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Swearing-in of the Executive Council

Issue date: 
Friday, 2 November 1990
The Hon and the Rt Rev Sir Paul Reeves, GCMG, GCVO, QSO

Walter Bagehot's quaintly worded book on The English Constitution is still worth reading even though it first appeared in 1867.

He sets the scene with the statement that "the Crown is, according to the saying, 'the fountain of honour' but the Treasury is the spring of business."

The Treasury, of course, is the Government of the day. The Cabinet, says Bagehot, is a combining committee - a hyphen which joins, a buckle which fastens the legislative part of the State to the executive part of the State.

The people elect, the House of Representatives legislates and the Executive Council, with which I associate the Cabinet, executes. The Governor-General is a member of the Executive Council acting on the advice of his Ministers in a way that we hope does not merit the description of a "nodding automaton."

My observation is that New Zealanders are concerned about the process of politics. Unemployment, markets for our primary produce, defence arrangements, the trouble spots of the world, are issues which they talk about and formulate their own ideas. The large number of "Don't Knows" identified by the Polls before the Election were not people without a viewpoint about this issue or that. What they did not know was whether the choices presented to them at the ballot box would really advance the issues they feel strongly about.

On the day, they voted and made a decision. But the electorate will continue to claim its proper place in the political process. There will be a lot of informed public debate, the various interest groups will continue to make their viewpoints known and the media will continue to be, in Rex Fairburn's words,

" thought's daily bagwash, ironing out opinion
scarifying the edges of ideas."

No one is completely immune to the darts and arrows of public debate. We put on a brave face but most of the time we are trying not to get hurt. Politicians are no exception. I have two thoughts to leave with you in the hope that they might be helpful.

One is that no one is free until the least of our brothers and sisters is free. In other words what is good for a minority must also be good for the majority. There is such a thing as the common good.

The other thought comes from a perspective born out of reading history. Final solutions, final answers, are rarely found. What we do is to make the best possible response in our life to issues and challenges that future generations will also have to deal with.

Mr Prime Minister, Members of the Executive Council, I wish you well. My term expires in three weeks but I am sure that my successor will look forward to working with you for the good of our country.

Last updated: 
Friday, 9 January 2009

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