The Herald’s editorial today is a strong rebuke of National’s anti-democratic power grabs:
“Work has just begun for the 26 experts in constitutional law from all six of the country’s law faculties who penned a letter condemning the Government’s earthquake response legislation.
No sooner was their work in the public eye than the similarly flawed Rugby World Cup 2011 (Empowering) Bill was reported back from a select committee, with a recommendation that it pass. It also goes far beyond what is required to get things done…
…included is a process for urgent applications. This grants an extraordinary level of power to the Rugby World Cup Minister, Murray McCully.
He may ignore the recommendation of the authority and substitute his own decision. The bill says he must take into account the authority’s view, as well as that of other ministers, and that he must pay heed to public safety and mitigate “any adverse impacts”. But his view is the one that counts, and his decision is final….
…the legislation asks New Zealanders to accept that the Rugby World Cup Minister knows best. It is he who knows how the event must be run. Precisely the same attitude pervades the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act.
This hands individual Government ministers the power to change almost every law, thereby handing Parliament’s normal law-making role to the Executive. Their decisions cannot be challenged in any court.
The Earthquake Recovery Minister, Gerry Brownlee, has justified these powers by saying “business as usual won’t work”. Doubtless, the Government would offer the same defence for its approach to the biggest event that this country has hosted. It wants to get things exactly right for the expected 85,000 visitors.
But in both cases, it has gone too far in removing checks and balances on the Executive. Such powers should not be written into law unless and until there is a clear case for them.”
The Government has failed to show two necessary things 1) that “business as usual won’t work”, as far as I can see the best parts of the recovery have been using pre-laid legislation and systems 2) that, if there is a problem, then CERRA is the solution.
There is a dangerous precedent now that governments will feel entitled to suspend democracy at the first hint of ’emergency’.
Labour’s Trevor Mallard has come out against the powers in the World Cup Empowering Act. If only someone had opposed CERRA, which is far far worse than the WCEA.
This editorial is yet more proof that Labour and the Greens got it dead wrong in backing CERRA. They were scared of getting a beating in the media, figuring that it is pro-National anyway and especially pro-Government and unity after the earthquake. That was a terrible mis-calculation, which reflects deeper problems in how both parties deal with the media.