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Herald against Nats’ power grabs

Written By: - Date published: 10:34 am, October 1st, 2010 - 15 comments
Categories: democracy under attack - Tags: , ,

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.

15 comments on “Herald against Nats’ power grabs ”

  1. tc 1

    Can’t understand this at all from labour, NACT would’ve passed it anyway without them so why give up the moral high ground by whimping out and voting with it.

    Phildo actually needs the PR traction this soapbox could’ve presented him with but yet again it’s an example of why he sucks as leader…..next please.

  2. Anne 2

    I suspect Labour’s and Greens’ political advisers went straight into panic mode. They were blinded by fear of a NAct and media beat-up against them. It would have happened too, but think what a grand soap-box they both would have now!

    I confess I’m one of those who defended them at the time… gave them the benefit of superior intelligence than was available to the rest of us ‘peasants’. This is by no means the first time they have let their supporters down, and agree with Eddie’s assertion:

    “a terrible mis-calculation, which reflects deeper problems in how both parties deal with the media.”

    • Richard 2.1

      “a terrible mis-calculation, which reflects deeper problems in how both parties deal with the media.”

      The fact that they even thought there was a calculation to be made here is deeply troubling.

      They were quite simply faced with the question: “is it a good idea to legislate to create a dictator”.

      Do we really want the sorts of twats in parliament who when faced with such a question think:
      “Oh, I don’t know, I wonder what the electorate thinks.”

    • Rex Widerstrom 2.2

      gave them the benefit of superior intelligence than was available to the rest of us ‘peasants’.

      An assumption with which they would wholeheartedly agree, Anne, and one which causes their contempt for grassroots democracy to become blindingly evident, even from a first-termer like Brendon Burns.

      A majority of votes in an electorate (specially if you’ve leveraged your way into a safe seat) or, worse still, having sucked your way up to a high list ranking, does not bestow omniscience.

      I was just reading a book on Henry Ford’s failed attempt to build a US city in the Amazon (from where he was sourcing his rubber). It failed because he refused to take along botanists or horticulturalists (the rubber plants were ravaged by disease and insects), anthropologists (the local workers didn’t respond the same way as those in Detroit) and so on. Why? Because he was Henry Ford and that somehow made him omniscient.

      Even those with vision and drive are brought low by hubris. Our politicians would do well to remember that, drop the arrogance and contempt with which they view the people to whom they are answerable, and start consulting and obeying us.

  3. marsman 3

    Has the Dominion Post made any comments at all about NAct’s corrupt power grabs? Do they have any journalists left on their staff of mainly commentators?Are they totally Crony Media?

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    What a surprise – another power grab by the petty dictators in NACT.

  5. @ Marsman: “Has the Dominion Post made any comments at all about NAct’s corrupt power grabs? Do they have any journalists left on their staff of mainly commentators?Are they totally Crony Media?”

    See http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/politics/4176704/Quake-law-dangerous-lawyers

  6. Kind of puts the EFA astroturkeys in perspective, doesn’t it?

    • Rex Widerstrom 6.1

      Yes it does. A one-sided, fairly significant attempt to pervert democracy versus a bipartisan, hugely significant attempt to pervert democracy even further 😛

      • RedLogix 6.1.1

        Well one was a potential cap on the media’s election related advertising revenue, while this one is fairly good imitation of a fascist power grab. But it’s bipartisan so that’ll make it all ok Rex…

  7. JC 7

    Well at least the standard has it least one poster who isn’t a labourite tool. But as there are only nine posts here I suspect the sentiment isn’t shared

  8. Bill 8

    Politicians have no vision, imagination and overall, precious little intelligence. They are crisis managers And crises are determined in terms relevant to business.

    So how do you manage a business environment when a city has fallen over?

    Emergency.

  9. Teej 9

    But wait, there’s more! It’s not just the CERRA and WCEA. Although not nearly as obvious or as sexy, the State Sector Management Bill quietly reduces the independence of the Chief Archivist, and places both the position, and the previously independent department Archives New Zealand, firmly within the clutches of the Department of Internal Affairs. The Chief Archivist (through the agency of an independent Archives New Zealand) performs an absolutely critical function in protecting New Zealanders’ rights and entitlements, by requiring all state agencies to create and maintain records of their affairs, and critically, ensures those records cannot be destroyed without permission. The role should be protected by legislative safeguards similar to those of the Auditor General and Ombudsman, rather than reducing it to that of a third tier management role in a hybradised department responsible for a potpourri of functions. The three offices work to mutually reinforce the other, and reducing one plank in effect reduces all three. Without an effect and efficient public records regime, the ability (for example) of the Ombudsman to require public offices to produce records in response to Official Information Act requests is threatened. Like I said, although subtle, the cavalier manner with which this restructure has been rammed through is testament to the disdain with which this government seemingly regards democratic rights and freedoms. Frankly, it’s heartbreaking.

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