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Time For A Head Of State Who Can Check Parliament

Time For A Head Of State Who Can Check Parliament

6 December 2007

"The petition to the Governor-General to refuse Royal assent to the Electoral Finance Bill is symbolic only" said Lewis Holden, chair of the Republican Movement of Aotearoa New Zealand. "The Republican Movement believes that the move to a republic in New Zealand should be accompanied by a serious look at the sort of checks and balances other parliamentary republics have."

"Most constitutional lawyers agree that the Governor-General has no scope to exercise a refusal of Royal assent to a Bill of parliament. This is because their hands are tied by constitutional convention, and the fact that the Prime Minister can advise the Queen to remove Her Majesty's representative from office immediately" continued Mr Holden.

In contrast, most republics grant their presidents the ability to refuse to sign Bills into law, send them to the judiciary or to a national referendum.

"Presidents in parliamentary republics - such as the President of Ireland - have almost the same powers as our Governor-General, but they also have the ability to keep their Prime Ministers in check. Compared to the uncertain and unclear situation we face in New Zealand, a New Zealand head of state with such powers would be a great improvement on the status quo" concluded Mr Holden.



The Republican Movement has no view on the substance of the Electoral Finance Bill.

The last full exercise of the Crown's prerogative power to refuse assent to legislation was in 1707, under Queen Anne. There have been a few other instances, but these have been either because of procedural issues (such as in Australia where a Bill that had not been passed by Parliament was signed into law) or because a court overruled them (such as in Canada).

Under section 56 of the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 (Imperial) the Governor of New Zealand had the ability to refuse assent to Bills of Parliament. This was narrowed in the Letters Patent 1917, which renamed the office Governor-General, and totally removed under the Letters Patent 1983. The current section 16 of the Constitution Act 1986 simply states that a Bill becomes law when the Governor-General signs it, implying they must do so.

Recent examples of ceremonial presidents using their powers include the German federal president referring a Bill back to the German parliament, a referendum in Iceland ordered by their president and the President of Ireland's referral of Bills to the Irish Supreme Court.

The Republican Movement is a network of New Zealanders who want our head of state to be elected by New Zealanders - either directly or indirectly.

We are committed to:

* involving all New Zealanders in the republic debate;

* providing relevant and reliable information;

* focusing on ideas, not personalities;

* winning a referendum to establish the republic;

Creating a republic does not require any change to the Treaty of Waitangi, flag or Commonwealth membership. For more information, see our website: www.republic.org.nz [1]


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