Just as the last voters in the flag referendum were putting their papers in the post this week, the Prime Minister announced the next Governor-General. Nothing in our constitutional arrangements is more quintessentially British than the office of Governor-General. It has been filled by New Zealanders for nearly half a century but the incumbents, with rare exceptions, have been as quiet as the Queen they represent.

Dame Patsy Reddy sounds like a fine appointment. Her background in law, business and public service is impressive and her introductory remarks this week would have struck a chord with the country. She may be the least well-known person appointed to the role in modern times, as our political editor observed, but that hardly matters. It is a role in which previously forthright people almost disappear.

They move around the country and speak to plenty of gatherings but seldom say anything notable about national concerns. To do so, it seems, would bring them too close to politics. Yet it would not be a disaster to hear their thoughts on the state of the nation occasionally. If their thoughts differ from those on whose advice they must act, so be it. The only advice they ought to have to take are the acts of Parliament and statutory regulations they must sign into law.

Peter Dunne suggested Dame Patsy should be our last Governor-General, succeeded in five years by our own head of state. But a president might disappoint republicans unless we let a figurehead speak.


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