Time for a change – Selecting a Governor-General for all New Zealanders

We’re calling for a change to the way that Governor-Generals are selected.

At the moment the Prime Minister decides, without needing to consult with any other party in parliament. This is a pretty old fashioned system that doesn’t reflect the modern MMP environment. It’s hard to see why we shouldn’t have a new, more democratic process.

We’d like to see an updated process where the government works closely with all other political parties on a list of nominees to reach consensus. There’d then be a vote of parliament that would need to get the support of 75 percent of MPs.

We need to transform politics to bring it up to speed with what people expect, and deserve – politics built on consensus, openness, and something that represents their wide views.

This would be much more appropriate for MMP parliament, where it’s not just up to the whims of the largest party. This change would help us to select a Governor-General who could represent all New Zealanders, not just someone who sits well with the Prime Minister of the day.

It would also surely give the Governor-General a much stronger vote of confidence knowing that the vast majority of parliament supports the appointment.

This isn’t a new call for us. Back in 2010 when Parliament was considering a bill making minor changes to the office of the Governor-General, former Green MP Keith Locke tried to include an amendment for the appointment to require support from 75 percent of parliament. Unfortunately the amendment was ruled to be outside the narrow scope of the bill so there wasn’t a vote on it.

Victoria University Law lecturer Dean Knight has been working on this issue for a while. He argues that the nature of the functions of the Governor-General, as a guardian of the political and parliamentary process, means there should be consensus across political parties about the appointment.

The call for consensus has been supported in the media today too. Larry Williams is in favour of a parliamentary vote, and Barry Soper has written a great piece on the situation:

“So Dame Patsy Reddy is soon to be our Head of State, the top political job in the land, that by law appoints and can sack the Prime Minister.

Surely that in itself is enough to have the appointment responsibility taken out of the hands of the very person who could live or die by it.”

Parliament does already have a say on some appointments – for example, all parties are consulted on Officers of Parliament (like the Ombudsman and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment) and their appointments are confirmed in parliament via a parliamentary motion.

The Governor-General, as New Zealand’s head of state, should be someone who represents all New Zealanders. It’s our job as MPs to represent your views in parliament – so we should all be part of the conversation about who is the Governor-General to make sure whoever is reflects modern New Zealand.

2 Comments Posted

  1. Ah yes SENSIBLY observed 160 yrs ago and stonewalled ever since. Wonder WHY? So since we are still subjects of Liz and England presumably we can claim a British pension to top up the FOOD and BOARD VISION of National? Actually the G-G office reminds me of that other TOOTHLESS FANCY HAIRDO group The Human Rights Commission . Actually can ANYONE name ANY IMPROVEMENT to NZ these groups have made to NZ in the last 30 yrs??? Waiting waiting waiting

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