Constitution and confidence votes

November 15th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Governor-General made some interesting points in a speech this week:

It is worth remembering that a party or grouping of parties may be able to secure a majority even if it does not hold more than half of the seats in the House.  This is because a confidence vote, like all questions put to the House, is decided by a simple majority of votes cast.  To illustrate the point: a party may state publicly and unambiguously that it will not provide support on matters of confidence to any other party or grouping of parties, and that it will instead abstain on confidence votes and vote on legislation case by case.  Whatever that party’s motives, its abstention is constitutionally significant, because it reduces the number of votes another party or grouping of parties will need to win confidence votes and command the confidence of the House.

This is not an impossible scenario. A centrist party could take that stance. They would effectively hold the balance of power on votes on individual legislation, but abstain on confidence and supply votes. This would mean that the party or bloc with the largest number of seats (even if not a majority) could form Government.

Since MMP was introduced, it has been the practice of the parties forming the government to commit to working together for the duration of the parliamentary term.  This is not a formal requirement, and there can never be a guarantee that any agreement reached will hold in practice.  My experience of New Zealanders, though, is that they place a high value on stable government, and will expect parties to make best endeavours to agree on commitments for the full term of Parliament.

This is also a key point. Parties don’t need to commit for the full term, and as the GG says, they can change their mind anyway.

It is possible for a Government to be formed without formal confidence and supply agreements. Just on the basis of a statement from a party that for now they will vote for confidence. Basically it is minority government. This is the case in Canada where minority Governments often are the case, but never have formal confidence and supply agreements.

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Editorials on new GG

March 9th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom-Post:

The appointment of former Defence Force chief Jerry Mateparae as the next governor-general is an inspired choice.

As the first Maori to head the Defence Force, Lieutenant General Mateparae made a point of steering clear of tokenism. …

In many respects his appeal is similar to that of John Key. Like the prime minister he is a self-made man.

He joined the army on a whim as a 17-year-old and rose rapidly through the ranks, serving two years in the elite SAS, serving with United Nations monitors in Lebanon, commanding a truce monitoring group in Bougainville and jointly commanding New Zealand’s forces in East Timor, before becoming head of the army and then the Defence Force.

And the NZ Herald:

His appointment makes a refreshing change. Nobody needs to be a lawyer to act on constitutional advice and after three judges in succession, he will bring a different set of life experiences to the role.

It will be particularly encouraging for the armed forces to see one of their own elevated to head of state. It reflects perhaps a revival of public interest in the services. Their recent missions, notably in East Timor and in Afghanistan, have been cause for pride. The open celebration of Corporal Willie Apiata’s Victoria Cross has given a good impression of the SAS and General Mateparae has agreed to make public a little more information on the special force’s activities in our name. …

He will bring a young family to Government House. That should be refreshing too. He will have five years, possibly more, to make the position his own. He could ensure it is seen and heard more often when it matters, such as in Christchurch these past two weeks. We hope he will.

One of the things I like about the appointment, is the potential role model for youth. You can join the army with no qualifications at 17 and end up as the effective head of state of New Zealand.

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Governor-General Jerry Mateparae

March 8th, 2011 at 1:31 pm by David Farrar

John Key announces:

Prime Minister John Key today welcomed the announcement that the Queen has approved the appointment of Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae to succeed Sir Anand Satyanand as Governor-General of New Zealand.

If I have it right he will be “His Excellency, the Right Honourable Lieutenant General Sir Jeremiah (Jerry) Mateparae, Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief of the Realm of New Zealand”.

The announcement from Buckingham Palace details Mateparae’s background:

His current appointment is Director of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), which he took up on 7 February 2011. Prior to joining GCSB, he had a 38 year career with the New Zealand Defence Force, which culminated in his appointment as Chief of Defence Force in the rank of Lieutenant General from 1 May 2006 until 24 January 2011. General Mateparae was the first officer of Maori descent to hold the rank and appointment.

He enlisted into the Regular Force of the New Zealand Army in June 1972. After three years service as a soldier, he graduated in 1976 from the Officer Cadet School at Portsea into the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment. He served in both battalions of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment and with the New Zealand Special Air Service. He commanded a regionally-based combined force Truce Monitoring Group on the island of Bougainville during OPERATION BELISI in 1998. He also completed a 12-month tour of duty with the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organisation as the Chief Observer in southern Lebanon from May 1994 to May 1995. Subsequently, as the New Zealand Army’s Land Commander he was New Zealand’s Joint Commander for New Zealand forces in East Timor (December 1999 to July 2001). He was Chief of Army from 1 May 2002 until 30 April 2006.

He might be the first spy head to be appointed Governor-General, but I suspect he is also the only former SAS member to be appointed also. He’s gone from the Chief of the Defence Force to the only “military” job above that!

The Republican Movement have made the point:

The Republican Movement acknowledges the nomination of Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae as Governor-General by Prime Minister John Key today. Lt. Gen. Mateparae is a well known and respected New Zealander. He topped a poll in October last year of 1,435 New Zealanders conducted by the Republican Movement to find New Zealand’s next Governor-General.

“Yet, his appointment was made in secret and lacked democratic oversight” said Lewis Holden, chair of the Republican Movement.

New Zealand needs a proper elected head of state, not an appointee of the Prime Minister.

While the choice is a very good one, I have to agree that the Head of Government should not effectively unilaterally decide who is the effective Head of State. At a minimum it should be a parliamentary vote.

Of interest is what Lewis said about Mateparae having topped the poll that Republican Movement ran for who should be the next head of state. The poll results are here:

  1. Lieutenant-General Jerry Mateparae 34%
  2. Ray Avery 16%
  3. Sir Peter Leitch 12%
  4. Jim Bolger 8%
  5. Sir Don McKinnon 7%

I think he’s a very good choice. I’ve met him a couple of times at social functions (well if you can call a funeral wake a social function) and he’s very down to earth. He’s excelled at pretty much everything he has done in life, so I have no doubt he will be an excellent Governor-General.

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Give Kiwis a say

January 5th, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Lewis Holden has an oped in the NZ Herald:

Some time this month the Prime Minister will announce who New Zealand’s next Governor-General will be. While they represent the Queen in London, constitutionally the Governor-General is the highest office a New Zealander can aspire to.

The appointment is entirely the choice of the Prime Minister of the day. The Queen merely rubber-stamps the appointment.

That’s one reasons I support a move to a republic. I don’t think the PM of the Day should solely determine who the effective Head of State for NZ is.

… no New Zealander can aspire to being our head of state – that position is reserved for a family in the United Kingdom. However, we recognise that we have to start somewhere. The Governor-General’s office is an obvious candidate for reform.

The Republican Movement believes nominations for the job ought to be made by the general public, instead of the Prime Minister’s office sounding potential nominees.

The public’s nominee should be subject to approval of three-quarters of MPs and a majority of party leaders in the House of Representatives. It should not be up to the Prime Minister to appoint the officer able to dismiss his or her government from office.

As Lewis says, this would be a good intermediate step – introducing some transparency and democracy around the appointment of the effective Head of State.

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Cringeworthy

October 4th, 2010 at 3:25 pm by David Farrar

I cringed when Paul Henry asked the PM this morning whether in appointing a Governor-General would “choose a New Zealander who looks and sounds like a New Zealander this time?”.

I have a lot of time for Paul’s humour, even his offensive humour, because humour is often offensive.

But this was not a joke, this was not even comparable to Paul Homes with his “cheeky darkie” comment, which was meant to be a parody.

This was a blatant statement that NZ born Sir Anand does not look and sound like a New Zealander because his parents are Fijian Indians.

What Paul really meant is that he does not sound like a white or British New Zealander.

If TVNZ don’t take firm action on this one, they will find themselves in a very umcomfortable position. They should also arrange for an apology to the Governor-General. He was born in New Zealander, and is every but as much a New Zealander as Paul Henry.

UPDATE: Paul Henry has apologised:

I sincerely apologise to the Governor General, Sir Anand Satyanand for any offence I may have caused.

I am aware that Sir Anand has made an outstanding contribution to New Zealand.

Anyone who knows anything about me will know I am a royalist, a constant defender of the monarchy and the role the Governor General plays in our society.

If my comments have personally offended Sir Anand, I regret it deeply.

I am sure it will still be the lead item on the news tonight, and in newspapers tomorrow.

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Top 10 choices for Governor-General

October 3rd, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The HoS reports on the request by the Republican Movement to the Prime Minister, to let Parliament vote on who the next Governor-General will be.

Over 1,200 nominations have been made, through the Movement’s campaign site. The 10 most popular (in alphabetical order) are:

Ray Avery: 2010 New Zealander of the Year, a scientist whose work has enhanced the lives of many in third-world countries through his low-cost healthcare inventions.

Jim Bolger: Prime minister 1990-97. Taranaki-born Bolger oversaw the introduction of MMP and radical economic and social changes.

Justice Sir Eddie Durie: The first Maori appointed to the high court. He was chief judge of the Maori Land Court 1980-98 and Waitangi Tribunal chair 1980-2004.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Co-leader of the Green Party 1995-2010. An MP from 1996-2010.

John Hood: A Rhodes Scholar, Oxford vice-chancellor 2004-09.

Sir Peter Leitch: Known as the Mad Butcher and famous for his charity work and support of sport. Pictured above with daughter Angela.

Lieutenant-General Jerry Mateparae: Current Defence Force chief. First Maori appointed to position in 2006.

Sir Don McKinnon: Commonwealth secretary-general 1999-2009, minister of foreign affairs 1990-99 and deputy prime minister 1990-96.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer: Prime minister 1989-90 and deputy prime minister 1984-89. Currently Law Commission president.

Dame Anne Salmond: Noted historian who is a member of the British Royal Society and was pro-chancellor of the Auckland University 1997-2006.

I’m against politicians being GG, but would be very comfortable with John Hood, Sir Peter Leitch, Lt General Mateparae or Dame Anne Salmond.

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The next Governor-General

August 17th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key is about to consider who the next Governor-General will be. And the word is he may buck the recent trend of appointing a former judge and opt for someone more unorthodox to the role.

Some of the names being tossed around by observers include Sir Don McKinnon, Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast and arts patron Dame Jenny Gibbs.

Philanthropist and recently named Distinguished Citizen of Auckland Rosie Horton said one person stood head and shoulders above others.

“Sir Don McKinnon. He has had an outstanding and highly revered international life and done a stunning job at the Commonwealth Secretariat, and he’s just a very fine New Zealander that we can all be proud of. And he’s come back to New Zealand.

On a personal level, Sir Don would be well suited for the role and would perform it well. However I maintain that former MPs should not be appointed to the job, regardless of how meritorious their post-parliamentary life.  The GG should be non-partisan.

“[Philanthropist and arts patron] Dame Jenny Gibbs is also marvellous, very clever and gracious to meet and such a marvellous role model.”

Dame Jenny is an interesting possibility.

Property investor Sir Robert Jones said the Governor-General should be a New Zealander who was not a token appointment.

He said Kerry Prendergast would “be wonderful at the job”.

Heh I presume this means he is not standing a Mayoral candidate against her. While there would be precedent fer Kerry to be given the job, as Cath Tizard was, I still maintain that Kerry’s national party background makes her a sub-optimal appointment. Again, nothing to do with her personal qualities, but that the GG should not be a political figure.

Asked about Maori academic Sir Mason Durie, Sir Robert said he would be “very tokenistic”, and former Labour Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer would be “most unsuitable”.

I can’t see it going to a former Labour PM.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei would support a female representative of ethnic groups, but insisted she was not throwing her own hat into the ring.

I am surprised Metiria only insisted that the GG be ethnic and female. She forget to include the additional criteria of being left handed and disabled.

She said former Rugby World Cup Ambassador Andy Haden “might not be the best option”.

Can agree on that one.

The appointment is the Prime Minister’s alone. He can consult whom he wants, or no one at all.

Which is why I think the effective head of state should be (at a minimum) appointed by Parliament, not by the PM solely.

If Mr Key decided that another judge should live in Government House, then Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias could be a candidate, though husband Hugh Fletcher might be a more popular choice.

There is no way the Chief Justice will give up that job to become Governor-General.

Sir Kenneth Keith, who is serving on the International Court of Justice, may be less controversial than either of them.

Sir Kenneth would be a fine choice in my opinion.

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Who do you think should be NZ’s next Governor-General?

July 25th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Governor-General is our effective head of state, and we will get a new one announced around April 2011, to take office from August 2011.

Sadly our current constitutional arrangements means that the Governor-General is chosen solely by the Prime Minister. The decision isn’t even ratified by Cabinet, let alone Parliament. The PM can also effectively sack the Governor-General.

The Republican Movement is holding a mock nomination process for Governor-General, in anticipation of the day when more than one New Zealander will get to decide who the effective Head of State will be.

There is an information page here, and you can make your own nominations here.

I tend to favour former Judges, as they have generally been kept well away from partisan politics.

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The GG Bill

July 21st, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

It’s a farewell fit for a queen or at least her New Zealand representative – the governor-general’s severance pay is to be doubled to six months’ salary.

However, the rise is meant to compensate the governor-general for having to start paying income tax, like everyone else, according to the Governor-General Bill that passed its first reading in Parliament yesterday. The requirement applies to future governors-general.

I think six months is reasonable. Accepting the role of Governor-General basically makes you unemployable after you retire. You can’t return to the bench (for example), or do most jobs.

But the bill continues the paying of an annuity to the governor-general or their surviving spouse once they leave office, as well as current perks such as domestic travel and chauffeur-driven cars for duties.

Almost all former GGs continue as public figures, often assisting charities and the like.  However there might be a case that the perks are time limited – perhaps for up to ten years after leaving office.

UPDATE: In fact the GG is not getting any sort of increase at all. An official has e-mailed me an explanation:

The payment upon leaving office is not being doubled. Under the Civil List Act, it is calculated as: 3 months’ salary + 3 months’ allowance = payment. Under the new Act, it will be: 6 months’ salary = payment. The reason for the change is that the allowance pool will be much smaller in the future.

It is not possible to specify exactly what the payment will be in dollar terms, because the Remuneration Authority sets the rate of the Governor-General’s salary. However, it is reasonable to expect that the Remuneration Authority will take into account the fact that future Governors-General will be paying income tax when it determines what their salaries should be. On that basis, a payment of six months’ salary is expected to be a rough equivalent to the current payment of 3 months’ salary + 3 months’ allowance.

So the amount of money paid will be much the same, just that it comes from a different pile.

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More transparency

June 30th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The wave of transparency under this Government keeps rolling on. At first it was just summary expenses of MPs. Then it was also credit card details for Ministers, And a few days ago also announced quarterly releases of credit card details for Department CEOs. And today we see even former Governor-Generals will not be exempt.

The Herald reports:

The new era of transparency over expenses paid by the public purse will extend to former governors-general under a bill introduced to Parliament yesterday.

Expenses of free domestic travel and chauffer-driven VIP cars paid for by Internal Affairs will have to be specified for each former governor-general in the department’s annual report.

It will probably pave the way for similar disclosures for the expenses of former prime ministers, because the funding for both retired groups comes out of the same appropriation.

The information can be obtained under the Official Information Act but it is not routinely published. …

The new transparency clause is one of the provisions of the Governor-General Bill, the main provision of which is to end the tax exemption for governors-general.

It will take effect from the appointment of the next governor-general.

The bill is here. It also changes the tax status of the Governor-General so they will in future pay tax on their salary. It was previously seen as inappropriate as taxation was in the name of the crown, and they represented the crown. But as even the Queen has been paying income tax since 1993, it is good we are catching up!

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Next Governor-General

June 7th, 2010 at 2:48 pm by David Farrar

Homepaddock blogs:

Queens Birthday is as good a time as any to speculate on who our next Governor General might be.

Trans Tasman’s weekly newsletter (you can subscribe here) suggests an unofficial list might include former Commonwealth Secretary-General Sir Don McKinnon, former PMs Jim Bolger and Dame Jenny Shipley and former Trade Mnister and chair of the Asia 2000 Foundation Philip Burdon.

I’d have thought Jim’s strong republican sympathies might preclude him. I think any of the others would be very good in the role and I’d put Jenny at the top of the list.

The term of Sir Anand Satyanand expires in August 2011. If it follows the same schedule as last time the next Governor-General will be offered the job around February 2011, and announced around April 2011.

I have to respectfully disagree with Ele though. While the above four people are all suitable in terms of their character and skills, they are not suitable as former MPs and politicians.

The Governor-General should be above politics, and scrupulously neutral. It should not be a retirement job for retired Ministers. The appointment of Sir Keith Holyoake was unwise, and should not become a precedent.

I think any political involvement, even if short of being an MP, should preclude appointment. Dame Cath Tizard was an inappropriate appointment also (not criticising the job she did) and even Sir Paul Reeves was marginal.

I have no idea whom the next Governor-General will be. They don’t have to have a high profile. They need to be successful in whatever career they have gone into, well respected and beyond reproach, able to represent NZ overseas, willing to do a mass of charity work and politically neutral.

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Taxing the Governor-General

December 18th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Law Commission has reviewed the Civil List Act 1979, as it pertains to the Governor-General. Their major recommendation is that the Governor-General no longer be exempt from income tax.

The exemption is traditional, based on a belief that you can’t tax the Crown. However even the Queen pays tax in the UK now, so it seems overdue for the Governor-General to do the same. Now this will not mean a pay drop for the next GG, as the Remuneration Authority will take account of the tax status in setting the salary.

A summary of their major recommendations:

  1. Pass a separate Governor-General Act defining the office, term and appointment, removing them from the Civil List Act.
  2. Have a permanent legislative authority for the funding of the Governor-General and their office and travel.
  3. Remove the exemption from income tax on the salary (but the allowance to cover expenses remains tax free).
  4. Remove Section 7 of the Civil List Act which allows the Minister of Finance to exempt the Governor-General from paying any public or local tax, duty, rate, levy or fee.
  5. Have an annuity determined by the Remuneration Authority for former GGs, and upon their death half that level paid to a surviving spouse or partner.
  6. When the Chief Justice (or other Judge) acts as Administrator of the Government they stay on their current salary, rather than the current law where they get paid 50% of their judicial salary and 50% of the GGs salary.

All looks pretty good to me.  A small but useful modernisation of our constitutional structure.

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DPMC BIM

December 16th, 2008 at 1:36 pm by David Farrar

John Key has released the DPMC BIM. The breakdown of the 120 staff is interesting:

  1. External Assessments Bureau 27
  2. Government House 27
  3. Cabinet Office 25
  4. Corporate Services 17
  5. Policy Advisory Group 16
  6. Domestic & External Security Group 6
  7. CEO Office 2

The last five sections look right to me in terms of staff numbers. Cabinet Office basically runs the cabinet system of government, and the Policy Advisory Group do a magnificent job in co-ordinating and leading policy across the entire Government. No-one sane would reduce their numbers.

But I am surprised 27 staff are needed for the Governor-General. That’s more staff than the PM has in his personal office.

Also somewhat surprised by 27 staff working in the EAB. I wouldn’t have thought there was that much assessing to be done – especially when you consider MFAT, SIS and GCSB also work somewhat in this area.

So maybe the Cabinet Committee on Expenditure Control can start in the centre :-)

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A parliamentary day

December 8th, 2008 at 7:55 pm by David Farrar

My day started in Auckland. I stayed up there for an extra day as National’s Northern Region had its Christmas Party on Sunday Night. The Regional Chair spoke about how well the Party did locally n both the party and the electorate vote.

John Key gave a very funny speech. There were serious parts about the future of mass membership parties, the financial crisis etc but I remember the part about his son ringing him up a few days ago, from the place he was babysitting at and complaining he was hungry. When John asked what he was meant to do, he was informed that as Prime Minister he can surely arrange for some pizzas of he can run the country. The story continued with how impressed the Pizza Hut staff were to have the PM call in an order, and now that they have his cellphone number they let him know how he is doing in the job :-)

This morning I was on the same flight as Helen Clark, and in fact was set to be just behind her in the queue to board the plane. I was just about to greet her automatically with “Good Morning Prime Minister” until I realised that of course is no longer the salutation. I actually had to stop and think for quite a few seconds about what the correct greeting would be, and settled on “Miss Clark”. But by then she had left the line.

Headed into Parliament a bit after 1 pm, and for the first time in nine years sat on the side of the visitors gallery opposite the Government benches. It was nice to be able to see the Nats back on the Speaker’s right.

There was a TV set up in the gallery, so we could see the three Commissioners cross the road and walk through the grounds and corridors of Parliament to the House. The Governor-General is not allowed in the House so he sends three Commissioners to do the opening. They were the Chief Justice, the President of the Court of Appeal and the Chief High Court Judge.

Dame Sian read out the various proclamations and asked the MPs to elect a Speaker. The Commissioners then exited the House and the Clerk of the House proceeded to swear MPs in. They come up in alphabetical order and are grouped by whether they swear or affirm the oath and on whether they speak in English or Maori.

Lots of MPs did modified versions of the oath, as their way to try and score a point. It got a bit tiresome really, as after they did their version, they then did the official one. Several MPs tried to add on references to the Treaty of Waitangi (including a European MP), and Sio tried it in Samoan before doing it in English. I did have to laugh though at Hone Harawira’s one which bore no resemblance at all to the oath as he went on about a duty to Te Tai Tokerau, Aotearoa, his constituents, the public etc. He then did the much shorter standard one.

The funniest part was when they called Darren Hughes and Parekura Horomia up together. This was a slip up as Parekura was to do it in Maori, and Darren in English. Rather than make a fuss Darren said it in Maori with Parekura – he didn’t even do a Milli Vanilli but managed the words well.

Then the election of Speaker at around 2.45 pm. Lockwood was the only nominee and certainly looked the part. He did a really good acceptance speech and referred to being in Parliament when Speaker Gerry Wall threw out the PM and the Opposition Leader on the same day. He said he hoped not to emulate that record but would do so if it was necessary!

This then led to several other MPs telling uncomplimentary stories of Speaker Wall (generally regarded as worst Speaker in living memory) as they congratulated Lockwood. Talking of Lockwood, Audrey Young has a blog on what she sees as his strengths and weaknesses for the job.

Normally after the House elects a Speaker-Elect (believe it or not the GG has to confirm them in the role), the Speaker-Elect travels to Government House to be confirmed and ask the GG to respect the privileges of the House etc. But as Government House is being renovated, we got a rare treat and MPs (and their guests) got to witness the ceremony being held in the Legislative Council Chamber. Took around half an hour all up.

As we were waiting I was chatting to a Minister about special votes and overseas votes and how he was keen for me to do some analysis around them. As I agreed to do so, one of the new Labour MPs sitting just in front of us turns around, and says she’d like a copy also :-)

Actually I’ll probably stick it on the blog once I do finish it, as it is all sourced from public information.

After the GG/Speaker ceremony, there was a function in the State Banquet Hall, hosted by the GG. Got to meet a few of the new MPs I had not yet met, which was nice. What was funny was when talking to one new Labour MP and her husband, the photographer asked if we wanted our photo taken together. I quipped that it would probably knock 1,000 votes off her majority so we declined :-)

Finally as I was leaving Parliament, I had the good fortune to be on the forecourt just as Emma Daken arrived. I blogged about Emma a few days ago – she is walking the length of New Zealand to raise money for cystric fibrosis research. MP Katrina Shanks pointed her out to me. Katrina, like many MPs, has been really supportive of Emma’s efforts. She’s now raised $21,000 but still some way off the $50,000 target. You can donate online to here at this site. I find what people like Emma are doing is really inspiring in its selflessness.

So a pretty full day. Tomorrow is the state opening and the GG reads out the speech from the throne. After that I expect the House will elect a Deputy Speaker, two Assistant Speakers and also appoint MPs to Select Committees. They will then start the address in reply debate, but also go into urgency to introduce and pass some of the laws they promised.

The maiden speeches will start tomorrow, and the best speeches you will ever hear in Parliament are (in my order) valedictory speeches, maiden speeches and then speeches on conscience issues. With 35 MPs that is a heck of a lot of maiden speeches (I guess Sir Roger won’t get one though) so I doubt I can cover them all, but will try to cover a few of them anyway.

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Will Clark seek confidence next week?

August 29th, 2008 at 8:45 am by David Farrar

Winston Peters has made it clear on Radio NZ he will not step down, so Clark has to decide today whether to sack him or not. It she does, it sounds like NZ First will regard it as a breach of their confidence and supply agreement and withdraw confidence.

Some people think that just because no formal confidence vote is scheduled, the Prime Minister can remain in office without having the confidence of the House. This is not so. No Right Turn has a good post on this issue. You need to have the confidence of the House, even without a formal vote scheduled. Jenny Shipley in 1998 was able to show she did, after also sacking Peters.

If the PM sacks Peters, she should ask for a confidence vote on Tuesday.

If she does not, the Opposition could write to the Governor-General and point out that the Prime Minister now only has 54 votes for confidence (incl Copeland and Field) and 57 votes against confidence plus 10 abstaining. The GG could then ask the PM to demonstrate she has the confidence of the House.

If NZ First abstain on supply and confidence, rather than vote against, the Government would survive 54 – 50. So the key question is Clark sacks Peters is will she call a confidence vote (only Monarchs govern without consent) and how will NZ First vote on that confidence vote?

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