I was going to write about how ludicrous it is that National is abandoning the idea of a warranty or bond system for builders in the new Building Act designed to stop a repeat of the leaky homes debacle, given that we’re about to embark on the largest rebuilding programme in the country’s history. But then I realised it no longer matters what laws say.
Now that Gerry Brownlee is king he can change nearly any law in any way he likes, and retrospectively too.
So what does it matter what Parliament passes or doesn’t pass? Whatever a law says, in a day, a month, or a year with a stroke of a pen Brownlee can make it something completely different and make it that it was always so.
A central tenant of the rule of law is that the people subject to law are able to know what it is. We no longer have that essential right. What you do today that you thought was legal may retrospectively become illegal tomorrow.
Enemies of Gerry Brownlee be wary.
I’ll end with a bit from Kennedy Graham’s speech yesterday:
I do this more in sorrow than anger but it is deep sorrow. Because it is arguably the most fundamental issue that can come before this House. That is to say, the granting of excessive powers to the government, to the cabinet, and to one person, the minister.
“In general”, says the Law Society, “Henry VIII clauses are contrary to the rule of law and good legislation principles.” Let that be written into the record of this House, just as we’re about to adopt these powers, let is be written in that is is contrary to the rule of law and good legislation principles. Contrary to the democratic imperative, as Dean Knight puts it.
Let us be clear and honest and transparent about what we are doing here. Those of us who are chatting to ourselves, those of us with our heads down – what do we have to say to the people of New Zealand when we are about to adopt these laws tonight? “Contrary to the rule of law”? To hell with it. To hell with it , we’ve got an extraordinary event, we’ve got an emergency on our hands, we’re going to rebuild Christchurch, so we’ll just override the democratic imperative. Simple as that.
Where there is a need for legislative amendments or suspends in order to facilitate the rebuilding effort, a better alternative would be for Parliament to dedicate House time for special legislation to deal with those matters as they arise. That is what we proposed in the Green Party. We are talking to deaf ears. And I think that the time will come – with respect to the minister and his officials and his government – the time will come when we will regret that.