Keith Locke on the Governor-General Bill – Third Reading



The Green Party is supporting the Governor-General Bill. It modernises and normalises a lot of the arrangements around our Governor-General in terms of making the income taxable and things like that. I tried to modernise the bill even further, moving an amendment to remove the specification in the bill that the Governor-General will have the use of chauffeured cars when he or she no longer holds office—that seemed to be a bit excessive to specify that in the legislation. Unfortunately it only gained the Greens’ votes. I tried to move another two amendments on the Supplementary Order Paper 173, which rose out of submissions to the Government Administration Committee. There were three submissions to the select committee and two oral submissions. The two oral submissions both were by the Republican Movement of Aotearoa New Zealand represented by Lewis Holden and Dean Knight and also a submission by Derek Round. These two oral submissions both proposed that the nomination to the monarch for Governor-General be from 75 percent of the Parliament rather than just determined by the Government of the day. But unfortunately that did not proceed to a vote in the Committee stage, although I did move a motion to say it be an instruction to the Committee on the Governor-General Bill that it have the power to consider it and if it thought fit adopt the amendment set out on Supplementary Order Paper 173. Unfortunately that was not supported by other parties in the House. That amendment was just to make the procedures more democratic. The Labour members said that they could not vote for it even though they were a bit sympathetic to those amendments because they would have to be referred back to submitters and another lot of submissions would have to be called. Well, it is a pity if that was the case that when they were on the select committee they did not push for that extra submission process to take place. The first part of my Supplementary Order Paper, new clause 4A on the appointment of the Governor-General, simply read “The Governor-General is appointed by the Sovereign on the recommendation of the House of Representatives. The recommendation must be agreed to by at least 75 percent of all members of Parliament.” It was a very simple proposal and I wish it had been voted on. The second part of the Supplementary Order Paper 173 was clearly, in my view and in all respects, very relevant to the bill. This was also a proposal that came from the written oral submission by the Republican Movement of Aotearoa New Zealand, although it must be said that neither of the two proposals it raised were specifically republican. They were just democratising the institution of the Governor-General in terms of a recommendation to the Queen. The second part of the Supplementary Order Paper was about the term of appointment of the Governor-General. New clause 5A was “Term of appointment of Governor-General (1) The Governor-General is to be appointed for a term not exceeding 5 years. (2) A person who has been appointed as Governor-General cannot be reappointed as Governor-General.” I thought that was quite important because there is no set term for Governor-Generals in legislation. There is nothing to stop Governor-Generals being reappointed forever. That amendment was very relevant to the bill, because in the bill there is a section on annuities, and clearly annuities should be based to the length of service. In fact, in clause 8 “Annuity for former Governor-General” it states that to get annuity one has to have completed 2 years or more in office. What happens if the Government appointed a Governor-General for 1 year? He or she would miss out on annuity altogether.

There is absolutely nothing in the present legislation to stop the Government from appointing the Governor-General for 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, or 10 years. It could be anything, because there is no legislative control over that. So not having a specified term for the Governor-General mucks up the whole clause 8 on annuities. The other thing is that the bill talks about the Remuneration Authority and how will determine things in relation to the level of annuity for former Governors-General, or their spouses if the Governor-General dies early on. That is good, because one of the things the Green Party has been proposing is a greater role for the Remuneration Authority in determining MPs’ salaries and allowances, and putting them all together and giving them over to the Remuneration Authority rather than us determining things ourselves. In that context, with all this debate about perks and MPs determining their own perks, clause 11 does seem very odd. We as MPs have voted for particular specified perks for the Governor-General in relation to domestic travel and even down to the detail of the use of chauffeured cars when he or she no longer holds the office of Governor-General. That is repeating the error we are making in relation to our own salaries and allowances.

John Hayes

: Of course it’s not. Mean-spirited Green Party!


: The member interjected that it was mean-spirited. It is not a question of being mean-spirited. I am not saying that the Governor-General does not deserve some consideration of free travel. If a former Governor-General who is living in Auckland has to go to a function in Christchurch in his or her role as a former Governor-General I am not saying that their travel costs should not be covered in some respect, but to actually specify it as chauffeur-driven cars is, I think, going beyond our democratic mandate, particularly in this era when there is so much concentration on privileges. It is true that in terms of travel privileges the new Green Mayor of Wellington, Celia Wade-Brown is setting the standard. When she met Hillary Clinton the other day she did not go to the expense of charging up a big bill to the Wellington City Council for a taxi. She biked around to Wellington Airport to meet Hillary Clinton, which set a very good example. There is a parallel here that we can specify in general that there should be an entitlement to travel, but exactly what that is should be left up to the Remuneration Authority. That is all I am saying. Overall, yes we are modernising the role of the Governor-General. Phil Twyford talked about this as preparing to move to a republic. As members know I had a bill that unfortunately did not succeed that would have moved us to a larger discussion on whether we should have a referendum on a republic. The bill before us today is not particularly relevant to a republic at all, but it is true that republicans are often interested in democracy and democratising institutions, which is one reason why I am personally quite keen on this bill. I just wish it could have gone a bit further. It is part of a democratic constitutional debate that we are involved in day by day. With those few words, the Green Party will support this bill. We had hoped that it would go a bit further. Thank you.