- Head of State debate
- The case for a New Zealand republic
- Defending the monarchy
- The facts
- Constitutional review
- The Treaty of Waitangi
- Commonwealth membership
- Common Cause
The GCSB Bill and the reserve powers
The GCSB Bill currently before parliament is undeniably a controversial piece of legislation. Without getting into the specifics of the debate about the bill, one letter to the Governor-Geneal caught my eye. It claimed that the Governor-General's reserve powers mean that Sir Jerry can stop the passage of the bill, sack the Prime Minister, dissolve parliament and order an investigation into the intelligence services.
This underlines the level of misunderstanding there is in the public arena. The Governor-General is not, according to long-established constitutional convention, allowed to act unilaterally. The Cabinet Manuel explains it like this:
...the Governor-General acts on the advice of the Prime Minister as long as the government commands the confidence of the House, and the Prime Minister maintains support as the leader of that government.
In other words, the head of Government - the Prime Minister - calls the shots so long as they don't lose a vote of no confidence in the house of representatives. The reserve powers don't kick in unless that happens.