31 July 1999
by John Howard
Researcher - The Magna Carta Society
From time to time the issue of whether New Zealand should become a republic is raised by some of our politicians, notably Mike Moore and Jenny Shipley.
It is ironic, therefore, that on the same day the leader of Australia's republican movement, Janet Holmes a Court, was speaking out strongly for a republic and who should be the first President, half a world away Congressmen Ron Paul and Jack Metcalf introduced legislation into their House of Representatives which will restrict the "executive order" law-making powers of the United States President which can override Congress and the Senate.
Ms Holmes a Court, Australia's richest women, urged people to feel their nationhood and said wherever she was on the planet there was a gigantic elastic band which pulled her back to the smell of eucalyptus, the dry wind, the red dust and the salt spray of her nation.
Her number one choice for Australia's first President is Sir William Deane, the present Governor-General.
The referendum on the Australian republic will be held on November 6.
Meanwhile, Congressmen Paul and Metcalf say their system of checks and balances between the co-equal branches of Government established under the Constitution has grown drastically out of balance.
Congressman Paul says the most glaring example of the out-of-balance system is the power of the president to create laws through the use of the "Executive Order."
The errors of the past, whether distant or recent, should not be reason to leave the future shackled to reckless policies grown from disdainful philosophies, he said.
"I have introduced the Seperation of Powers Restoration Act which will prohibit a presidential order from having the effect of law unless it is within the scope of strictly controlled directives. In addition it repeals the 1973 War Powers Act which - despite the constitutional prohibition - granted broad war-making authority to the president, Congressman Paul said.
"Further, the legislation suspends all of the "national emergencies" which have been declared since 1976 when Congress last cancelled them. Still on the books are emergencies relating to Iraq and the Soviet bloc . These emergency declarations give a president, one person, great authority even if the situation no longer presents a threat to national security," he said.
"Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the legislation grants legal standing to individual Members of Congress and Senators, state officials and, of course private citizens who believe a president's Executive Order has overstepped constitutional bounds and negatively impacted their rights, their property and their business," Congressman Paul said.
In reality, both Australia and New Zealand have been truly independent from the British Crown for decades. The Queen, apart from the Reserve Powers including the prerogative of mercy, does not have substantial powers.
However if Australia or, indeed, New Zealand goes towards a republic, people will need to ensure that the powers of any future president are strictly limited, but also strictly divided among the three co-equal branches each with unique and limited powers and each with a co-equal duty to uphold and sustain them.
That way each branch has the ability to check the abuses of power by the others.
But first, New Zealand politicians must be made to either honour and uphold our existing constitutional laws and principles or the people need to write and agree to another power-limiting constitution.