Workers republic? Yes, Governor-General? Nah

Jeremiah Mateparae, Aotearoa's new Governor General

Mike Kay, Workers Party, Auckland

Buckingham Palace issued the following statement on 7 March: “The Queen, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister of New Zealand, has been pleased to approve the appointment of Lieutenant General Jeremiah Mateparae as the next Governor-General of New Zealand.”

The man chosen to replace Sir Anand Satyanand came as something of a surprise to the pundits and, reportedly, to Mataparae himself. He is the first soldier to hold the post for 40 years. Of the previous eight Governors-General, five have come from a legal background and another was an elderly former Prime Minister, Sir Keith Holyoake.

Some have questioned whether this is the “Paul Henry effect”, a reference to the disgraced broadcaster’s comment to John Key that the next Governor-General should be “a New Zealander who looks and sounds like a New Zealander”.

That may have weighed in the balance. But far more significantly, Mateparae’s appointment functions as a double whammy by the government: it strengthens the forces of both militarist nationalism and conservative Māoridom. This follows on, in lockstep formation, from the spectacle of Victoria Cross recipient Col. Willie Apiata being paraded across Marae under the previous Labour led government.

The Governor-General is the representative of the Queen in Aotearoa. Many people these days see the monarchy as a harmless bit of fun, just another aspect of trash mag celeb culture. The day to day role of both the Queen and Governor-General is indeed largely ceremonial. Yet the holder of the post of Governor-General possesses major reserve powers. Although rarely used, these include the power to dismiss a Prime Minister, dissolve parliament and call new elections, refuse to pass legislation into law and grant a pardon to someone who may have been wrongly convicted.

One of the most infamous examples of these reserve powers was enacted in 1975 when the Australian Governor-General dismissed a left-leaning Labor government headed by Gough Whitlam, and installed Liberal Party leader Malcolm Fraser as caretaker PM.

The post of Governor-General is an outdated vestige of feudalism. It needs to be abolished as an elementary step towards a workers republic.

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