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What's the Queen trusted with? II
In response to the above question posed on this blog the other day, Karl du Fresne writes:
"The Queen is New Zealand's head of state. Lewis, as a republican, doesn't think she should be, but unfortunately for him that's the reality - at least until such time as he can persuade New Zealanders to dump her, which at present they show no great inclination to do.
As long as she remains our head of state, New Zealanders trust her to behave with personal decorum and constitutional propriety. They expect her not to meddle in politics and not to bring dishonour on the Crown by, say, engaging in criminal or immoral acts or getting chummy with despots (beyond what is required of her by traditional diplomatic niceties, unpleasant as they may sometimes be - like hosting Robert Mugabe).
I don't think it's unrealistic to argue that if the Queen did any of the above things, it would have a destabilising effect on the whole constitutional/governmental structure that could reach as far as New Zealand. So yes, I think it is important that New Zealanders should feel they can trust her. Lewis shouldn't allow his republican sentiments to cloud the reality of our constitutional arrangements.
My response is:
I'm not suggesting the Queen should act in such a way that breaks 400 year old constitutional conventions; however, it is exactly because of those traditions I raise the question - it goes the question of why we have an absentee monarch as our head of state in the first place.
It's a nonsense to say we trust the Queen not to meddle in our politics or commit criminal acts. It's the same as saying we trust the Sultan of Brunei not to intervene in our politics - trust implies a relationship of reliance, something that does not exist outside of Bagehotite constitutional theory.
Legally the Queen cannot actually commit criminal acts and could never be tried for them - the Queen as Sovereign is above the law (hence the saying "the Queen can do no wrong").
The truth of the matter is that while being our head of State, New Zealanders have nothing to trust the Queen with. The Governor-General is our de facto head of State, they're the one who are trusted with ensuring the continuity of Government. The Queen has shown - by not intervening in a plethora of coups and constitutional crisis throughout the Commonwealth - to be unable to act when the going gets tough.
Furthermore, the Queen never represents New Zealand overseas. At the battle of Passchendaele commemorations, it was the Governor-General who represented New Zealand, not the Queen, who represented the UK. Instead we send our uber-diplomat, the Governor-General, to do that job.
Will await the response...