Governor General: New Year message 2019

Governor-General of New Zealand, Dame Patsy Reddy’s New Year message

Kia ora koutou.

Nga mihi o te tau hou. New Year greetings to you all.

In 2018 we honoured some great New Zealanders.

We marked anniversaries of events that impacted on our country and the wider world.

I was privileged to represent New Zealand at Gallipoli on Anzac Day, and in November, I attended commemorations at Le Quesnoy, in France, where I led hundreds of New Zealanders at events to mark the liberation of the town by New Zealand troops 100 years ago.

The following week, 100 years after the Armistice ending the First World War, our commemorations at Pukeahu expressed the joy and relief of our forebears, after four long years of war.

In March, we launched the commemorations to mark 125 years since New Zealand led the world in achieving votes for women. Later in the year, during the Royal Visit, the Duchess of Sussex recognised New Zealand’s leadership.

In 2019, I hope New Zealanders will lead the world again, this time in taking responsibility for reducing our carbon footprint on the planet, helping us meet our international commitments to combat climate change.

Whether it’s making changes to transport and energy, how we use land and water, or generate waste – if we all work together, we can make a difference.

No reira, tena koutou katoa.

 

 

Speech from the Throne

The Speech from the throne outlined the legislative intentions of the 52nd Parliament of New Zealand.

The first formal opportunity for a government to outline its legislative intentions is the delivery of the Speech from the Throne. The Speech from the Throne is given by the Governor-General or the Sovereign (if in New Zealand) on the second sitting day of a parliamentary term, when the State Opening of Parliament is held.

The formal purpose of the speech is to explain the reasons for summoning Parliament. It is usual for the speech to announce, in broad terms, the government’s policy and legislative proposals on the principal issues of the day.

The Speech from the Throne is prepared following a process determined by the Prime Minister, with officials assisting as required.

Delivered by Her Excellency The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, QSO, Governor-General of New Zealand, on the occasion of the State Opening of Parliament, Wednesday 8 November 2017.


Tuhia ki te rangi

Tuhia ki te whenua

Tuhia ki te ngakau o nga tangata

Ko te mea nui

Ko te aroha

Tihei mauri ora!

E nga mema honore o te whare nei, te whare paremata o Aotearoa, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, kā nui te mihi ki a koutou.

It is a privilege for me to exercise the prerogative of Her Majesty the Queen and open the 52nd Parliament.

In September, New Zealanders cast their votes in the general election. After final results were announced on October 7, negotiations began towards the formation of a new government. That government has been formed by way of a Coalition Agreement between the New Zealand Labour Party and the New Zealand First Party, and a Confidence and Supply Agreement between the New Zealand Labour Party and the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand. The government took office when I swore in the Prime Minister the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Winston Peters, and other Ministers from the Labour, New Zealand First, and Green parties.

The government enjoys the confidence of a clear majority of members in the House of Representatives. It also enjoys the confidence of a majority of New Zealanders who voted in the general election. Its formation marks an important moment in the evolution of the mixed member proportional representation system – a system that was designed to ensure that governments could only be formed with the support of a majority of voters.

This new government was formed by negotiation – but it was a negotiation that allowed each party to remain true to its values and honour its core election commitments. This government will not be a government of parties acting separately, it will act clearly as one government in the best interests of all New Zealanders.

Honourable members.

The programme I will outline today is ambitious. It draws on the priorities of the parties. In the first 100 days, this government will put in place the building blocks for this programme of work.

This government is committed to major investments in housing, health, education, police, and infrastructure.  The Government will protect the environment, create more jobs and lift the incomes of families to reduce child poverty, while running surpluses and paying down debt.

In the last nine years, New Zealand has changed a great deal. Ours is a great country still. But it could be even greater. In our society today, no one should have to live in a car or on the street. No one should have to beg for their next meal. No child should be experiencing poverty. That kind of inequality is degrading to us all.

This will be a government of inclusion. All who live in this country are entitled to respect and dignity; all are entitled to live meaningful lives; all are entitled to care and compassion. Everyone should have a roof over their head and be warm in winter. Everyone should have food and a table to put it on.

This will be a government of transformation. It will lift up those who have been forgotten or neglected, it will take action on child poverty and homelessness, it will restore funding to education and the health systems to allow access for all, it will protect the environment and take action on climate change, and it will build a truly prosperous nation and a fair society, together.

This will be a government of aspiration.  It aspires to make this a nation where all cultures and human rights are valued, where everyone can have decent housing and meaningful work, where education is free and good ideas flourish, where children live surrounded by creativity and love, and are encouraged to reach their full potential, and where we become world leaders on environmental issues and climate change.

This government aspires for this to be a country where all are accepted, no matter who they are, where they come from, how they live or what their religious beliefs are.

To do this, we must focus on what is most important to us and what unites and connects us. For we are all connected, and the way we live has an impact on others. And so, this government will take an approach that looks across all areas to truly understand the interconnections. This government knows that the economy cannot be looked at separately from its impacts on the environment and society.

Honourable members.

This government is committed to building a strong economy, to being fiscally responsible and to providing certainty. It will work within the Budget Responsibility Rules that include running sustainable operating surpluses across the economic cycle, reducing net debt to 20% of GDP within five years and keeping government expenditure as a percentage of GDP in line with historic trends.   There will be a clear focus on sustainable economic development, supporting regional economies, increasing exports, lifting wages and reducing inequality.

This government will work with business to deliver shared prosperity for all. It will encourage the economy to flourish, but not at the expense of damaging our natural resources or people’s well-being.

New Zealand needs to measure success in new ways. We need to move beyond narrow measures and views of value and broaden the definition of progress.  The economic strategy will focus on how we improve the wellbeing and living standards of all New Zealanders.  As agreed between Labour and the Green Party, this government will develop a comprehensive set of environmental, social and economic sustainability indicators to better show how we are doing as a country.

There will be a progressive tax system where everyone pays their fair share, according to their means, so together we have the resources to provide quality public services for all New Zealanders.

The government will review the tax system, looking at all options to improve its structure, fairness and balance, including better supporting regions and exporters, addressing the capital gain associated with property speculation and ensuring that multinationals contribute their share. Penalties for corporate fraud and tax evasion will increase. Personal income taxes, taxes on the family home and GST will remain at the same rates as they are today.

As pledged during the election campaign, any significant decisions on tax changes will not take effect until the 2021 tax year.

Contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund will resume immediately to help safeguard the provision of universal superannuation at age 65, and as part of the Agreement with New Zealand First, the government will introduce a new-generation SuperGold smartcard containing entitlements and concessions.

Building a truly prosperous country means sharing the wealth generated by our economy with a wider range of New Zealanders. As agreed in the coalition agreement between Labour and New Zealand First, the government’s 100 Day Plan includes a commitment to raise the minimum wage to $16.50 an hour from April 1, rising to $20 an hour by 2020.   We must aspire to be more than a low wage economy.

Honourable members.

A shift is required to create a more productive economy. This government will support those who produce goods and services, export and provide decent jobs for New Zealanders. This does not mean increasing productivity through more people working more hours to increase outputs, while eroding our natural and social assets.

This means working smarter, with new technologies, reducing the export of raw commodities and adding more value in New Zealand. For example, by securing the supply for forestry processing, greater investment in fishing and aquaculture, increasing skills and training, and more research and development to add value to dairy and other products and to create new technologies.

Monetary policy will be reformed. The Reserve Bank Act will be reviewed, and a new objective added to include a commitment to maximising employment. The Bank’s decision-making processes will be changed so that a committee, including external appointees, will be responsible for setting the Official Cash Rate, improving transparency. Price stability will continue to be a focus, with the same inflation goals as now.

High quality trade agreements that benefit our exporters, at the same time as protecting New Zealand’s sovereignty, will be supported. This government will make sure New Zealand always retains the right to make laws in the public interest. This includes seeking to renegotiate the Trans Pacific Partnership to exclude investor state dispute mechanisms and avoid their inclusion in all future agreements. This government will also pursue new trade opportunities, including with Russia and its Custom Union partners, Europe and the United Kingdom post-Brexit.

The benefits of economic prosperity will be fairly shared with the regions, so people have the resources they need to deliver on their potential, wherever they live. This government will invest in regional infrastructure and broadband.

The coalition agreement between Labour and New Zealand First commits this government to a $1 billion per annum Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund. This includes significant investment in regional rail and other large capital projects. The future of the upper North Island Ports, including examination of whether Ports of Auckland should be moved to Northport, near Whangarei, will be considered as part of a wider ports strategy,

Some government services will be regionalised. The New Zealand Forestry Service will be re-established and located in regional New Zealand. This government is committed to a new planting programme, planting 100 million trees a year to reach a billion more trees in ten years. This New Zealand First initiative also connects directly to this government’s determination to take action on climate change.

Honourable members.

Climate change is the greatest challenge facing the world. If we do not urgently reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, warming will disrupt the climate which our agriculture and other industries depend upon, and sea-level rise will affect our coastal cities, along with other profound changes.

New Zealand must do its part, as the cost of doing nothing is too high. This government will set a target of a Net Zero Carbon Emissions Economy by 2050, with legally binding emissions reduction targets and carbon budgets to keep New Zealand on track to this goal.

An independent Climate Commission will be established to recommend interim emissions reduction targets and provide advice, focusing on policy development and initiatives in transport, urban form, energy and primary industries.

This government will restore an effective pricing mechanism for climate pollution, with the Climate Commission to determine more details, including how to transition to 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2035, and how to bring agriculture into the scheme.

This government will support a just transition for workers in industries that need to reduce emissions, and it will support the creation of jobs in sectors that are carbon-free or carbon sinks, such as forestry.  Farmers operating at best practice will be credited for emissions reductions.

The agreement between Labour and the Green Party also provides for up to $1 billion of new investment to be stimulated in low carbon industries by 2020, kick-started by a government-backed Green Investment Fund of $100 million.

This ambitious plan to take real action on climate change will involve all New Zealanders. This government will act as a role model, showing leadership by requiring State-owned enterprises and other government organisations to pursue low-carbon options and technologies, including electric vehicles for all Government vehicle fleets. Young people will be encouraged to take part in a Youth Climate Change Challenge.

There are other environmental challenges to be faced. This government is conscious of increasing pressure on our natural resources, as environmental pressure points are reached. It is clear New Zealand needs to improve the way it manages natural resources.

Our lakes and rivers need to be protected and restored, which can only happen if all water users and the government work together. The government will offer young people without jobs the opportunity to work to improve the health of this country’s waterways, with the aim of restoring them to a swimmable state within a generation.

Support will be given to regional councils to better monitor and control nutrients and sediments in waterways. The agriculture sector will also be assisted to improve water quality and to shift to more sustainable land uses, such as forestry.

Existing Crown investments in irrigation will be honoured, but government support for irrigation will not grow. Commercial users who profit from bottling water and exporting it overseas will pay a royalty. Action will also be taken on improving cities’ water quality, with higher water quality standards for both urban and rural areas.

Other environment initiatives include a commitment to minimising waste to landfill and a fund to take action on old tyres.

This government will increase funding for the Department of Conservation, to reduce the extinction risk for 3,000 threatened plant and wildlife species. More support will be given for National Science Challenges, including piloting alternatives to 1080 and countering myrtle rust and kauri dieback. There will be no new mines on conservation land.

This government will take steps to improve our resource management system, with better spatial planning and better enforcement. An urban development agency will be introduced, and more emphasis placed on public transport and light rail.

This government will remove the Auckland urban growth boundary and free up density controls. New developments, both in Auckland and the rest of New Zealand, will be able to be funded through innovative new financing methods like infrastructure bonds. This government will also give Auckland Council the ability to implement a regional fuel tax.

To help ease pressures on our housing, infrastructure and public services, this government will make sure we get our immigration settings right.  It will cut down on low quality international education courses and will ensure work visas issued reflect genuine skill shortages.

Housing is a top priority for this government. Action will be taken to address homelessness. State house sell offs will stop. And the State will take the lead in building affordable houses.  Through its Kiwibuild programme, this government pledges to build 100,000 high quality, affordable homes over the next 10 years; half of them in Auckland.

A Housing Commission will work with the private sector, councils and iwi to cut through red tape, undertake major projects and ensure new, affordable homes are built rapidly.

This work will begin immediately, as part of this government’s 100 Day Plan. To boost the workforce, employers will be financially supported to train 4000 young people as apprentices, including on-the-job construction training.

High demand for housing will be dealt with by cracking down on speculators who are pushing prices out of reach of first home buyers. Foreign speculators will be banned from buying existing New Zealand homes. A comprehensive register of foreign-owned land and housing will be created, and the Overseas Investment Act will be strengthened.

The ‘bright line test’ will be extended, so income tax is paid on any gains from the sale of residential property bought and sold within five years. Speculators will also no longer be able to use tax losses on rental properties to offset tax on other income.

This government will make life better for renters. A ‘Rent to Own’ scheme will be developed. All rental properties will be required to meet standards for insulation, heating and drainage. Funding for home insulation in general will be boosted and a Winter Energy payment will be introduced for superannuitants and those receiving main benefits. This government aims to ensure that every New Zealander has access to a warm, dry, safe home.

Honourable members.

This government will address the social deficit in this country and it will start with children. About 290,000 children live in poverty in New Zealand, in many cases without adequate food, healthcare and housing. Poverty hurts everyone, but it hurts children the most. Every child should be able to grow up free from poverty. To show the importance of this issue, the Prime Minister the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern will take on the newly created role of Minister for Child Poverty Reduction.

Child poverty is a moral issue but it is also an economic one. Infometrics has estimated that poor investment in children in their early years costs the country between $6 billion and $8 billion per annum.

This government will put child poverty at the heart of government policy development and decision-making. It will establish targets to reduce the impact of child poverty and it will put these into law.  A work programme will be put in place across all relevant areas of government to achieve these targets.  Heads of government departments will be required to work together to deliver real reductions in child poverty.

To deliver genuine change for children, transparent mechanisms are needed to hold the government to account on poverty reduction. This government will also change the Public Finance Act so that, every Budget, New Zealanders will hear about how many kids have been lifted out of poverty and we can all see clearly what more needs to be done.

If we put child well-being at the heart of what we do, then the well-being of all New Zealanders will be lifted.

This government will invest in children and in families, increasing working for families, extending paid parental leave and bringing back the family benefit in the form of the Best Start package. This legislation will be introduced in the first 100 days, to take effect from July 1.

This government will repeal the tax cuts proposed by the previous government which would have seen $400 million a year going to the highest income earners. Instead, the government’s new Families’ Package will see 70 per cent of families with children better off, and will lift 30,000 more children out of poverty.

This government will ensure access to entitlements and remove excessive sanctions in the welfare system. But it will also go further. This government will consider the long-term changes which need to occur to our systems of welfare and employment and education, to look at how we value people, how we define decent employment and how we ensure people have sustainable incomes. It will eliminate the gender pay gap within the core public sector and encourage the private sector to do the same.

Honourable members.

One of the keys to better lives is education.

As well as being committed to increasing skills and training, this government will ensure our education system provides what is needed for the young people of New Zealand to do well in this rapidly changing world.

This government will revolutionise education by placing young people and their needs at the centre of the system and increasing funding at all levels. It will invest an additional $6 billion over four years in modernising our education system, including $1.8 billion to deliver more teachers, better professional development and more learning resources.  This scale and focus of investment will be both transformational for the development of our future generations and will strengthen the economy.

It will remove or reduce financial barriers to access, by offering more funding to schools that do not charge fees, by making the first year of tertiary education free, with the intention of making the first three years free in future terms, and by increasing student allowances and living cost payments. Those tertiary education changes will come into effect from January 1 next year, as part of the 100 Day Plan.

This government will develop a 30-year strategic plan for education. It will support quality teaching and education that equips students for the 21st century. It will not include charter schools and will support high quality public education accessible to all.

It will end bureaucratic national standards and replace them with new forms of assessment that meaningfully reflect student achievement. It will ensure that all students have access to technology to support their learning, and it will ensure that every child with special needs and learning difficulties can participate fully in school life.

This government will modernise and re-develop a comprehensive system of careers advice and guidance that is integrated into learning and will ensure every student has a career plan that is regularly updated through thier schooling.

This government will offer all high school students free driver training and financial literacy, as part of a toolkit giving all school leavers valuable practical skills.

It will pilot counsellors in primary schools, and it will rebuild outdated or unsuitable classrooms. It will grow the number of early childhood centres, and fund them to employ qualified and registered teachers.

It will support apprenticeships with incentives for employers to take on unemployed young people as apprentices. It will reinstate funding for night classes. And it will encourage lifelong learning.

Honourable members.

Health will also be a top priority. This government will restore funding to the health system to allow access for all. It will invest in the health system to provide the highest levels of care, support and treatment, wherever people live in New Zealand.

This government will put a real focus on primary health. GP fees subsidies will be increased to cut fees by $10 a visit, and the longer term funding system will be reviewed to ensure  doctor visits remain affordable into the future. Free doctor visits will be extended to everyone under 14, with teen health checks for all Year 9 students. Seniors will be entitled to an annual free health and eye check as part of the new SuperGold Card.

Funding for alcohol and drug addiction services will increase, and drug addiction will be treated as a health issue. Medicinal cannabis will be made available for people with terminal illnesses or in chronic pain. As part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Green Party, this government is committed to holding a referendum on legalising the personal use of cannabis at, or by, the 2020 election.

There will be a special focus on mental health.  A ministerial inquiry into mental health will be set up and the Mental Health Commission will be re-established.  A review of mental health and addiction services will identify gaps and what more is needed to better care for people.

New Zealand’s high suicide rate, especially for adolescents, is shameful. This government will increase resources for frontline health workers and will put more nurses in schools to make it easier for young people and others with mental health problems to get the help they need. Free counselling will be available for those under 25.

This government wants to foster a kinder, more caring society. This will involve government leading the way and facing up to its responsibilities and the legacies from the past.

There will be an independent inquiry into historical claims of abuse of children in State care with a view to learning lessons to ensure that policy is changed to minimise the risk of this happening in the future.

This government will stand with the families of Pike River and reaffirm its commitment to safe workplaces. The Honourable Andrew Little, alongside the deputy Prime Minister, will be the Minister responsible for overseeing a safe re-entry of Pike River, where 29 people lost their lives in 2010. This is not just about those men and their families. It is about all working people, and the right to return home safe to loved ones at the end of the day.

As part of keeping our society safe, this government intends to add another 1800 new police officers over the next years and will investigate a volunteer rural constabulary programme. Community law centre funding will increase and a Criminal Cases Review Commission will be established. Family violence networks, including Women’s Refuge and Shakti, will get more funding.

This government will foster a more open and democratic society. It will strengthen transparency around official information. It will undertake an independent review to enhance the integrity of the electoral process and enrolments, ensure Parliament’s processes reflect MMP, and that the make-up of parliament continues to reflect the expressed preference of voters

Honourable members.

This government is proud to have the most Māori and Pacific Island cabinet ministers of any New Zealand government; with eight Māori and four Pacific Island ministers.

When our forebears signed the Treaty of Waitangi more than 170 years ago they did so in a spirit of cooperation.

Whatever else that agreement might have meant, it was supposed to bring opportunity and mutual benefit for tangata whenua and settlers alike. It was supposed to provide a place for all peoples in this country.

Instead what followed was a long process of colonisation, in which one of the treaty partners acquired most of the power and the resources, and the other was sidelined.

For almost 40 years, New Zealand has been addressing past injustices. Most of New Zealand’s major iwi are now involved in treaty settlements. This government is committed to bringing others to completion as quickly and fairly as it can.

It is time to start considering what the treaty relationship might look like after historical grievances are settled. To consider how we, as a nation, can move forward in ways that honour the original treaty promise.

A promise of a nation in which Māori values – diverse as they are – stand in their rightful place alongside those of European New Zealanders and other more recent arrivals.

A nation in which manaakitanga  and kaitiakitanga and whanaungatanga inform our decision-making.

A nation in which fairness and equality of opportunity are not just aspirations but facts. And a nation in which all communities are empowered.

This government looks forward to working with Māori communities and with other New Zealanders to support them to pursue their aspirations for better health, better housing, and better education for their rangatahi.

It will review the Whānau Ora delivery model so it can achieve its full potential. It will work with hapū and iwi and Māori organisations to ensure that Māori have fair and equal access to housing and opportunities for home ownership.

It will support the teaching of te reo Māori in schools. And it will strengthen programmes to enhance Māori educational achievement.

Honourable members.

People will always be at the heart of this government.

New Zealand has a great opportunity now to become a kinder, more caring and confident nation. This will take courage. We will have to do things differently. But it is possible, if we include each and every person, in each and every town and region of New Zealand.

This government invites you all to join us in creating a better future together. A future with a fair and unified New Zealand, where the wellbeing of all New Zealanders is at the heart of all we do.

Because, after all, what is the most important thing in the world?

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.

Choosing a Governor General

The Governor General, as the Queen’s representative, has a largely ceremonial role as New Zealand’s chief executive, but theoretically at least does have some ‘reserve powers’:

The Governor-General always acts with the advice of the Prime Minister, unless the Prime Minister has lost the confidence of the House of Representatives.[32] These are the so-called “reserve powers”. These powers include the ability to:

  • Dissolve or prorogue Parliament;
  • Appoint or dismiss Cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister;
  • Refuse a Prime Minister’s request for a dissolution;
  • Refuse assent to legislation.

Regardless of this they are still an important symbolic part of our democracy. So it is very odd that the Governor General is not selected democratically, and there is no fixed term.

Vernon Small writes: And the next Governor-General is … none of your business

The Greens say a new Governor-General should be confirmed by at least 75 per cent of MPs, not on the say-so of the prime minister. And they make a strong point..

But it’s not who picks the GG that’s the weirdest thing about the five yearly ritual.

It’s the fact that without a lot of warning Kiwis are suddenly told who their effective head of state will be. No advance notice (other than the odd unplanned leak from Cabinet) and in many cases a name they have never heard or have only been dimly aware of.

How odd is that?

At least with an hereditary Queen or King you have a fair idea who is in line.

But when it comes to the Queen’s representative in New Zealand, with all the forewarning of a military coup but without the guns, … surprise! It’s Dame Patsy Reddy – ready or not.

In a democracy this is very odd.

The fact there is no public debate encouraged, or allowed, about the prospective candidate highlights the arguments on both sides of the selection debate. Those who defend the status quo say it avoids the “politicisation” that would go with a parliamentary vote – and debating the appointment ahead of time would do just that.

Those who favour a role for our elected representatives argue that by allowing the prime minister of the day effective free rein, the appointment is automatically a political one – or at least one made at the grace and favour of one party.

If John Key was as corrupt as some keep claiming he could have just appointed one of his cronies.

Pasty Reddy seems like she is probably a good choice but how are we to know that? I hadn’t heard of her until she was appointed (by Key) to head the security review along with Michael Cullen, and I still know very little about her.

The fact there is no public debate encouraged, or allowed, about the prospective candidate highlights the arguments on both sides of the selection debate. Those who defend the status quo say it avoids the “politicisation” that would go with a parliamentary vote – and debating the appointment ahead of time would do just that.

Those who favour a role for our elected representatives argue that by allowing the prime minister of the day effective free rein, the appointment is automatically a political one – or at least one made at the grace and favour of one party.

The public can also be reassured that the powers to act without – or even against – ministerial advice are limited to the most extreme situations.

Constitutional experts will tell you, rightly, that the checks and balances work. That it is Ok that the person with the ultimate power to appoint or dismiss a prime minister or refuse or allow an election is effectively appointed by the prime minister.

In a supposedly democratic country this looks like a crock.

A vote by Parliament would ensure the GG had representative approval. The need for a super-majority of 75 per cent should ensure the GG was not just a patsy for the government of the day or even the previous one, given the GG’s five year term can often overlap a change of Government, but someone with cross-party backing.

As Green co-leader Metiria Turei pointed out, a debate over who fills the role would require the PM to make the case for the nominee.

At the moment the justification, once the name is sprung on the public, is all done in retrospect and the public deserve better.

I’m fully in support of Turei on this. The people in a democracy deserve better. They deserve some semblance of a democratic process in the selection of our Governor General.

Or we should ditch the GG and have a people’s head of state instead of a Queen-from-the-other-side-of-the-world’s representative.

See Republic referendum in 2020?

Republic referendum in 2020?

Should we begin a discussion and process leading to a referendum in 2020 on whether New Zealand should become a republic or not after Patsy Reddy’s term as Governor General ends in 2021?

That’s what Peter Dunne has suggested in his latest blog post.

  • A group of leading but informed New Zealanders should be gathered together to begin the process of public discussion about how a New Zealand republic could be structured, including issues such as how that relates to the Treaty of Waitangi.
  • That process should be long-term – running for about three years – and culminating in a binding referendum in mid 2020 on whether New Zealanders wished our country to become a republic.
  • In the event of a positive result, the establishment of the republic would then be timed to coincide with the end of Dame Patsy’s term in late 2021.

I think this idea has merit. I hope it isn’t dismissed by petty politicking.

Congratulations to Dame Patsy Reddy on her appointment as New Zealand’s next Governor-General. She is another outstanding selection in that now long line of impressive New Zealanders to hold the office, and I have no doubt she will do a superb job and quickly earn the respect of New Zealanders.

However, she should be the last person to occupy the role. It is high time for New Zealand to elect its own Head of State, and for our country to become a republic. We should take the opportunity of the appointment of a new Governor-General to commence the process of public debate, leading up to a public referendum, which if supportive of our becoming a republic, should lead to the installation of our first President, when Dame Patsy’s term comes to an end in September 2021.

The Irish Republic provides the model for New Zealand, with a parliamentary system of government and an elected President as Head of State. The President does not exercise any executive functions and is obliged to act on the advice of his or her Ministers, in pretty much the same way as our Governor-General does now. The difference is of course that Uachtaran na hEireann (President of Ireland) is the supreme Head of State, elected directly by the people, not the representative of a foreign hereditary monarch at the other end of the world, as is our Governor-General.

Opponents of New Zealand’s becoming a republic often erroneously argue that it would mean the end of our Commonwealth ties. That is utter nonsense. 32 of the Commonwealth’s 53 member states are already republics, including major Commonwealth players like India, South Africa and Singapore, amongst a host of others. So there would be no reason at all for New Zealand, upon becoming a republic, to have to reconsider its Commonwealth membership in any shape or form, and nor should it.

As a way forward, a group of leading but informed New Zealanders (often not the same thing!) should be gathered together to begin the process of public discussion about how a New Zealand republic could be structured, including issues such as how that relates to the Treaty of Waitangi. That process should be long-term – running for about three years – and culminating in a binding referendum in mid 2020 on whether New Zealanders wished our country to become a republic. In the event of a positive result, the establishment of the republic would then be timed to coincide with the end of Dame Patsy’s term in late 2021.

I make these comments with no disrespect to Dame Patsy, nor the current and past Governors-General, nor to the high office to which they have all been appointed. So long as the office of Governor-General remains, both it and the person holding the role deserve the respect and loyalty of all citizens. But the appointment of a new Governor-General does establish a finite period. That provides a chance to think afresh about our future constitutional structure. I have long believed New Zealanders are ready for that discussion and that we should therefore give them that opportunity. The appointment of a new Governor-General does just that.

This looks like a very sensible and timely approach to me.

Waiting for the queen of England to die is a poor reason for procrastination. We should discuss and decide under our own terms and with timing of our own choosing.

This doesn’t mean we will become a republic. It means we the people of New Zealand would get to decide what we want for our country.

All parties should make it clear what their stance is on this now and especially going in to next year’s election.

 

GCSB and SIS review – public views sought

Public submissions are now being sought as part of the independent review of New Zealand’s intelligence and security legislation.

Michael Cullen and Patsy Reddy, who are carrying out the review, have put out a press release advising of the submission  process, asking the public for their views on “what the GCSB and NZSIS should be doing to protect New Zealand”.

I presume that allows for public views on what the GCSB and SIS shouldn’t be doing.

Intelligence and security reviewers seek public’s views

The independent reviewers examining New Zealands intelligence and security legislation are calling for public submissions.Intelligence and security reviewers seek public’s views

“We are seeking public submissions to help us determine what issues to focus on during the review,” says Sir Michael. “We want to hear your views on what the GCSB and NZSIS should be doing to protect New Zealand and how they should do it.”

“We also want to hear what would give you confidence that the agencies are acting in the best interests of New Zealand and New Zealanders while having due regard to their rights and freedoms,” says Dame Patsy.

The review will consider the legislation relating to the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS), and the oversight of the agencies. It will also assess whether the new legislative provisions introduced late last year by the Countering Foreign Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill should be extended beyond their current expiry date of 1 April 2017.

Submissions will be open until 5pm on Friday 14 August 2015. You can make a submission online by visiting https://consultations.justice.govt.nz/independent/iris, or you can make a submission by email or post using the call for submissions document available on the website. The website also includes some resources to assist you in making a submission.

More details were given via a Q & A.

Questions about the review

Why is this review being carried out?

Legislation passed in 2013 made several changes to clarify the law governing the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and improve oversight of New Zealand’s intelligence and security agencies – the GCSB and New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS).

One of these changes was to introduce regular independent reviews of the intelligence and security agencies and their governing legislation.

Regular reviews will help to ensure the law keeps up with changing risks to national security, while protecting individual rights and maintaining public confidence in the agencies.

Who is conducting the review?

Hon Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy are the independent reviewers, appointed by the Acting Attorney-General Hon Amy Adams in consultation with the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.

Biographies of the independent reviewers are available at https://consultations.justice.govt.nz/independent/iris.

What will the review cover?

The review will determine:

1. Whether the legislative frameworks of the intelligence and security agencies (GCSB and NZSIS) are well placed to protect New Zealand’s current and future national security, while protecting individual rights;

2. Whether the current oversight arrangements provide sufficient safeguards at an operational, judicial and political level to ensure the GCSB and NZSIS act lawfully and maintain public confidence.

The full terms of reference for the 2015 review can be viewed at: http://www.justice.govt.nz/publications/global-publications/i/intelligence-and-security-agencies-review.

How long will the review take?

The review will be completed by the end of February 2016.

When can I read the independent reviewers’ report?

The independent reviewers must provide the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament with a report containing the results of their review by the end of February 2016.

After the Committee has considered the report, the Committee must present the report to the House of Representatives subject to any restrictions on the disclosure of information under section 18(3) of the Intelligence and Security Committee Act 1996.

Where can I find more information about the review?

The Intelligence and Security Committee Act 1996 establishes the statutory framework for the review. You can read the Act at http://www.legislation.govt.nz/.

The announcement from Hon Amy Adams appointing the independent reviewers, including biographies of the independent reviewers and the full terms of reference for the 2015 review, can be viewed at: https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/intelligence-and-security-review-commence-june.

The notice in the New Zealand Gazette can be read at: https://gazette.govt.nz/notice/id/2015-go3140.

Any future announcements about the review will be posted on http://www.justice.govt.nz/.

What other reviews of the intelligence agencies have there been?

There have been a number of reviews in recent years relating to specific aspects of the intelligence and security agencies, for example the Murdoch review in 2009 and the Kitteridge review in 2012. The agencies in the core New Zealand Intelligence Community were also subject to a Performance Improvement Framework Review in late 2013. However, this will be the first review to look at the broader legislative framework and oversight of the agencies.

How does the review relate to the Law Commission’s work on classified information in court proceedings?

The Law Commission’s work has a specific focus on the rules and processes governing use and protection of security sensitive information in court proceedings. However, it is anticipated that the Law Commission’s work will complement the wider review.

While both pieces of work will proceed independently, there will be opportunities for the Commission and independent reviewers to share research and thinking if common issues arise.

Questions about the submissions process

When can I make a submission?

Submissions are open until 5.00pm on Friday 14 August 2015.

How can I make a submission?

You can make a submission online or download the consultation document to make a written submission at https://consultations.justice.govt.nz/independent/iris. Written submissions can be emailed to IRISsupport@justice.govt.nz or posted to IRIS Support Team, Ministry of Justice, Level 3 – Justice Centre, 19 Aitken Street, Wellington, DX SX10088.

I don’t know the answer to some of the consultation questions. Do I have to answer them all?

No, you do not need to answer all of the questions. None of them are mandatory.

Why is my submission being sent to the Ministry of Justice?

As stated in section 26 of the Intelligence and Security Committee Act 1996, the Ministry of Justice is responsible for providing administrative, secretarial, and other support to the independent reviewers. This includes assisting with public consultation.

What happens with my submission?

Your submission will help the independent reviewers to decide what issues the review should focus on within the broad terms of reference. Your submission is sought for the purposes of this independent review only. It will not be shared with government agencies other than the Ministry of Justice (which is providing administrative support for the review) or released publicly.

After the independent reviewers have considered your submission, the independent reviewers or a member of the Ministry of Justice support team may wish to contact you to discuss your submission. At the beginning of the submission form you will be asked to indicate whether you are willing to be contacted for this purpose.

Cullen and Reddy to lead GCSB/SIS review

A requirement of the intelligence and security legislation passed in 2013 was that reviews must be done every 5-7 years, and the first of these reviews is due to start this year. It has just been announced that Dame Patsy Reddy and Sir Michael Cullen will lead the review.

Cullen is ex Deputy Prime Minister and has served as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Reddy is a barrister and solicitor with over 20 years of corporate governance experience.

Intelligence and security agencies review – Terms of reference

The purpose of the review, taking into account that subsequent reviews must occur every 5 – 7 years, is to determine:

  1. whether the legislative frameworks of the intelligence and security agencies (GCSB and NZSIS) are well placed to protect New Zealand’s current and future national security, while protecting individual rights;
  2. whether the current oversight arrangements provide sufficient safeguards at an operational, judicial and political level to ensure the GCSB and NZSIS act lawfully and maintain public confidence.

The review will have particular regard to the following matters:

  1. whether the legislative provisions arising from the Countering Foreign Terrorist Fighters legislation, which expire on 31 March 2017, should be extended or modified;
  2. whether the definition of “private communication” in the legislation governing the GCSB is satisfactory;
  3. any additional matters that arise during the review as agreed by the Acting Attorney General and notified in writing in the NZ Gazette.

When determining how to conduct the review, the reviewers will take into account:

  1. the need to ensure that a wide range of members of the public have the opportunity to express their views on issues relating to the review;
  2. the need for the law to provide clear and easily understandable parameters of operation;
  3. the Law Commission’s work on whether current court processes are sufficient for dealing with classified and security sensitive information;
  4. previous relevant reviews and progress towards implementing their recommendations;
  5. relevant overseas reviews to identify best practice in areas relevant to this review, including oversight arrangements;
  6. that traditionally, signals and human intelligence have been carried out separately and the Government does not intend to consider merging those functions within a single agency.

Media release on the appointment of Reddy and Cullen:

A respected Wellington lawyer and a former Deputy Prime Minister are to lead the first regular review of New Zealand’s security and intelligence agencies.

Acting Attorney-General Amy Adams announced today that she intends to appoint Dame Patsy Reddy and Sir Michael Cullen to carry out the review.

“This will be an important and challenging review, and I’m pleased Sir Michael and Dame Patsy have agreed to lend their expertise to the task. They bring complementary skills and experience to the role. Sir Michael is a former member of the Intelligence and Security Committee and has knowledge of national security issues. Dame Patsy has extensive governance experience and legal expertise,” Ms Adams says.

“The GCSB and SIS have a crucial role in protecting New Zealand’s interests and it is vital that New Zealanders have assurances that they have a clear and appropriate legal framework to operate within.

“Regular reviews help ensure the law keeps up with changing risks to national security, while protecting individual rights and maintaining public confidence in the agencies.”

Ms Adams says she has asked the reviewers to ensure members of the public have the opportunity to express their views.

“It’s important that members of the public have a clear understanding of the functions of our intelligence and security agencies, and the oversight and safeguards that apply to their work.”

The review will look at the legislative framework governing the agencies and consider whether they are well placed to protect New Zealand’s current and future national security, while protecting individual rights. It will also determine if the current oversight arrangements provide sufficient safeguards to ensure the GCSB and NZSIS act lawfully and maintain public confidence.

While other reviews have examined aspects of New Zealand’s national security system, such as the 2013 PIF Review, the 2012 Kitteridge review and the 2009 Murdoch review, this will be the first review to look at the broader legislative framework and oversight of the agencies.

The first review will begin in June 2015 and be completed by the end of February 2016. The reviewers will carry out the review independently and report directly to Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee. Future reviews will occur every 5 to 7 years.

The terms of reference for the review can be found at: http://www.justice.govt.nz/publications/global-publications/i/intelligence-and-security-agencies-review

Biographies of the reviewers

Hon Sir Michael John Cullen KNZM (MA, PhD)
Sir Michael is a former New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister. While in government he held several ministerial portfolios including Minister of Finance, Attorney-General, Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and Deputy Prime Minister. He is also a former member of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Since retiring from Parliament in 2009, Sir Michael has served as Deputy Chair and Chair of theNew Zealand Post Board. He was appointed to the Constitutional Advisory Panel in 2011, overseen by Hon Bill English and Hon Dr Pita Sharples. He is also currently the co-chief negotiator for Ngati Tuwharetoa and advisor for a number of other Iwi.

Dame Patricia (Patsy) Lee Reddy DNZM (LLM)
Dame Patsy is a barrister and solicitor with over 20 years of corporate governance experience as a non-executive director of Telecom New Zealand, Air New Zealand, Sky City Entertainment Group, New Zealand Post and Southern Petroleum New Zealand.

She is currently Chair of the New Zealand Film Commission, Deputy Chair of New Zealand Transport Agency, Independent Director of Payments NZ Ltd and Active Equity Holdings Ltd, and Chief Crown Negotiator for Treaty Settlements in the Bay of Plenty region. She was lead reviewer for several Performance Improvement Framework reviews of government agencies. She also has significant experience in the arts and not-for-profit sectors.

Dame Patsy has previously been a member of the New Zealand Markets Disciplinary Tribunal and a partner in law firm Minter Ellison Rudd Watts. She has also lectured in the Faculty of Law at Victoria University of Wellington.