Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

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Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby LtNOWIS » Fri Jul 15, 2011 11:08 am UTC

A Maori member of the New Zealand Parliament refused to read the oath of allegiance to the Queen, and was removed from the chamber.

From the BBC:
Spoiler:
Maori MP Hone Harawira refuses Queen allegiance

Supporters in the public galleries sung as Mr Harawira left the chamber - Footage courtesy NZ Parliament TV
Continue reading the main story

A Maori MP has been thrown out of New Zealand's parliament for refusing to read the oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II.

Hone Harawira began reading his own oath in Maori, which instead swore allegiance to the Treaty of Waitangi - New Zealand's founding document.

The parliamentary speaker stopped him and told him to leave the chamber.

Mr Harawira said he was disappointed to be ejected, and promised to take the oath next month.

"To have the speaker of the House deny the treaty as part of my affirmation is a signal of exactly where we are and where we go as a people," he told the New Zealand Herald.

He said there had been "scope for the oath of affirmation to proceed", and criticised the speaker for not letting him continue.

The Treaty of Waitangi is the agreement signed by the British government and Maori leaders in 1840.

It has been the source of controversy ever since, because the Maori and English versions appear to differ on key points.

In the English version, the Maori leaders ceded full sovereignty; but the Maori version has the word translated as "governance".


There's a nice video too.

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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby Mechanicus » Fri Jul 15, 2011 11:21 am UTC

The rationale for this is that in the Commonwealth realms swearing an oath to the Queen is the equivalent of swearing an oath to the flag or the constitution - they are all embodiments of the state and as such are above politics.

Of course, it's rarely as simple as that.

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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby Dark567 » Fri Jul 15, 2011 2:17 pm UTC

Mechanicus wrote:The rationale for this is that in the Commonwealth realms swearing an oath to the Queen is the equivalent of swearing an oath the flag or the constitution - they are all embodiments of the state and as such are above politics.
Maybe for the flag, but not for the constitution. Swearing an oath to the flag, is completely symbolic. Swearing an oath to oath to the constitution isn't, the politician is bound by law to uphold it. I suspect swearing an oath to the queen is similar to the former, not the latter. Unless the MP is bound by law from following edicts from the Queen.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby Diadem » Fri Jul 15, 2011 6:34 pm UTC

Dark567 wrote:
Mechanicus wrote:The rationale for this is that in the Commonwealth realms swearing an oath to the Queen is the equivalent of swearing an oath the flag or the constitution - they are all embodiments of the state and as such are above politics.
Maybe for the flag, but not for the constitution. Swearing an oath to the flag, is completely symbolic. Swearing an oath to oath to the constitution isn't, the politician is bound by law to uphold it. I suspect swearing an oath to the queen is similar to the former, not the latter. Unless the MP is bound by law from following edicts from the Queen.

Not really. Swearing an oath to the queen is an explicit endorsement of the monarchy. The queen is not a neutral symbol, she doesn't just represent the country, she represents a political system. It's very similar to swearing an oath on the bible. It's an expression of belief.

It should be perfectly acceptable to not swear an oath on her as a MP. I'm surprised he was ejected, is that even constitutional? I know nothing on New Zealand's laws or political system, but that sounds surprisingly undemocratic.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby sourmìlk » Fri Jul 15, 2011 6:41 pm UTC

Well if you have to swear allegiance to the queen then it sounds more like a parliamentary monarchy than a democracy.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby Radical_Initiator » Fri Jul 15, 2011 6:46 pm UTC

sourmìlk wrote:Well if you have to swear allegiance to the queen then it sounds more like a parliamentary monarchy than a democracy.


Which is what NZ is, IIRC? I mean, I think there has been talk of republicanism in the past, but as far as I can tell, that's the current system.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby Jahoclave » Fri Jul 15, 2011 7:17 pm UTC

sourmìlk wrote:Well if you have to swear allegiance to the queen then it sounds more like a parliamentary monarchy than a democracy.

Sounds more like colonial repression of the native peoples. Oh right, sometimes these things transcend modern politics.

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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby sourmìlk » Fri Jul 15, 2011 7:19 pm UTC

Jahoclave wrote:
sourmìlk wrote:Well if you have to swear allegiance to the queen then it sounds more like a parliamentary monarchy than a democracy.

Sounds more like colonial repression of the native peoples. Oh right, sometimes these things transcend modern politics.

I'm not sure I get your point here.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby Jahoclave » Fri Jul 15, 2011 7:37 pm UTC

sourmìlk wrote:
Jahoclave wrote:
sourmìlk wrote:Well if you have to swear allegiance to the queen then it sounds more like a parliamentary monarchy than a democracy.

Sounds more like colonial repression of the native peoples. Oh right, sometimes these things transcend modern politics.

I'm not sure I get your point here.

Maori is a native of the area. The Queen represents a colonialist power. I'm really thinking the issue is not whether they're a parliamentary monarchy or a democracy, but rather the Queen represents a negative institution to the Maori people.

I'm just pointing out what is more likely the real issue.

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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby sourmìlk » Fri Jul 15, 2011 8:21 pm UTC

Jahoclave wrote:
sourmìlk wrote:
Jahoclave wrote:
sourmìlk wrote:Well if you have to swear allegiance to the queen then it sounds more like a parliamentary monarchy than a democracy.

Sounds more like colonial repression of the native peoples. Oh right, sometimes these things transcend modern politics.

I'm not sure I get your point here.

Maori is a native of the area. The Queen represents a colonialist power. I'm really thinking the issue is not whether they're a parliamentary monarchy or a democracy, but rather the Queen represents a negative institution to the Maori people.

I'm just pointing out what is more likely the real issue.

Oh. I was making no guess as to the MP's motives for choosing not to swear allegiance to the queen. I was simply stating that forcing him to was not a democratic thing to do.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby Lazar » Fri Jul 15, 2011 8:48 pm UTC

sourmìlk wrote:Oh. I was making no guess as to the MP's motives for choosing not to swear allegiance to the queen. I was simply stating that forcing him to was not a democratic thing to do.

It's no less democratic than requiring someone to swear/affirm their allegiance to the United States or another republican country. In the British (and New Zealand) political system, the monarch is the embodiment of the country's sovereignty.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby Dark567 » Fri Jul 15, 2011 8:53 pm UTC

Lazar wrote:(and New Zealand) political system, the monarch is the embodiment of the country's sovereignty.
This makes no sense to me. How can another countries Monarch be considered the embodiment of the country's sovereignty?
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby sourmìlk » Fri Jul 15, 2011 8:55 pm UTC

Lazar wrote:
sourmìlk wrote:Oh. I was making no guess as to the MP's motives for choosing not to swear allegiance to the queen. I was simply stating that forcing him to was not a democratic thing to do.

It's no less democratic than requiring someone to swear/affirm their allegiance to the United States or another republican country. In the British (and New Zealand) political system, the monarch is the embodiment of the country's sovereignty.


Except when you affirm allegiance to a country, you're just saying you'll act in the best interest of the country. If you swear allegiance to a person, then you vow to do whatever a person tells you to. That's a huge difference.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby Lazar » Fri Jul 15, 2011 8:56 pm UTC

Dark567 wrote:This makes no sense to me. How can another countries Monarch be considered the embodiment of the country's sovereignty?

She's the monarch of New Zealand (the relevant part here), and also the monarch of the UK and Canada and some other countries. New Zealand is free to change this and become a republic if they want to.

sourmìlk wrote:Except when you affirm allegiance to a country, you're just saying you'll act in the best interest of the country. If you swear allegiance to a person, then you vow to do whatever a person tells you to. That's a huge difference.

Well if you look it up on wiki, it says that you pledge your allegiance to the Queen "according to law", and according to the British constitutional doctrine of parliamentary supremacy, the source of laws is the parliament, not the monarch. The Queen has no power to order people to do extralegal things.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby sourmìlk » Fri Jul 15, 2011 9:04 pm UTC

Lazar wrote:
sourmìlk wrote:Except when you affirm allegiance to a country, you're just saying you'll act in the best interest of the country. If you swear allegiance to a person, then you vow to do whatever a person tells you to. That's a huge difference.

Well if you look it up on wiki, it says that you pledge your allegiance to the Queen "according to law"

Okay, but this only helps a little. That's great if somebody is going to obey the queen so long as it's legal, but there's still the problem of obeying the queen. All we've done is upgrade from dictatorship to constitutional monarchy. We've got a long way to go until democracy.

and according to the British constitutional doctrine of parliamentary supremacy, the source of laws is the parliament, not the monarch. The Queen has no power to order people to do extralegal things.

Kind of an interesting contradiction then.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby skeptical scientist » Fri Jul 15, 2011 9:04 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:I'm surprised he was ejected, is that even constitutional? I know nothing on New Zealand's laws or political system, but that sounds surprisingly undemocratic.

More info is available at the New Zealand Herald. Parliamentarians are required by law to give a specific oath, and he was ejected for attempting to give a different oath. However, other members of parliament have given different oaths in the past, and then been allowed to give the correct oath and remain, which was Harawira's plan. I'm not sure why he was ejected and not those others.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby Lazar » Fri Jul 15, 2011 9:07 pm UTC

sourmìlk wrote:Okay, but this only helps a little. That's great if somebody is going to obey the queen so long as it's legal, but there's still the problem of obeying the queen. All we've done is upgrade from dictatorship to constitutional monarchy. We've got a long way to go until democracy.

No, they're already there. A constitutional monarchy is one of multiple forms that a democratic society can take, along with republicanism and direct democracy.

Kind of an interesting contradiction then.

I'm not sure how exactly it's a contradiction, but it's the result of many centuries of political evolution. The English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution established that the monarch really has no power without the consent of parliament. Since at least the time of Victoria, the monarch has remained nothing more than a figurehead.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby Angua » Fri Jul 15, 2011 9:10 pm UTC

Sourmilk, I'm not sure if you understand that the Queen has basically been demoted to a figurehead. She does ceremonial things, but if for some reason she went insane and decided to try and behead people left, right and centre, no one would take any notice, and lock her up. Sure, it might defeat the original purpose of the monarchy, but that's what they do now. Times change, roles change, but generally the names left over seem to stay.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby sourmìlk » Fri Jul 15, 2011 9:21 pm UTC

Angua wrote:Sourmilk, I'm not sure if you understand that the Queen has basically been demoted to a figurehead. She does ceremonial things, but if for some reason she went insane and decided to try and behead people left, right and centre, no one would take any notice, and lock her up. Sure, it might defeat the original purpose of the monarchy, but that's what they do now. Times change, roles change, but generally the names left over seem to stay.


Their allegiance, then, does not match their actions. If they would not make laws according to the queen's will, then the oath is meaningless.

Lazar wrote:No, they're already there. A constitutional monarchy is one of multiple forms that a democratic society can take, along with republicanism and direct democracy.

This is true, if the elected members have any power. But they don't, as they must obey the queen, assuming they honor the oath.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby Radical_Initiator » Fri Jul 15, 2011 9:22 pm UTC

Angua wrote:Sourmilk, I'm not sure if you understand that the Queen has basically been demoted to a figurehead. She does ceremonial things, but if for some reason she went insane and decided to try and behead people left, right and centre, no one would take any notice, and lock her up. Sure, it might defeat the original purpose of the monarchy, but that's what they do now. Times change, roles change, but generally the names left over seem to stay.


Mostly. Don't forget when Governor-General of Australia Sir John Kerr dismissed the Whitlam government in 1975. Essentially, that was a very un-ceremonial display of royal prerogative.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby Angua » Fri Jul 15, 2011 9:30 pm UTC

Yes, there do seem to be the rare occasions of governor-general dismissing governments (I don't really know how that works, or what the factors are determining when and how it happens).
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby sigsfried » Fri Jul 15, 2011 9:37 pm UTC

Well it is in much the way that the Queen could just remove the PM. In reality it would require very unusual circumstances. In the Whitlam dismissal case that really had happened as the government had been defeated in a money bill, a de facto vote of confidence. Yet refused to resign.

Their allegiance, then, does not match their actions. If they would not make laws according to the queen's will, then the oath is meaningless.


Which is pretty much guaranteed to be the case whatever the oath. Let's say Britain changed the oath from the Queen to the flag. Are the SNP not allowed in parliament then (after all they are actively campaigning to bring about an end to the UK and hence the flag). That in many ways would be more damaging than the current system. Personally I think for such reasons such oaths make no sense but if there is one I actually find one to the Queen less damaging than one to most similar things.

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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby Lazar » Fri Jul 15, 2011 9:57 pm UTC

sourmìlk wrote:Their allegiance, then, does not match their actions. If they would not make laws according to the queen's will, then the oath is meaningless.

You're misinterpreting how this system works. The Queen's will has nothing to do with the writing or passing of laws - she has a reserve power of vetoing a law, but this hasn't been used since the time of Queen Anne IIRC. They pledge their allegiance to the Queen because she is, notionally, the executive in whose name all laws are carried out. They're not pledging to do what she says, because she never tells anyone to do anything.

This is true, if the elected members have any power. But they don't, as they must obey the queen, assuming they honor the oath.

This hasn't prevented other British dominions from abolishing the monarchy. But if it's really bugging you, I think a workaround would be rather easy in the form of a legal fiction: before abolishing the monarchy, they could just pass a law declaring themselves no longer bound by the oath.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby sourmìlk » Fri Jul 15, 2011 10:46 pm UTC

Lazar wrote:They're not pledging to do what she says, because she never tells anyone to do anything.

So, while it's technically a pledge to do what she says, because she never says anything it's purely symbolic?

But if it's really bugging you, I think a workaround would be rather easy in the form of a legal fiction: before abolishing the monarchy, they could just pass a law declaring themselves no longer bound by the oath.

That would put my mind at ease. All governments should reform themselves to suit my comfort.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby Angua » Fri Jul 15, 2011 11:34 pm UTC

sourmìlk wrote:Lazar wrote:
They're not pledging to do what she says, because she never tells anyone to do anything.

So, while it's technically a pledge to do what she says, because she never says anything it's purely symbolic?
Yes. And if she ever did say to do anything, they probably wouldn't do it unless they thought it was a good idea anyway.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby Diadem » Fri Jul 15, 2011 11:38 pm UTC

sourmìlk wrote:Well if you have to swear allegiance to the queen then it sounds more like a parliamentary monarchy than a democracy.

That's like saying: "Grass is not green, it's organic". The two are not mutually exclusive and in fact often go hand-in-hand.

Take a look at the Democracy index. Of the 87 countries classified as either 'hybrid regimes' or 'authoritarian regimes' only 11 are monarchies. Of the 53 countries classified as 'flawed democracy' 5 are monarchies. And of the 26 countries classified as full democracies 12 are monarchies. So nearly half of all full democracies are monarchies. Of all the other countries, only 15% are.

In fact 7 of the top 10 most democratic countries in the world are monarchies.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby sourmìlk » Sat Jul 16, 2011 12:06 am UTC

Okay, but if they're monarchies in the sense that England is a theocratic monarchy, then they're not actually monarchies. They just have a celebrity they like called the king or queen. The New Zealand oath gives the queen actual power.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby Angua » Sat Jul 16, 2011 12:11 am UTC

Believe it or not, someone can make an oath, and realise that the spirit of it can mean something other than the actual words that it says. The oath only has the power you give to it.

For the record, I'm only arguing against sourmilk who can't seem to grasp this concept. I think that if a Maori doesn't want to say an oath that does represent them swearing allegiance (however figuratively) to the symbol of colonialism then they should be allowed to say a similar, but different oath. However, the fact that the oath says that they'll do what the queen says is irrelevant when everyone knows the queen won't say anything and they wouldn't really do anything she asked anyway.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby sourmìlk » Sat Jul 16, 2011 12:13 am UTC

Angua wrote:Believe it or not, someone can make an oath, and realise that the spirit of it can mean something other than the actual words that it says. The oath only has the power you give to it.

If the oath is legally binding, then it must be taken literally. Is it not legally binding?

However, the fact that the oath says that they'll do what the queen says is irrelevant when everyone knows the queen won't say anything and they wouldn't really do anything she asked anyway.

This much I recognize. If the queen has the power, it's not like she's going to use it.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby Lazar » Sat Jul 16, 2011 12:30 am UTC

sourmìlk wrote:Okay, but if they're monarchies in the sense that England is a theocratic monarchy, then they're not actually monarchies. They just have a celebrity they like called the king or queen. The New Zealand oath gives the queen actual power.

You're aware that they swear an identical oath in Britain, right? For the purposes of this discussion you may as well substitute Britain for New Zealand (except for the Maori thing).

sourmìlk wrote:If the oath is legally binding, then it must be taken literally. Is it not legally binding?

I think it's only binding in that it excludes, say, treason, but that's illegal anyway. Which is to say, I think the significance of the oath is only ceremonial.

sourmìlk wrote:This much I recognize. If the queen has the power, it's not like she's going to use it.

I'm not sure if you're trying to be sarcastic here, but the monarch really doesn't have the power to dictate things willy nilly. Even if she went completely nuts, the most she could do is troll the parliament a bit - she couldn't make up her own laws or have people beheaded or anything. (Given the concept of royal assent, I'm honestly not sure how they would deal with the constitutional crisis of a completely insane monarch, but I think they'd figure something out.)

angua wrote:For the record, I'm only arguing against sourmilk who can't seem to grasp this concept.

Indeed, I'm totally sympathetic to this MP guy, and I'd probably be in favor of abolishing the monarchy if I was a citizen of New Zealand (or Britain).
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby sourmìlk » Sat Jul 16, 2011 12:36 am UTC

Lazar wrote:
sourmìlk wrote:Okay, but if they're monarchies in the sense that England is a theocratic monarchy, then they're not actually monarchies. They just have a celebrity they like called the king or queen. The New Zealand oath gives the queen actual power.

You're aware that they swear an identical oath in Britain, right? For the purposes of this discussion you may as well substitute Britain for New Zealand (except for the Maori thing).

Oh, I thought somebody said their was a difference. My understanding of british politics is, unsurprisingly, mistaken.

sourmìlk wrote:If the oath is legally binding, then it must be taken literally. Is it not legally binding?

I think it's only binding in that it excludes, say, treason, but that's illegal anyway. Which is to say, I think the significance of the oath is only ceremonial.

This is important. If the oath isn't legally binding then you're pretty much free to interpret it however.
sourmìlk wrote:This much I recognize. If the queen has the power, it's not like she's going to use it.

I'm not sure if you're trying to be sarcastic here, but the monarch really doesn't have the power to dictate things willy nilly. Even if she went completely nuts, the most she could do is troll the parliament a bit. She couldn't make up her own laws or have people beheaded or anything. (Given the concept of royal assent, I'm honestly not sure how they would deal with the constitutional crisis of a completely insane monarch, but I think they'd figure something out.)

Holy shit, that's some serious stuff. Apparently the Queen has the power to order military strikes, to appoint prime ministers, etc.

angua wrote:For the record, I'm only arguing against sourmilk who can't seem to grasp this concept.

Indeed, I'm totally sympathetic to this MP guy, and I'd probably be in favor of abolishing the monarchy if I was a citizen of New Zealand (or Britain).

To be clear: until I understand the significance of the oath then I am not going to form an opinion on the Moari guy and whether or not he should have said the oath.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby justaman » Sat Jul 16, 2011 1:16 am UTC

Basically the guy tried to swear an oath on the "Treaty of Waitangi" which is the agreement between the colonial power and the indigenous peoples of NZ - the english and maori versions of what was agreed to differ significantly... the english version has the Queen as the head of state and the authority to govern all people in the country. The maori version gave the Queen sovereignity but allowed Maori to govern their own affairs. There is much disagreement as to which is the correct interpretation, which is why Mr Harawira (who is a Maori radical, strongly opposed to "white" people being in NZ, by his own profession) was trying to swear allegiance to it.
Notably the treaty is not the basis of law in NZ, just the right of governance, so it cannot be sworn allegiance to.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby AJR » Sat Jul 16, 2011 1:29 am UTC

sourmìlk wrote:
Lazar wrote:
sourmìlk wrote:Okay, but if they're monarchies in the sense that England is a theocratic monarchy, then they're not actually monarchies. They just have a celebrity they like called the king or queen. The New Zealand oath gives the queen actual power.

You're aware that they swear an identical oath in Britain, right? For the purposes of this discussion you may as well substitute Britain for New Zealand (except for the Maori thing).

Oh, I thought somebody said their was a difference. My understanding of british politics is, unsurprisingly, mistaken.

There is, in fact, a similar situation in the UK: the Sinn Féin MPs, who don't take their seats despite having been elected as members. (Although they have said that even if the oath didn't exist they would still not take their seats because they reject the Westminster parliament's authority over Northern Ireland.)
sourmìlk wrote:This much I recognize. If the queen has the power, it's not like she's going to use it.

I'm not sure if you're trying to be sarcastic here, but the monarch really doesn't have the power to dictate things willy nilly. Even if she went completely nuts, the most she could do is troll the parliament a bit. She couldn't make up her own laws or have people beheaded or anything. (Given the concept of royal assent, I'm honestly not sure how they would deal with the constitutional crisis of a completely insane monarch, but I think they'd figure something out.)

Holy shit, that's some serious stuff. Apparently the Queen has the power to order military strikes, to appoint prime ministers, etc.

Well, technically so, but in reality the Royal prerogative powers are controlled by the government (i.e. the Queen exercises those powers "on the advice of her ministers", with the sole exception of a handful of ceremonial honours.) She appoints a prime minster on the basis of them having the support of a majority of MPs, the prime minster then decides who else to appoint to the cabinet, and they then decide how the prerogative powers are used. The whole Parliament-controls-the-monarch thing was settled over 300 years ago.

And if she actually goes completely nuts, there's legislation to deal with that.

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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby sourmìlk » Sat Jul 16, 2011 1:36 am UTC

And if she actually goes completely nuts, there's legislation to deal with that.

then I don't really have a problem with this oath, because if the Queen starts taking too much power you just say "she's gone nuts" and fire her.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby Diadem » Sat Jul 16, 2011 3:25 am UTC

sourmìlk wrote:Holy shit, that's some serious stuff. Apparently the Queen has the power to order military strikes, to appoint prime ministers, etc.

A lot of politics in Europe is based on tradition. Especially in England, who after nearly a thousand years still haven't gotten around to writing down their constitution.

Yes, the queen (or king in a few nations. Though surprisingly many monarchs are female in Europe) is the head of state. And she has very broad powers in theory. But in practice she is controlled by parliament. Sure, she could order a military strike. It wouldn't happen though. She would be quietely and politely told to mind her own business. If she insisted, she'd eventually be removed, either temporarily or permanently. A good example happened in Belgium in 1990. The monarch's signature is required on all laws, and they do not take effect until he has signed them. In theory that means he can block any law. In practice however it is understood that he signs everything. Laws are made by parliament, he doens't get to veto them. So what happens if he does? Well in 1990 King Boudewijn I of Belgium refused to sign a law legalizing abortion. This was resolved by declaring him unfit for office, having parliament sign the law, and declaring him fit for office again.

On the other hand she does have real power. Her power however is strictly limited by what other people are willing to let her get away with. Especially during and after elections these powers are quite big. The monarch is kind of like the lubricant of the election process. When a new coalition has to be formed by many polical parties who all hate eachother, the monarch takes the leading role in getting them around the table.

Here in The Netherlands, in theory the queen appoints the cabinet. And not just that, but she also appoints the informateur (the person charged with leading coalition negotiations between parties) and the formateur (the guy charged with forming an actual coalition once the intitial talks lead by the informateur are going somewhere). This power is not just symbolical. Our queen has been known to sometimes come up with surprising names for those positions. And in Belgium the current king is very active in keeping all the parties talking, despite the seeming hopelessness of the situation.

But that power is still not unlimited. She can't stop parties from talking to eachother, and if they reach an agreement they will form a coalition with our without her support. This would lead to a constitutional crisis. Basically what a constitutional crisis means is: "Our constitution says X, but that is stupid so we are now going to do Y". Usually they have to do with the monarchy, and the monarch always loses these.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby sourmìlk » Sat Jul 16, 2011 4:31 am UTC

So, any power a monarch has she only has as long as people are okay with her having it, so she doesn't actually have power not mandated by the people, making her a population approved (and thus nearly-elected) official?

Also, I cannot imagine a constitutional crisis happening in america here. People fetishize the constitution like it's the word of God around here. Mind you, I'm not necessarily opposed to that: I think that it's actually a rather nice document and has reasonable provisions for making alterations. But we could really do without the senate, which is in no way a democratic body. Why does a Rhode Islander have 30 times more senate voting power than I do? (Well, infinitely more because I'm a minor.)

But I digress.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby LtNOWIS » Sat Jul 16, 2011 8:07 am UTC

sourmìlk wrote:
And if she actually goes completely nuts, there's legislation to deal with that.

then I don't really have a problem with this oath, because if the Queen starts taking too much power you just say "she's gone nuts" and fire her.

That actually happened in 1688, almost a hundred years before Captain Cook first visited New Zealand. The Parliament threw out the king of England in favor of his daughter and her husband, who they liked better. Then when she and her sister died, Parliament gave the throne to the relatively distant cousin Georg Ludwig of Hanover, rather than the surviving son of the deposed king who was actively trying to retake the throne from Europe. So the line of monarchs for a good chunk of British history, and the entire post-colonization history of New Zealand was chosen not by blood or divine right, but by the legislature.

So yeah, if the British monarchy ever became seriously unpopular in any of the countries where it's "in charge," it would most certainly "leave power."

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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby skeptical scientist » Sat Jul 16, 2011 9:17 am UTC

LtNOWIS wrote:That actually happened in 1688, almost a hundred years before Captain Cook first visited New Zealand. The Parliament threw out the king of England in favor of his daughter and her husband, who they liked better.
...
So yeah, if the British monarchy ever became seriously unpopular in any of the countries where it's "in charge," it would most certainly "leave power."

I can't really imagine them throwing out one monarch in favor of another in this day and age, however. I'd guess they would just scrap the whole archaic institution instead.
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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby aldonius » Sat Jul 16, 2011 9:57 am UTC

@sourmilk (tangential wrt Rhode Island Senate power): The way it works is that the big states (by population) 'control' the House of Reps by sheer number of members. So to balance it out for the little states, the Senate has equal members per state, to prevent the little states from being dominated by the big ones. This, of course, comes from a time when home-state/home-district allegiance would generally trump party allegiance.

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Re: Maori MP refuses to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Postby sourmìlk » Sat Jul 16, 2011 10:00 am UTC

aldonius wrote:@sourmilk (tangential wrt Rhode Island Senate power): The way it works is that the big states (by population) 'control' the House of Reps by sheer number of members. So to balance it out for the little states, the Senate has equal members per state, to prevent the little states from being dominated by the big ones.

Yeah, this is undemocratic. A small states shouldn't have as much voting power anywhere because there are less people.
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