Here is Harry Lusk – Keith Lockes’ Youth MP – giving a General Debate speech at Youth Parliament last month.
My speech is based on one simple question: should the New Zealand people not have the right to elect whoever holds the highest position in our land? I speak to you, my fellow youth parliamentarians, concerned with the fact that none of you could ever be our head of State. Supposedly many people in this room will be the leaders of tomorrow, but that is only to a certain extent. I think it is absurd that the current head of Aotearoa New Zealand is someone who was not born here, who has not lived here, and whose children have an automatic right to rule over us. How many of you think Prince Charles could even perform the haka, let alone at Kate’s party? New Zealand should become a republic and move on from our ailing links with the so-called motherland, a land that is becoming further distant from our own culture and identity down here in the South Pacific. How is it fair that young New Zealanders cannot aspire to work in the highest office of the land, and how is it democratic that only one member of one family will always be the head of State of our nation?
The closest a Kiwi can get to becoming our head of State is if she pushes Kate Middleton aside and marries Prince William. New Zealanders should be able to choose someone who represents their values—someone truly Kiwi and someone we can identify with. It is our time, our responsibility, and in our best interests to push for a new chapter in our country’s identity. I mean no disrespect to our parents’ generation, but they have left this issue in the too-hard basket when it is not that difficult. I understand the argument “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And do not get me wrong; the Queen is a highly regarded world leader, but do we seriously think there is no New Zealander who can step up to that role? Shame on anyone who has that view. We have to stop underestimating ourselves.
I know that some people have a concern that the Treaty of Waitangi will be affected by any move to a republic, but that is bollocks. We do not require the Queen to keep us in line. The Government has an obligation to honour the Treaty, with or without the Queen, and it would be a very silly Government that chose to dishonour the indigenous people of this land.
I respect that there are many differing views on the republic issue, but I do not accept the argument that it is not important for us to deal with. Who our leaders are is an important question because it shows the world who we are and what we stand for. Gone are the days when we were the little brother of Great Britain. Aotearoa New Zealand has its own unique identity, and I live in hope that in my lifetime one of the people in this very room will be our head of State.