Citing the importance of robust opposition to a healthy democracy and the Labour party’s poor performance in holding the government to account, the Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand took the unusual step of directly intervening in the affairs of Parliament, making changes to the house that have shocked some but drawn praise from many political and legal experts.
Emphasising Labour’s lacklustre record and the importance of an opposition party in scrutinising Ministers actions and speaking truth to power the Governor General dismissed Mr Goff and the rest of his Labour MPs and on the same day swore in ‘Tiberius’, a four year old domestic Grey Goose who will act as opposition leader and sole opposition MP.
Although the move has drawn criticism from union leaders Mr Goff has cautiously welcomed the change. Constitutional lawyers have confirmed that Sir Anand is acting within his rights, citing a rarely used English law dating back to the period of Henry I, which allows the Regent to appoint ‘any barneyard animale, be he mayle true and not swyne not goat nor sheep, to ryse in dredful joye to jydge amung ye greatest’.
‘I think that is very clear,’ the Governor General told reporters at a brief press conference earlier this week. Speaker of the House Lockwood Smith has thrown his support behind the controversial move, although critics point to the Speaker’s longstanding friendship with Tiberius the Goose and question the politics behind the decision.
Before entering Parliament Tiberius lived on a fruit orchard near Otaki where his duties included eating algea and protecting a blueberry patch from sparrows. He also served on the Board of Directors for Meridian Energy.
The new MP has already made a strong impression on the government and its coalition partners; when Justice Minister Simon Power rose yesterday to introduce his new Search and Surveillance bill he was met with a tremendous quacking, honking sound, made by former Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons; the sound awoke Tiberius who rose on his hind legs and rustled his six-foot long wings at Mr Power who then withdrew from the Chamber. The bill was defeated and will not proceed to Select Committee.
Tiberius has formed a strong relationship with the Maori Party, accompanying Hone Harawira for lunchtime walks around Wellington’s Botanic gardens and frightening away a stray border collie that had been digging up the rose beds outside Pita Sharples’ Thordon residence.
The new opposition leader appears to have cooler relationships with Progressive’s leader Jim Anderton and United Future leader Peter Dunne, whom Tiberius chased across the Parliament lawn earlier this week before trapping him in a dead end near the Beehive annex, hissing and pecking at the Revenue Minister for nearly an hour. Sources close to Mr Dunne revealed that he has had several acrimonious encounters with Tiberius before the goose entered Parliament.
According to a Roy Morgan poll commissioned earlier this week and released today, Tiberius has proved an instant hit with most voters; although the formidable ‘people-who-hate-geese’ demographic has swung to National and ACT that has been more than offset by the centrist voters who are attracted to Tiberius’s bright white feathers and distinctive waddle when he walks. The poll suggests that if the election were held tomorrow Tiberius would be able to form a coalition with either the Greens or Maori Party, and a majority of voters cited a broad, rounded bill, extensive wingspan and powerful webbed feet as the most important qualities they sought in a leader.