The current debate over becoming a Republic and having a flag change has got me thinking. My thoughts on both at this time are well established and need no further mention. But it has also got me thinking about about an event that will happen regardless of the outcome of the current referendum: the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.
There is no doubt that the Queen is a very highly regarded figure around the world. She has reigned for a period longer than most people I know have been on the face of the planet – she had been Queen for 27 years already when I was born. Queen Elizabeth II has many admirers in both Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries who see her as a figurehead of stability in very stormy times. However, in a decade or so, Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II will pass on. At that point there will be a debate over who will succeed her as Head of State in Australia, New Zealand and several other countries. My understanding is that Prince Charles will become King as he is first in line to the throne.
Because Prince Charles is not seen by as many people as a person who they could tolerate as a Head of State in New Zealand as the current reigning Sovereign, when the current Monarch dies, peoples view points might change. This is where support for changes to New Zealand’s constitutional framework, and discussion about issues such as whether to become a Republic, what significance the Union Jack in the current flag has, whether the next Monarch appears on our currency will intensify.
I personally support changing the flag and becoming a Republic, but I do not detect the appropriate mood right now in New Zealand for such changes. This is not about whether the nation has grown up enough or not, but about the fact that New Zealanders seem to mainly agree that the time and place is not now.
In saying that, I believe New Zealand should make ready for the day when the reigning Monarch passes on. As part of that preparation, I believe legislation needs to be pushed through the House of Representatives, to ensure that there is a process to follow in determining how best to determine what New Zealanders want that can automatically kick in when the reigning Monarch passes on. Let me be very clear that this legislation is not declaring a Republic or a flag change, but to ensure that binding check on what New Zealanders think can take place with minimum of fuss, or delay. Of course if she were to have a heart attack or other problem that forces her to abdicate the throne before she dies – something that might happen tomorrow for all we know – then New Zealand might have accept a period of time whilst we determine the best path forward where Prince Charles is King of England.
In the interim, if you are eligible to vote in the current flag referendum, I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is that you do. Nor can I stress strongly enough how important it is to not desecrate your ballot papers, with text, drawings or other unnecessary stuff. Just tick the choice you want, put it in the envelope that came with the ballot paper and send it back.