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Speech - English - Queen State Dinner

The Honourable Bill English, MP
Leader of the New Zealand National Party
Leader of the Opposition
at the Parliamentary Dinner celebrating the Golden Jubilee of HM The Queen
Wellington, 25 February 2002

Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, Prime Minister and Dr Davis, Members of Parliament, ladies and gentlemen.

Your Majesty, on behalf of your Loyal Opposition, I would like to express our deep appreciation for your visit to New Zealand during the Golden Jubilee of your reign, particularly after the passing of your sister, Her Royal Highness, Princess Margaret.

We are also honoured by your presence tonight as our Head of State, at New Zealand's Parliament, which is soon to celebrate its sesquicentenary as the first parliamentary descendent of Westminster in the Southern Hemisphere.

New Zealand is a nation that is wrestling with its history. This is a worthwhile effort in so far as it helps us shape our future. The unrivalled dignity and mana of the Crown in New Zealand have been a dominant influence on that history.

The question of sovereignty will continue to be debated in New Zealand: - where it lies, and how it will evolve, and how it should be represented.

But for the moment, Ma'am, I can state with assurance that there is a single sovereignty within New Zealand, and that by virtue of your presence, it now abides in this very room.

For you represent our British whakapapa, the person who links us with our New Zealand and our British pasts. George III was King when James Cook sailed into these waters. George IV received the Nga Puhi chief Hongi Heke in audience. A British Resident, James Busby was despatched to New Zealand under William IV.

The Treaty of Waitangi, signed early in the reign of Queen Victoria, was the culmination of 70 years of contact between the British and Maori.

Royal visits to New Zealand commencing in 1868, reinforced our identity as a self-governing nation within, first, the Empire, and later, the British Commonwealth of Nations. Your visit to New Zealand in 1954, the first by a reigning monarch, was greeted with unprecedented celebrations, as it marked the beginning of a new era after the hardships and sacrifice of the World Wars and the Great Depression.

The sea-faring instinct and the quest for scientific knowledge brought Britain's reach to this very end of the earth. And for much of our history, the link to Britain was our link with the entire world. That is still the case for generations of young New Zealanders who visit and work in the United Kingdom. As a small island nation we will always have to work to maintain our global fluency.

Our relationship with Britain has remained close even as we have sought to build up complementary relationships with other nations. As we look ahead down our path as a Pacific nation, your visit, Ma'am, during your Jubilee, is an opportunity for us to take stock of the role, which the monarchy has played, in our nation.

Whatever road our nation eventually follows, the roots of it are firmly embedded in Britain, in our institutions, our thinking, our intellectual and cultural life, in our law, and in our founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi.

The connections are still strong. Perhaps it will be the case that as we move to replace the global fluency which the attachment to Britain gave us, that we will come to appreciate more the immense role that Britain and the Crown have played for a small isolated, and young, nation.

Your memories and ours have accumulated together. New Zealand can look to the future with confidence, because of the sense of continuity, security and legitimacy, which the monarchy has given us.

There is a powerful array of symbols, set at the very core of this young nation, which express its links with British civilisation.

Ma'am, you have sustained these symbols and your role as our Head of State, with dignity, grace and constant interest in our development as a nation.

For this we thank you.

No reira tena koutou katoa.

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