Goff and Cullen come out for a republic

It was good to see Labour leader Phil Goff come out in the

Herald on Sunday

for starting the move to a republic. According to Phil the “succession of the monarchy is the time to have a head of state who is a New Zealander”.

This echoed

the view of former deputy PM

Michael Cullen at the Reconstituting the Constitution conference I attended in Wellington last week.

Both Goff and Cullen are worried that unless we change the law before the Queen dies or abdicates then Prince Charles will automatically become our next Head of State.

That means we have to choose what sort of republic we want. Nobody at the Reconstituting the Constitution conference wanted a head of state with executive powers like a US president. This was in line with the proposal in

my Head of State Referenda Bill

(defeated in Parliament earlier this year) that a new head of state should have no more powers than the Queen and Governor General currently have.

Michael Cullen proposed two legs of legislation: firstly, that Governor General be selected by a 75% vote in Parliament, rather than just a government choice; and secondly the Governor General would replace the monarch as head of state when the Queen dies or resigns.

One fly in the ointment is that Kiwis might not like MPs having all the power to choose the new head of state. The Australian people turned down such a proposal in their 1999 referendum. My Bill allowed New Zealand a three way referendum choice between the status quo, a head of state selected by a parliamentary ‘supermajority’ and one directly elected by the people. Michael Cullen didn’t favour an elected president with non-executive powers, but former PM Jim Bolger, who chaired the conference session, chipped in that it works ok in Ireland.

With a Governor General Bill currently before Parliament, we do  have an opportunity to introduce more democracy into the selection of the nominee for Governor General to be forwarded to the Queen. The Greens will be proposing an amendment to the Governor General Bill, currently before Parliament, so that the nomination comes from 75% of Parliament.