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Gareth Hughes speaks on Royal Succession Bill - Second reading

Gareth Hughes MP
Gareth Hughes MP
gareth [dot] hughes [at] parliament [dot] govt [dot] nz (Email)
"The Royal Succession Bill is a relic of the past. It is an anachronism. It is a too little, too late measure by the monarchy. It is a relic of the past. It is high time that New Zealand moved on. We are like that stereotypical kid; that 30-year-old who is still living at home. It is time for New Zealand to leave the parents’ house, get a flat on our own, and maybe get some furniture of our own. Sure, it is a bit cruisy at home, you do not have to pay the bills, and maybe you do not even have to do the washing, but it is time to move out of home."
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GARETH HUGHES (Green): Kia ora, Mr Deputy Speaker. Ngā mihi nui ki a katou. Kia ora. Following on from the member Maryan Street, I definitely hope we do not have to wait 479 years to finally get our constitution, to get our house in order. The Royal Succession Bill is a relic of the past. It is an anachronism. It is a too little, too late measure by the monarchy. It is a relic of the past. It is high time that New Zealand moved on. We are like that stereotypical kid; that 30-year-old who is still living at home. It is time for New Zealand to leave the parents' house, get a flat on our own, and maybe get some furniture of our own. Sure, it is a bit cruisy at home, you do not have to pay the bills, and maybe you do not even have to do the washing, but it is time to move out of home. It is time to stand on our own two feet. So I am rising to abstain on the Royal Succession Bill. I am quite happy and proud to be abstaining on this bill.

Hon Tau Henare: You came here to vote yes or no.

GARETH HUGHES: I cannot vote for a bill that enshrines discrimination, Mr Tau Henare. I cannot vote for a bill that the Labour Party said was a shuddering horror. I cannot vote for that, but I am also not going to vote against modernising and against ending sexist, discriminatory practices, which are what we have seen for hundreds of years under the discriminatory monarchy. So what the Greens have decided to do is to abstain on this bill. What we will be doing is not voting for discrimination, but we are not voting against the modernisation of a discriminatory institution. [Interruption] I think what we have seen is a hornet's nest of interjections taking off from both sides of the House. But I want to get to the substance of the bill. We want to acknowledge that the bill does do some good things. It is a modernising bill. It allows female first-borns to take the throne. It reduces the list of heirs whom the monarch can limit from marrying, which dates back to 1772, I understand. But the Greens, as I have outlined, will be abstaining on it. We cannot support discrimination, but we are not opposing a modernisation process. We would challenge other people—and I would like to be there on the barricades with Andrew Little. An abstention is a—

Hon Tau Henare: Take your paua, take your crayfish, and leave.

GARETH HUGHES: Mr Henare, an abstention is a perfectly legitimate parliamentary vote. And what I would have preferred—if members had voted for Keith Locke's referendum on the head of State bill, what we could be having is an actual conversation about where we go forward. This is a relic. It is an anachronism. I do not think that the member should be voting for such an old-fashioned, discriminatory institution. This bill is quite simply too little, too late. The entire institution is corrupt. It is inside. It is an institution that has no place in 2013. It is simply incredibly that we are finally getting rid of that sexist, discriminatory primogeniture rule, which has been around for hundreds of years, in 2013. We have seen women's liberation for decades in New Zealand, and this Parliament and the other of the 16 realms that also have to pass this legislation are getting around to it only now.

It is a discriminatory institution, and that is why I cannot support it. What New Zealanders want is, I believe, particularly the younger generation, to see a Kiwi head of State. What this bill does is discriminate against New Zealanders, because what we are seeing is an English head of State for New Zealand. She is called the monarch of New Zealand, but, as we saw with the Iraq war, where Britain went to war and we did not, she was the monarch of Britain, not New Zealand, representing our interests abroad. This is a monarch who has been in New Zealand, I understand, only around 10 times. She lives a life fundamentally different from New Zealanders'. I think we should end the discrimination and allow a New Zealander to be our head of State.

Secondly, this bill discriminates against Roman Catholics, which we have heard about in this debate. When you look around this Chamber, it is not the old relic Tau Henare who is the only relic in this Chamber; we have got relics like the Mace, and we have got relics like the iconography of the monarchy and the prayer we start with. Again, that is an Anglican prayer, and it is time to ditch that discriminatory, sectarian way we start our Parliament. We should have a way that all members of all faiths or members not of faith can feel comfortable with. This bill clearly discriminates against Catholics, because the monarch cannot be a Catholic. They have to be part of the Anglican faith. It is fascinating watching the religious schism from the Protestant revolution still shaping our laws and our constitutional arrangements in 2013. Lastly, although it is a modernisation and improvement that the monarch does not have to personally approve literally hundreds of marriages between potential future heirs—it has been limited to six—plainly and simply, what we are seeing is arranged marriage. I cannot for vote for a bill that contains arranged marriage. I think it is egregious and should not be enshrined in New Zealand or Commonwealth law. But, all in all—

Hon Tau Henare: What happened with the Rena? Oh, yeah, that's all gone.

GARETH HUGHES: I know it is the last day of the year, but I am going to try to ignore some of those inane interjections. What we are talking about is our constitutional arrangements, and what I want to see is a proud, independent New Zealand going into the future with confidence. I do not want to see a New Zealand that looks to the past. I heard the member Scott Simpson say we are a young country. In reality, we are the fourth oldest parliamentary democracy in the world. We should be proud of our institutions, but it is time—that stereotypical adult child—to be leaving home to go and get our own house. I think New Zealanders want an independent head of State who is a New Zealander, who grew up in a country like them, who knows about the country's history, and who can represent New Zealand values on the world stage. It is time for New Zealanders to feel proud of a Treaty-based inclusive democracy that does not have a head of State living on the other side of the world, who very rarely travels here, and who knows very little about our day-to-day life.

It is time that we listened to the people of New Zealand and had a genuine debate around the Treaty. As a member who supports the Treaty of Waitangi, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, as our founding document, I want to see that enshrined in our constitutional arrangements. For too long the relationship between the Crown and iwi in the Treaty has been used as an excuse to not see action. Many petitions over the decades have gone to Westminster to see the Queen and, quite appropriately for our constitution arrangements under the 1947 Statute of Westminster Adoption Act, the Queen has referred iwi petitioners to the New Zealand Parliament. The Crown, in New Zealand statute, is enshrined in the monarch's representative, the Governor-General, and the House of Representatives. This is the Crown. If we are going to proceed into the future as a proud, multicultural nation that sees the Treaty at the heart of our constitutional arrangements and political Government, what we need to do is ditch that chimera that the Queen is somehow in a representative relationship with us. For 60 years she has batted those questions back to New Zealand.

What I want to see is a true Treaty-based Parliament. We have got that old Upper House chamber. I would love to see a Treaty House of Parliament. What we have not seen in this debate, and what we have not seen in the constitutional debate set up by the Government, is a fundamental question: how do we embrace a Treaty nation? [Interruption] Although Tau Henare is not the only relic we see in this Chamber, it is high time for New Zealand to go into the future with confidence. It is time to change some of this archaic iconography around this House. It is time to change our flag. It is time to change our constitutional arrangement. It is time to see a Kiwi as a head of State, a Kiwi representing New Zealand, a Kiwi doing us proud, and a Kiwi that New Zealanders can vote for.

We do not want a monarch on the other side of the world. We want a new flag. We want a fairer, democratic, less discriminatory constitutional arrangement. New Zealanders want a proud, independent nation that stands on the world stage as a proud, independent nation, representing ourselves, not a monarch on the other side of the world. That is the future. It is my vision for New Zealand—a future that all New Zealanders can participate in, not just a discriminatory anachronism, a too-late relic of the past enshrined in this bill. Kia ora.

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