1 January 2011

A Kiwi New Year message - from our de facto Head of State

Sir Anand Satyanand has released his regular New Year message:

- http://www.gg.govt.nz/node/3488

The New Year is a time when we look ahead, and also a time to consider the year that has passed. Any year inevitably has its highs and lows but 2010 is one that New Zealanders will remember for its tragedies and natural disasters, including the deaths of members of the New Zealand Defence Force and, most recently, the terrible loss of 29 miners at the Pike River coal mine.

Despite such adversity, however, my wife Susan and I have also observed the strength and resilience that characterises the people of New Zealand and the fundamental values that we all share. The Canterbury earthquake in September, for example, caused massive damage that will take a long time to repair. It was a miracle that no-one was killed, and for that we can be grateful and, as well, for the timing of the earthquake and for the high standards of New Zealand’s building code.

While the fabric of homes, buildings, and roads was damaged, the fabric of the community remained strong. Rescue, emergency and civil defence services responded promptly, and the government and local councils began quickly the difficult and complex task of planning for rebuilding and restoration.

On two visits to Canterbury since the earthquake we have observed the response of the community to those most in need—neighbours helping neighbours, volunteers lining up to provide assistance of every kind, and support in donations flooding in from throughout New Zealand.

Alongside these challenges, New Zealanders also shared some highlights. For example, New Zealanders continued to shine in the world’s sporting arenas, with achievements at the Commonwealth Games in India, the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the Rowing World Championships at Lake Karapiro, and the Kiwis clinching the Rugby League Four Nations competition. Although the inaugural Constellation Cup for netball was won by Australia, it was a pleasure to be in Delhi and see the Silver Ferns win the final. The All Blacks’ performance in the Bledisloe Cup, Tri-Nations Championships and another Grand Slam, are all good signs for the Rugby World Cup in a few months.

In January, HRH Prince William New Zealand opened the new home of New Zealand’s Supreme Court by on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen. In October, Government House in Wellington, which has been closed for two years for a major conservation project, marked its centenary and Susan and I both look forward to welcoming New Zealanders back into the restored House in a short while.

This year will also see the end of our five year public journey in the role of Governor-General. It has been a privilege to acknowledge the efforts of a great many New Zealanders, both young and old, who are working to make our country a better place. The optimism, positive spirit and determination of people we have met in this way will be among our most treasured memories.

Susan and I have observed many times the extent to which fundamental values remain embedded in our national culture. Qualities such as tolerance, good-hearted concern for others and a practical can-do attitude, provide optimism for New Zealand’s prospects. As we join family and friends to enjoy the summer holidays, let us renew a commitment to these values, to ensure that they remain at the core of what makes us New Zealanders.

Rt Hon Sir Anand Satyanand, GNZM, QSO
Governor-General of New Zealand

Some thoughts.

First, it's a shame this message isn't broadcast on the telly or radio. A printed release tends to get lost, despite it being intended as an address for the nation.

Secondly, compare the Governor-General's message to the Queen's Christmas Broadcast:
- http://www.royal.gov.uk/ImagesandBroadcasts/TheQueensChristmasBroadcasts/

The Queen's message is generic, bland and foreign (and - surprisingly and uncomfortably - very biblical).  The message shows thatcNew Zealand is not really on the radar of the British Monarchy, with no specific mention or acknowledgement of the matters of concern to Kiwis.  In my view, the message stands as a strong reminder of the irrelevance of the Royals to Kiwis.

In contrast, Sir Anand's message touches on the events that have been central to the lives of Kiwis over the last year.  Our tragedies.  Our triumphs.  A message that is more germane to our community.
If we're serious about having our Head of State fulfil their role as a community leader, reflecting the aspirations and agonies of a nation, then it seems plain to me that the Queen has done her dash.  It's time our de facto Head of State, the Governor-General, be given that responsibility in their own right.  Let's cut ties with the Monarchy and promote the Governor-General to Head of State. 


Hamish Keith said...

Bland and irrelevant of course, but there is an upside to that - those just might be merciful qualities in a Head of State. If we elected our own I doubt that we would do as well as Sir Anand but would simply settle for a revolving door of stale former politicians who never lost the art of the meddle or fiddle.

Dean Knight said...

Personally, I favour parliamentary appointment by super-majority (ie, indirect election). Former politicians don't have the apolitical credentials required for the job.

But, regardless, direct election has also proved to have worked fine abroad.

The point is that selection based on a foreign blood-line is the worst of all worlds.

Simon said...


I am intrigued by your second comment.

In particular, why did you find the biblical references in the Queen's Christmas Address both "surprising" and "uncomfortable"? Surely it would have been much more surprising if the speech (by the notional head of the Church of England) were completely devoid of any reference to the biblical underpinnings of the Christmas festival. It would have also, from a quick look at past speeches, marked a striking departure from past practice.

Second, is it not possible that your discomfort with the "very biblical" (I would have thought "very sporting" more accurate) nature of the speech is exactly the type of complaint that leads to the blandness that you earlier criticize? The more people attempt not to make any group uncomfortable, the more likely you are to end up with excruciatingly boring public addresses.

Dean Knight said...


I guess our commitment to the secular state is much stronger here in New Zealand.

The fact the Queen is the notional head of the Queen of England is yet another reason why I think she is an inappropriate Head of State for New Zealand.

Simon said...

Perhaps, Dean. I would note, however, that our current Governor-General, a Catholic, has given official speeches containing biblical references. And, to our nation's credit, that hasn't been considered a problem.

Course Outline

Lord Justice Lawton in Maxwell v Department of Trade and Industry [1974] 2 All ER 122 said:

"From time to time ... lawyers and judges have tried to define what constitutes fairness. Like defining an elephant, it is not easy to do, although fairness in practice has the elephantine quality of being easy to recognise. As a result of these efforts a word in common usage has acquired the trappings of legalism: 'acting fairly' has become 'acting in accordance with the rules of natural justice', and on occasion has been dressed up with Latin tags. This phrase in my opinion serves no useful purpose and in recent years it has encouraged lawyers to try to put those who hold inquiries into legal straitjackets.... For the purposes of my judgment I intend to ask myself this simple question: did the [decision-maker] act fairly towards the plaintiff?"

This course examines the elephantine concept of fairness in the law, along with other contemporary legal issues.

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