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At his State Farewell

Issue date: 
Sunday, 10 November 1985
The Hon Sir David Stuart Beattie, GCMG, GCVO, QSO, QC

Prime Minister and Mrs Lange: Mr Speaker and Mrs Wall: Your Excellency the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps: the Leader of the Opposition and Mrs McLay: Members of Parliament and Chief Justice:

Thank you, Prime Minister and Mr McLay, for what you have just said. It has meant a great deal to us both. Thank you again, Prime Minister, for presenting the Q. S. O. to my wife and me. We are honoured to join those whose self-effacing service we have recognised at Investitures in the last five years and I particularly applaud the award to my wife.

The handsome gift of a chest upon chest will be used as a repository for the papers, records and mementoes of an interesting and busy Vice-Regal term. How did it start?

After Mr Muldoon (as he then was) and his Cabinet paid me the compliment of recommending the appointment to Her Majesty, I gradually eased away from Court duties. In the interim, after I had resigned my commission as a Judge, I was in a Fokker Friendship going to a function in Hawkes Bay when the attractive air hostess asked me what I did. I replied: "Well, I'm actually between jobs!" She said: "Don't worry, something will turn up!" and it did!

I was to be sworn in on the 5th November 1980 but Sir Robert changed it to the 6th November so that we could see the All Blacks play Wales at Cardiff Arms Park in a Centennial Test. Thank you, Sir Robert.

As you may remember, the day we were sworn in coincided with Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Kent coming to stay at Government House. All the Royal Family have the ability to ease nerves on such occasion.

Not long after that we had our first Waitangi Day ceremony. My first public attempt at speaking in Mori was categorised by Mr Tom Scott as an undistinguished performance. I agree. Instead of 'tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa,' Scott said it sounded like "Tin o' cocoa, Tin o' cocoa, Tin o' cocoa." I duly sent him a tin o' cocoa.

In between that occasion, and more recently, when he awarded me the Hot-water kettle of the week, there have been five years when it has been a privilege to serve Her Majesty and our country. No kettle has yet arrived!

We would like to thank Members of the House for their kind references to us in the speeches in the various Addresses in Reply. If I did not hear them all, and I did listen to most, Hansard covered the balance. Also, I found it very satisfying to meet the MPs, particularly at functions in their electorates and I am grateful to them for attending on many occasions.

Our thank s also go to the Mayors, Chairmen (male and female) of the Counties and all Local Body Councillors and officials who received us so well throughout New Zealand. The Armed Forces have demonstrated their loyalty to The Queen and to me as their Commander-in-Chief on numerous occasions and we will miss seeing them.

[Talking about local bodies - holiday - Gisborne - Trafalgar Day.] This demonstrates, in my opinion, the particular ability of the Mori to adapt quickly to an awkward situation.

Then there have been hundreds of letters from school children which make fascinating reading and, on occasions, I have quoted from them. The apposite one today, and which came early in the piece, put me properly in my place. It reads:

"Dear Governor-General,
I have written to Mr Muldoon, Mr Rowling, Basil Brush, and now you. Do you like being Royal? I was King Canute in the school play."

Race Relations

We have a Treaty, 145 years old. It was a genuine desire by two peoples to live in one country and share its benefits. The community needs to listen to the reasoned voices and help find solutions to problems. I have been impressed by two recent events.

Morehu McDonald (the names from both cultures) produced a programme showing the honouring of the kaumatua, (the elderly), at a King Country function. What a lesson for all of us. The Minister, The Honourable Koro Wetere receiving the guests including his relatives, and Rangimarie Hetet, the famous weaver, coming forward on the arms of younger men, or grandfathers, sponsored by their mokopuna. Mori singing and music and dancing to the European foxtrot with European music. A combination of cultures, - but that great respect for the aged.

Then again, last week, some 30 Wainuiomata Intermediate pupils came with three teachers to visit us at Government House. I had invited them as the group who sang so well outside the Legislative Chamber at the last opening of Parliament. Their School's Vice-Principal, a handsome part-Mori, told me with some pride that his great, great, great grandfather, Sir Henry Leaf had fought in H.M.S. 'Victory" at Trafalgar, 180 years ago. He was proud of his mixed heritage, drawing great strength from it. We should be proud of all races in New Zealand, and not be divided.

Like Australia, we are united as a nation in opposing nuclear testing in the South Pacific. As the Times recently stated, it remains to be seen to what extent the world can control and put back the genie into the bottle, released as the genie was by a New Zealander who first split the atom. I had written these particular words last week and on Sunday, in the New Zealand Times, I read Mr Bill Manson's article which made the same point.

Constitutional Position

During 1983, the Governor-General's Letters Patent were changed. The previous authority was drafted in 1917. The main change, I consider, was to the earlier Royal Instruction No. 5 which said that a Governor-General could, on his own motion, dissent from the opinion of the Executive Council and tell the Monarch the reasons for so acting. But by constitutional convention he or she clearly is not entitled to do that.

The new Letters Patent abolish any inchoate right. So really, nothing practically has changed. It has been regularised. However, the new Letters Patent raise three important issues: -

  1. When can the Governor-General act without the advice of his responsible Ministers? ("his" includes "her")
  2. After receiving advice, can the Governor-General act when he does not accept or follow that advice? And
  3. Can the Governor-General refused to act after receiving advice he should act? (Sir Cyril Newall with alleged deserters in World War II - death penalty, as referred to in a Wellington paper.)

The general rule is that the Governor-General should never act against the advice of responsible Ministers who have the support of the House of Representatives.

But if exceptional circumstances arise, I submit the Governor-General may exercise reserve powers which are not spelled out. The Honourable Mr Palmer appropriately calls that position, "unchartered territory". I also respectfully agree those reserve powers are not a suitable matter for litigation.

Did I follow the effect of the new Letters Patent?

I agreed to meet the hikoi at Waitangi in 1984. Some papers have been saying, up to the last month, that I acted without authority, but the Minutes of the Waitangi Trust Board for the 5th February 1984, later released and accurately reported by the Evening Post, confirmed I had the support and authority of two Ministers of the Crown who were then part of the Board and attended the meeting.

I would like, if I may, to intrude on this occasion by publicly thanking my family and close friends, many of who are present today, for their understanding and loyal support. More particularly, I thank my eldest daughter and her husband, Bill, for being surrogate parents to our youngest boy, in Hawkes Bay. We are ready to take over.

Finally, may I comment that some people these days may not be as deferential as once they were, or as easily persuaded to take custom and tradition at face value. Whether this has proved beneficial to society is not an issue for me to pose today. What is important is to recognise that things have changed, probably forever, and to react accordingly.

There are some comforting trends, viz., at the farewell dinner given us by the Diplomatic Corps it was a rare privilege to see and hear representatives of some 40 nations singing Auld Lang Syne which is what we say to you.

Thank you for honouring us today.

Last updated: 
Friday, 9 January 2009

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