How we get a new Prime Minister – it’s a simple matter of vice-regal appointment without a swearing-in, apparently

The news media were at one ceremony by the looks of things. The Governor-General, the  Prime Minister and his deputy were at another.

The news  media were at a swearing-in ceremony.

The country’s leaders were at an appointment ceremony.

The New Zealand Gazette record of what transpired says:

Appointment of Ministers

Her Excellency the Governor-General has been pleased to appoint:

The Right Honourable Christopher John Hipkins to the Offices of Prime Minister and Minister for National Security and Intelligence;

The Honourable Carmel Jean Sepuloni to the Office of Deputy Prime Minister;

which took effect on Wednesday 25 January 2023.

Dated at Wellington this 25th day of January 2023.

By Command:
RACHEL HAYWARD, Clerk of the Executive Council

A record of the occasion, showing who said what, can be found on the RNZ website.

Several references are made to appointments. None is made to a swearing-in.

But Radio New Zealand ignored the language of the participants and reported what happened under the heading Chris Hipkins sworn in as prime minister.

Other mainstream media reported the same swearing-in.

NZ Herald

Chris Hipkins sworn in as Prime Minister, Carmel Sepuloni as deputy, Jacinda Ardern vacates top job.

Chris Hipkins is officially the new Prime Minister, describing the role as the “biggest responsibility of my life” at the swearing-in…


Chris Hipkins sworn in as Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern resigns.

On Wednesday morning, he was sworn in as New Zealand’s 41st Prime Minister, following the resignation of Jacinda Ardern.

Chris Hipkins formally sworn in as new prime minister

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins is sworn in during a swearing-in ceremony at Government House. Sepuloni was then sworn in as deputy prime minister,…

East Bay Times

Chris Hipkins sworn in as prime minister of New Zealand

By Nick Perry | Associated Press. WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Chris Hipkins was sworn in Wednesday as New Zealand’s 41st prime minister,…

But a Point of Order reader emailed us to contend that Chris Hipkins has not been sworn in.

“The question is, he wasn’t. Power was vested in him by the GG but was never sworn into anyone or anything…just a straight appointment not even a transfer.”

We were invited to tell our reader what we have to say about this.

We started by checking what RNZ had reported –

Chris Hipkins has today been sworn in as prime minister, formally completing the handover of power from Jacinda Ardern.

Ardern left Parliament as prime minister for the final time this morning, heading to Government House to officially tender her resignation and shift to the back benches.

Hipkins and incoming deputy prime minister Carmel Sepuloni arrived there about 11.20am for the swearing-in ceremony.

The formalities were  conducted at Government House, where the Governor-General was exercising some of her “reserve powers”.

The Government House website explains:

 In a very few instances, the Governor-General may exercise a degree of personal discretion, under what are known as the “reserve powers.”

The most important of these is the appointment of a Prime Minister following an election, or accepting the resignation of an incumbent Prime Minister.

By convention, the Governor-General will always appoint as Prime Minister the person who has been identified through the government formation process as the person who will lead the party or group of parties that appears able to command the confidence of the House of Representatives.

The Governor-General expects that there will be clear and public statements that a political agreement has been reached and that a government can be formed that will have the support of the new Parliament. The Governor-General abides by the outcome of the government formation process.

Other reserve powers are to dismiss a Prime Minister, to force a dissolution of Parliament and call new elections, to refuse a Prime Minister’s request for an election, and to refuse assent to legislation.

These powers to act without or even against ministerial advice are reserved for the most extreme situations and with the exception of the appointment of a Prime Minister following an election, no New Zealand Governor-General has ever needed to use them.

After the formalities had been completed last week, Chris Hipkins thanked the Governor-General for hosting “the appointment ceremony”.

Point of Order has asked officials at Government House to tell us if Hipkins was sworn in, appointed – or both.  We await a reply.

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