domestic things that are going on at the moment," 

Right now in Britain the biggest issue is next week's referendum on Scottish independence. Here in New Zealand it is the election of a new government. 

Prime Minister John Key is mistaken if he believes all "New Zealanders would rejoice at the baby announcement". Clearly there are some New Zealanders who will be very happy to hear the news but the majority of New Zealanders have either a passing interest or no interest at all. 

Many Kiwis will be happy for the couple (and for all the couples here in New Zealand who are expecting) but far more Kiwis however are working to make sure New Zealand can better meet the needs of future generations.

Reforming our head of state is all about our future together. Becoming New Zealand's head of state should be something that all New Zealander children can aspire to regardless of what family they were born in to.


The Head of State and the Head of Government

Yesterday, August 31st, was the third anniversary of Sir Jerry Matepare taking office as Governor-General.  He is our 20th Governor-General and only the 10th New Zealander to hold the position. He is also the 9th Governor-General of Niue

Prime Minister John Key is the Head of Government. As such, he is entitled to appoint the Head of State's representative. He appointed Sir Jerry Mateparae.  Whoever becomes PM on September 20th will choose the next Governor-General in 2016.

New Zealand's actual Head of State is still the British Head of State but in effect all of the work is done by the Governor-General. Government House is an important part of our constitution.

At the moment our current Head of Government is busy dealing with re-election. It has been a very intense campaign so far  and all of the various political parties are looking to gain as many seats in Parliament as possible. United Future, the Green Party and Labour all support a referendum to look at reforming our Head of State. National has stated they support a referendum on changing our flag.

Our position is clear. We think it is more important to change the way our Head of State is chosen. New Zealand's head of state should be a democratically selected New Zealander. The office must be independent from all party politics. Once voters have made that more important change we can then all look at the symbolic issue of a new flag.

Both debates are an inevitable result of New Zealand's new sense of nationhood and a continuation of New Zealand's long drive to full independence. If the flag debate happens first it will help focus attention on New Zealand's core values.

Issues of political integrity, housing, education, health, taxation and transport are all getting far more attention then the Head of State changes but that does not mean it is unimportant.  Irrespective of who forms the next government and who our next Head of Government is New Zealand must still reform its Head of State. There is no escaping that inevitability.

Be sure and vote in this election for a party who you support and be sure to encourage everyone you know to vote. The right to choose who holds political office and who exerts constitutional power is fundemental. Exercise your right to choose. Have your say.


We need 300 000 more New Zealanders

Election time is here and it is a good opportunity to spread the news that a New Zealand head of state is the better option for all New Zealanders.

Two polls in a row have shown that 1.34 million kiwis already want a Kiwi head of state but there are around 3.04 million people enrolled to vote in New Zealand.

To comfortably win a referendum on a head of state we need another  300 000 voters to support the cause. That means a long term campaign to get our message out and make sure that each and every voter understands why a New Zealand republic will be an improvement.  

We also need to remember that support for change is highest among younger voters and that younger voters are less likely to vote. Victory in a referendum will mean convincing people to to get out and actively vote for change. Voter turn-out in the referendum will be crucial.

Our goal is simple. We want a referendum and we want to win that referendum. The Greens and Labour support a referendum. National supports a flag referendum instead. Whatever party you support, whatever other views you have you can do your part by asking your local election candidates to say what their view is. 

Stand up at public meetings and ask whether they support a NZ head of state. Submit your questions to the candidates and take the opportunity an election presents to ask the leading candidates in your area what they think. 

Health, housing, political tactics, inequality, and education will always dominate any election campaign but we can all do our part to promote a New Zealand Republic and a New Zealand head of State. A referendum is still some years away. All the more reason to start spreading the word now!