Written By: - Date published: 9:30 am, May 31st, 2013 - 34 comments
Categories: accountability, capitalism, democracy under attack, democratic participation, greens, john key, local government, Mining, national/act government, russel norman, social democracy, sustainability - Tags: holly walker, nick smith, peta sam lotu-liga
Yesterday in Question Time in the House, Green MP Holly Walker put a telling series of questions to the Chairperson of the Social Services Committee (Peseta Sam Lotu-Liga). The Questions were about the National government rushing through the submission stage of the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill. As Holly Walker later explained in a press release yesterday, the government is rushing through the committee stages of this Bill, which enables the government to over-ride local government policies on housing:
National Party chairperson of the Social Services select committee, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, used his delegated authority to set the submission period for the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill after it passed its first reading under urgency after the Budget.
Only two weeks were allowed for submissions on this major Bill that gives central government the power to overrule local democracy and grant development consents without the agreement of councils. …
Submissions on the bill close at midnight tonight. It is understood that very few have been received so far.
“National needs to give councils and members of the public more time to have their say on this major piece of legislation,” said Ms Walker.
“This Bill would give the government of the day the power to ride roughshod over local democracy. Legislation to implement the housing accord that the Government has reached with Auckland Council is one thing, but this Bill will also apply to the rest of the country and allow the government to create new special housing zones without the support of local authorities.
“National knows what it is doing is wrong. That’s why it set a shortened report-back period for the Bill and allowed only two weeks for submissions without informing key stakeholders.
Actually, as far as I am aware, the Bill still has done the dirty on Auckland Council by NOT including key parts of the negotiated “accord”. So the government’s anti-democratic processes are even worse than stated by Walker.
The questions to Lotu-Liga further exposed the government’s disregard for democracy. Lotu-Liga squirmed and diverted, trying to avoid answering whether he consulted with the Minister of Housing (Nick Smith) or his staff before announcing the shortened submission date.
1. HOLLY WALKER (Green) to the Chairperson of the Social Services Committee: When do submissions to the Social Services Committee on the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill close?
Holly Walker: Did he consult with the Minister of Housing or his staff before making the decision to close submissions on this date?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The difficulty the member has with any supplementary questions is that they must be something that is a matter of the responsibility of the chairman. As advised by the Clerk, that one does not meet the Standing Orders.
Various opposition MPs rose to make several points of order as the Speaker was leaning towards allowing that diversionary behaviour by Lotu-Liga.
2. HOLLY WALKER (Green) to the Chairperson of the Social Services Committee: What is the length of the period for submissions to the Social Services Committee for the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill?
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (Chairperson of the Social Services Committee) : The public call for submissions was made on 17 May 2013. Submissions, as I said in the answer to question No. 1, closed today. The length of time, therefore, was just under 2 weeks.
Question 3: showing Lotu-Liga avoided enabling stakeholder responses to the Bill.
3.HOLLY WALKER (Green) to the Chairperson of the Social Services Committee: Has he, as
Question 4: in which Lotu-Liga denies knowing how many submissions have been received so far.
5.HOLLY WALKER (Green) to the Chairperson of the Social Services Committee: Did he decide that submissions to the Social Services Committee on the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill will close today; if so, why?
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (Chairperson of the Social Services Committee): As I said, under Standing Order 192(1) I have the discretion to determine the closing date. I felt that the closing date of today was the appropriate amount of time for submissions, giving a 10-week turn-round period for the closing date.
Quotes from Green co-leader, Russel Norman, in today’s NZ Herald, show how much more democratic the Green Party is, compared with John Key’s NAct government.
Green Party co-leader Russel Norman will attack undemocratic lawmaking in his speech to the party’s annual conference this weekend and turn the tables on the National-led Government by describing it as “extremist”.
Norman referred to several pieces of legislation which are the result of the government over-riding democratic process: restricting protests against mining at sea; the government’s abolition of the regional council in Canterbury; and this:
He pointed to the passing of urgent legislation which prevented most carers of disabled family members from getting paid, and removed their ability to challenge the law in court.
The bill was passed into law a day after being introduced and with official advice heavily censored.
It will be interesting to see the outcome of the Greens’ annual conference this weekend. It is being conducted away from the MSM spotlight, in order to enable members to speak openly. The Green Party has always foregrounded democratic process as a foundation of the party.