Why Do We Need A Republic At All?
Our representative democracy is not working as it should and as sure as night follows day New Zealand will follow Australia and we'll be debating whether to become a republic.
But why do we need a republic at all?
Put simply, people are peeved with a system which does not appear to be working for them.
Our modern-day politicians continually tell us that Parliament is sovereign; that it can do no wrong; that its decisions cannot be challenged. That once they're elected, they have our mandate for the next three years.
The result of this doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty at all costs, is to make citizens more vulnerable than they may think to the arbitrary will of the Government.
As Lord Scarman put it; "So long as English law is unable in any circumstances to challenge a statute, it is, in dangerous and difficult times, at the mercy of the oppressive or discriminatory statute."
But New Zealand remains the last bastion of western Parliamentary supremacy. Other nations have balanced the inequality between the state and the citizen by structural safeguards of various kinds. These include a judicial function of striking down legislation which infringes fundamental rights.
That course was proposed in the White Paper " A Bill of Rights for New Zealand (1985) AJHR A6, but was rejected.
Today, the executive government has captured a disproportionate level of power through the use of conventions, the use of urgency to bring Bills forward and subvert the select committee and public submissions process, their ability to use proxy votes, their voting bloc in caucus and the party whipping system over MP's.
Yet representative democracy has, as a first principle, the informed consent vote or, at the very least, consultation
But MP's can even jump ship to another party without sanction. So much for the "informed consent vote or consultation" with electors.
Moreover, there is simply too much legislation being pushed through Parliament which does not meet the criteria of representative democracy.
In its 1995 Annual Report to Parliament the NZ Law Commission expressed concerns that; " Too much legislation is wrongly focused and fails to address the issue it is meant to; some legislation is unnecessary; much is hastily introduced with fundamental issues still to be addressed when bill's go to select committe's; much is inaccessible or hard to understand; and some is not in accord with constitutional principles."
Most of the important principles for representative democracy are already enshrined. Magna Carta, The Act of Settlement, the Statute of Westminster, the Habeus Corpus Acts, the Petition of Right , the Bill of Rights 1688 are but some instances.
These laws show starkly how far New Zealand has deviated from the fundamentals. If a nation is to be successful and is to enjoy an effective legal system, there must be some agreement as to the basic principles which limits the power of the legislature which has become dangerously illimitable.