A better appointment process for the GG

Dean Knight writes:

It’s then very odd that the government of the day has the unfettered right to choose who should be governor-general. Appointments are made by the Queen on the advice of the prime minister. Our constitutional referee is chosen solely by the home team. No say for the people. No say for Parliament. In the old days, the government felt duty-bound to meaningfully consult the Opposition to ensure the person chosen had widespread support and was above politics. But nowadays other parties merely get told who is going to be appointed.

This just isn’t good enough. It has the potential to undermine the legitimacy of the appointee and makes it harder for them to act as the apolitical kaitiaki of our democratic system.

How to fix it? Easy. Give Parliament a role in signing off the government’s proposed governor-general. Before being recommended to the Queen and formally sworn in, Dame Reddy’s appointment should have been endorsed through a super-majority vote in Parliament. Or, as Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Andrew Butler suggest in their proposed constitution, a free (unwhipped) vote in Parliament.

This would probably operate as a mere formality, if the government has done its work behind the scenes to ensure their appointee is palatable and has widespread support. But such a vote would be an important signal – a symbol of the governor-general’s legitimacy and mana.

I agree with Dean that the Governor-General should not be appointed at the sole discretion of the Prime Minister. The PM should nominate to Parliament and if a super-majority endorse, then get recommended to the Queen.

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