KEITH LOCKE (Green)
I rise to follow up the speech of Nikki Kaye. She talked about the issue of transparency. The Greens are very much in favour of transparency, and it is good that this bill is introducing somewhat more transparency in terms of the payments of Governor-General, annuities, and the rest of it. It is also good that we are laying out how the Remuneration Authority, an independent body, will determine such matters in the future. I think if we want to have proper transparency that transparency has to go across the board. I say in response to the suggestion in the debate earlier today that there be more transparency in the nomination for Governor-General to go to the Queen—or King, perhaps, at a later point—that that process is not as transparent as I think Nikki Kaye would like.
When a nomination goes off to the Queen, how are we to know what factors are being taken into consideration? It is all done in the deep, dark corners of the ninth floor of the Beehive, I think. Certainly, the Green Party has never been consulted on who should be the Governor-General. Because that lacks transparency and proper accountability, there is good reason to think that if we are to make the transparency in appointment parallel with the transparency in remuneration, which this bill is going down the road to improve, then we have to have some process whereby it is all out in the open, names come before Parliament, and Parliament determines in one way or another which candidate nomination to go to the Queen they come up with in a democratic process, and a much more transparent process.
My Supplementary Order Paper 173, which unfortunately was not able to come before the Committee stage, would have addressed that. The other point in relation to the annuities is that clause 8 of the bill talks about annuities being paid at a yearly rate determined from time to time by the Remuneration Authority for each complete year not exceeding 5 years. So the annuities very definitely relate to the length of service of the Governor-General. It would be much more transparent if we had in legislation a fixed term for the Governor-General so that the Remuneration Authority did not have to guess for each new Governor-General that was appointed how long they might serve, what the Government might determine their length of service to be. If there was a fixed term, the Remuneration Authority would know exactly where it stood in determining those annuities. I think that it is a pity that the second part of my Supplementary Order Paper is not coming before the Committee. It would have straightened out that and made it much easier for the Remuneration Authority.
It may be that the Remuneration Authority decides to reduce some of the annuities, because we are in rather tight times. It may well decide that 6 months’ redundancy pay amounting to $96,000 and a $62,000 annuity for Governors-General for the rest of their life are a little bit excessive. It may not, of course, but I think we should consider that matter.
We do not want to spend huge amounts on Governors-General. We do not want them to feel too much privilege; we want Governors-General to be ordinary people who can reflect society. It is great that we have such a person in Anand Satyanand. As Governor-General he reflects many New Zealanders. I think it is important that Governors-General do not receive too great a remuneration and annuity, because they may think the job puts them up with the elite in our society not a job dealing with ordinary people in their daily life. The fact that Governors-General go around the country opening bowling clubs, and all the rest of it, brings them into contact with ordinary people. Therefore their remuneration and annuities should be commensurate with those tasks. The tasks are not heavily political on a day-to-day basis, although Governors-General play a very important constitutional role, particularly in our MMP system.
KEITH LOCKE (Green)
I was very interested in Clare Curran’s excellent speech. She talked about our egalitarianism, and I think we should always bear in mind that our nation is built on a feeling that we are all the same in terms of rights and in terms of status, and no one person is superior to another. It goes back to our early pioneer history, the whole bicultural nature of our nation, and that intersection of destinies. It goes through the great reforms of the 1930s under the first Labour Government. I think that is very much part of our history. In some ways, this bill is in that tradition of egalitarianism, overcoming the history of the monarchy—and its expression through the Governor-General of New Zealand—as being somehow superior, richer, not subject to taxation, etc. This bill is making a very good move to reflect that egalitarianism. One particular half-sentence in this bill grates a bit against that egalitarian tradition, and that is in clause 11, “Payments in respect of other benefits and privileges”. Clause 11(1) says: “The terms of appointment of a person as Governor-General may include an agreement for that person and his or her spouse or partner to be provided with specified benefits or privileges by way of payments in respect of domestic travel and the use of chauffeured cars when he or she no longer holds office as Governor-General.” I think the first part of that subclause is OK; it talks about agreement on benefits appropriate to the situation. But the last bit is about the use of chauffeured cars when he or she no longer holds office as Governor-General. Firstly, why do we have to have that level of specificity in legislation? Secondly, is that not grating against the egalitarian tradition? I sat next to Sir Paul Reeves on the plane coming from Auckland to Wellington this morning. He is a very humble chap. I cannot speak for him, but I am sure that several former Governors-General would not say that they have to have written in legislation the use of chauffeured cars when they want them for the rest of their lives.
Look at the era we are in now. We are in the era where we have a Green mayor of Wellington who rides a bicycle. She is setting the standard—she is setting the standard. I am sure that when she retires after several terms as mayor of Wellington she will not demand the right to have chauffeur-driven cars around Wellington; she will demand, perhaps, the right to have her bicycle serviced periodically, or something like that. Why should this provision be written into legislation? I have not actually written out an amendment—I should have done that—but I think the Committee should perhaps remove this particular provision. I cannot speak for Anand Satyanand, but he seems a pretty humble chap as well. My good colleague has indicated that he is a fellow New Zealander along with Sir Anand, so he would know a lot about these things.
He looks like one.
He sounds like one.
Dr Rajen Prasad
He must be one.
That is right. I thought I would just bring up that point. The whole history of the monarchy, if we go way back through the centuries that we are starting to get beyond—and there have been speeches on that—is a history of privilege. The monarch is up there. In fact, the more wealth and privilege the monarch has, the more they are deemed to qualify to be a monarch, whereas we live in the very opposite form of society—an egalitarian society.
KEITH LOCKE (Green)
I would like to follow up Trevor Mallard’s interesting speech in relation to clause 16 in Part 2 in relation to conflicting claims—that is, envisaging a situation where there might be more than one person entitled to an annuity. As Trevor Mallard said, that reflects that we are in a modern society and it is a modern clause. Not only could there be two spouses in terms of one spouse dying and the Governor-General remarrying but also the provision could take account of divorce. If we look back into the history of the monarchy, including Governors-General as part of that, it is a history that is averse to divorce. The “unto death do us part” part of the marriage vow was not only an intention but also very strongly part of the moral code of society and was very much tied up with religion. So to include clause 16 in this bill is a very modern thing to do. It is getting away a little bit from the strictures of religion that have shaped our constitutional history, in some ways in too narrow a manner. Indeed, earlier this afternoon we had the prayer that has been read in Parliament for many years. In that prayer the term “true religion” is used. It is a phrase that dates back in British Parliaments to the 1600s. “True religion” means the Protestant religion. The reference to “true religion” is the Protestant religion against another religion, that is, the Catholic religion. That is the origin of the prayer we hear in Parliament each sitting day. In the Protestant tradition, true religion was associated with a very strong tie against divorce, and to marriage for the rest of a couple’s life. Clause 16, in allowing something different, is quite progressive.
Also Trevor Mallard’s comments about the multicultural element of this clause were quite relevant, too. There are various religions with different codes of marriage and divorce. They will be taken into account as part of our multicultural dimension. I think also when we talk about religion, moral codes, and how they are reflected in this we have to take into account the issue Phil Twyford talked about in his speech. I think he was really talking about the outdated character of the monarchy, which the Governor-General is a part of. One of the problems with changing the laws of inheritance, which Gordon Brown, to his credit, wanted to do—and he took the matter to a Commonwealth Prime Minister’s conference before he lost office—is that the monarch in Britain is officially the head of the Anglican church. Therefore, Britain cannot have someone who is not an Anglican, or someone who has converted to Catholicism, as its head of State because that person is not an Anglican. That offends against our human rights laws and our ethos. I think that all relates back to this very modern clause, clause 16, which allows for conflicting claims relating to the annuity for spouses following, for example, the death of the Governor-General. Thank you.