Verity Johnson: Queen is fine for Britain, just not New Zealand

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Having the Queen as our head of state has gone out of fashion.  Photo / AP
Having the Queen as our head of state has gone out of fashion. Photo / AP

There are several unanswered Christmas questions.

One, can men cry when watching Vicar of Dibley? If not, don't worry, bro, we'll just blame the Baileys. Two, can you be rude to a wizened relation who repeatedly calls you your mum's name? Three, if I sing at one volume, one speed and on one note, can I be excused from carols?

But the most important is: do we stay up for the Queen's speech?

My family decreed that we would. But being the hard-core teen I am I'd fallen asleep by 10.30. That was lucky because my anti-monarchy sniping normally causes fruit to be thrown.

I'm not recklessly republican. I think Britain needs a Queen. I just don't think New Zealand does.

The whole do-we-stay-up-for-the-Queen debate reminded me of another occasion Her Majesty intruded into New Zealand: my citizenship ceremony.

My private school education has trained me to expect every ceremony will be a stuffy English-esque affair; an event with all the bubbliness of a state funeral and double the pomp. But my citizenship ceremony was a diamond occasion; it was a night that crystallised the fun, friendly, free spirit of this country.

So you can imagine my annoyance when I had to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

I could feel The Firm reaffirming its grip on its rebellious Australasian children. We were in danger of forming our independent identity and Britain needed to return to remind us who Daddy was.

I'm 18 and everyone my age wants to know: what does the monarchy actually do for New Zealand?

Our Prime Minister, Governor-General and Finance Minister are all Kiwis. We have our own Parliament, justice system and laws. What do we need from the monarchy except juicy gossip?

When my friends and I discuss it, we can't figure out what the Queen does. She's like a consultant: no one knows what they do.

We're not just being rebellious teenagers, in 2002 58 per cent of Kiwis thought the Queen had little or no relevance to their lives.

An affiliation with the Crown is understandable for previous generations; our grandparents would mostly have had British passports. Our parents at least had trading links with the UK and would have been called "British subjects" until 1977.

But Australia and China are our biggest trade partners now, and in the past 50 years New Zealand has begun to seriously define its own identity. We have our own sports stars, adventurers, authors and actors. We gave women the vote before England, we said no to America over nuclear arms, and we win rugby world cups.

We're are certainly not British subjects. We're Kiwis.

Frankly, I think it's a little patronising that England still imposes its Queen on us. It implies that New Zealand is a backward rock, not able or not trustworthy enough to lead itself.

It also reeks of a British superiority complex. By imposing their Queen on us it implies Britons see New Zealand as another of their inferior colonies. Britain doesn't see us as an equal independent country. And however much I admire her hats, I can't let Her Majesty tell me my country is inferior.

The entire concept of her being our Queen is rooted in imperialism.

This went out of fashion when everyone realised the rudeness of rocking up to a country and telling everyone to shove off because the English are taking over. The Queen represents an antiquated, arrogant approach to other countries rooted in the assumption mother England knows best.

Why is a foreigner our head of state? Are we not allowed to rule our own country? Can the British still be allowed to act as though New Zealand is no more than a pet on an elastic lead?

I don't detest the Queen, she seems a lovely woman. And I fervently hope the royals stay rooted in English culture. Who else can I read about in Woman's Weekly if Kate Middleton loses her job? I just don't want her to be Queen of New Zealand.

I certainly don't want to take an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

When I became a citizen, I swore I would respect and honour the spirit of New Zealand. I should take an oath to Kate Sheppard, or Edmund Hillary or Katherine Mansfield.

The Queen's rule in New Zealand is a throwback to England's empire. I shouldn't be swearing allegiance to the concept of New Zealand as a royal lapdog. We're St Bernards, not corgis.

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