Every country that has ever sleepwalked from democracy to dictatorship has done it in the belief that it was taking extraordinary, temporary measures in response to an emergency. They all arrogantly believed that these circumstances were exceptional and normalcy would be restored, notwithstanding the lessons of the past. Our Parliament has shown exactly the same arrogance and dismaying ignorance.
Of course special legislation needed to be passed to create a rebuilding commission like the one that was created for Napier and Hastings in 1931. But CERA allows Brownlee to override nearly any law, take away any land, and demand any information. This is not the normal response to disaster in a democracy. It is a blueprint for dictatorship. There is no justification for this. There is nothing that makes this risk worth taking.
Labour should have said: ‘we want special legislation and a commission for Christchurch but this law is a naked power grab beyond any justification. We have been lied to repeatedly through out this process, so we do not feel we can trust Brownlee with these powers. If the following amendments are made (give amendments limiting the power to override legislation to only specified Acts, putting power in Commissioners’ hands not Brownlee’s, and establishing proper rights of appeal) we will vote for this law. Otherwise, in good conscience, and as representatives of the people of New Zealand entrusted by them to defend their democracy, we cannot.’
I don’t know why that didn’t happen.
And finally, lets look at the politics of the thing. A read of the media told you that the jourmos would have gotten behind Labour opposing CERA. All those articles about National’s abuse of Urgency were an open invitation for Labour to stand up against this attack on democracy.
Can you imagine National meekly signing over Parliament’s sovereignty to a minister, all the while complaining that the minister had lied to them and that the powers were unjustified? Of course not.
The millions of Kiwis who are suffering under National need a Labour worth voting for. Every time Labour lets itself be tripped up by petty squabbles, by indecision, by fear of standing up and defending its principles, it is we New Zealanders who lose. CERA is just one example.
I desperately, desperately want a Labour-led leftwing government at the end of this year. It fills me with dread to think what Christchurch and the rest of New Zealand will look like if National is allowed to plunder it for another three years. But I can’t go into battle for the Left’s ideals every day when our parliamentary representatives go and do this to us. I’m going to take a break from national-level politics and this blog, and get more involved in activism in my community, especially Transition Towns. I’m more and more convinced that communities can do a lot to ready themselves to weather the age of peak oil, and that strong communities are the guarantors of a sustainable and democratic society.
Ever since I was invited on board, I have been incredibly proud to be part of The Standard. It is, I really believe, the premier political news source in the country. It was before I joined and it will continue to be without me. Its strength is the community it represents. You make The Standard what it is. Through your readership, your comments, your guest posts, your tips and advice, and the high standards you demand of us.
It is up to you, dear reader, to take up The Standard now. Especially, those of you who know economics and stats. Send in your guest posts. Become an author. I need a break.