Myth: The Queen and Governor-General are Powerless
Perhaps the most common misconception regarding the monarchy is the idea of the monarch as a figurehead. This implies that the monarch, or the Governor-General, has no real power. For some presidents, such as the presidents of Ireland and of Israel, this is actually the case. They are truly figureheads. They have virtually no capacity to act on their own, and no emergency reserve powers.
Queen Elizabeth II and her Governors-General are not powerless. They have the capacity to act in emergencies when necessary. Fortunately, political emergencies have been rare in New Zealand history. This is not the case in most of the rest of the world. Our system of government encourages stability, which is a big part of why there have been very few political crises. If a crisis were to occur, the Queen, or the Governor-General, could act to ensure that the voters of New Zealand have the chance to resolve the situation through an election. The Queen’s most important power, and that of the Governor-General, is the ability to call a new election and hear what the people of New Zealand want.
The fact that this has not been necessary so far does not mean that it will never be necessary. Having a fire extinguisher is a good idea, even if your house is not on fire at the moment!
Myth: Democracy has nothing to do with the monarchy in NZ
Some people have tried to argue that the stability and security of our democracy in New Zealand is not related to the monarchy. However, there is actually quite a bit of evidence which indicates that a nation’s system of government is very important. A number of political studies have been undertaken over the past few years that reveal some important facts. It is known that the length of time a nation has been a democracy is no indication of its future stability. Popular support for democracy in a nation is also not a factor. The belief that there is some “democratic ethos” which will protect our political system is naive and is not based on solid evidence. The strength of democracy in New Zealand is based on a number of factors; the most important is its political structure.
Our political structure has been tested in more than 30 countries around the world, and for well over a century. Virtually no other system can claim the same experience.
The monarchy is the foundation of New Zealand’s political structure. It impacts upon virtually every aspect of our politics, laws, and freedoms. To suggest that we can remove this foundation is to risk bringing the roof down on the heads of all kiwis. Our constitutional monarchy has been a key component in nourishing our democracy. This structure has defended our freedoms in centuries past, and will continue to do so in the centuries to come.
Myth: “Minimal changes” are harmless
Minor constitutional change is an oxymoron. Whenever a structure of government is being modified it is very important to make sure the changes are safe and sensible. Removing a piece of our government is akin to removing a part from the engine of a car and expecting it to run properly.
Our system of government was designed to operate as a monarchy. The crown is an important part of our government and works at the very centre of the structure. Removing it or swapping it for some untested idea is unwise. There is no reason to assume that the structure will continue to operate the same way it did before. In fact, there is lots of evidence to show that minor changes can have unforeseen repercussions and can destabilise the whole structure.
History is littered with failed constitutions and today many nations suffer from bad governments. There are many factors which have contributed to these problems, but the design of their constitutional engine is certainly one component. Ours is a reliable, efficient V8 that runs incredibly well. We shouldn’t trade it for a yet-to-be-designed two-stroke alternative!