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It’s called sovereignty, stupid!

Written By: - Date published: 6:00 am, June 9th, 2009 - 9 comments
Categories: animal welfare, greens, local government, national/act government, Parliament - Tags: ,

The Minister of Agriculture David Carter really outdid himself in the house last week. First he completely dodged and didn’t address the question put to him by Sue Kedgley on the use of sow crates. Next, clearly feeling the pressure he had a National backbencher ask him a nice easy question with which he took the opportunity to reason that Labour’s failure on the issue gives him a good excuse. Finally, he decided that despite parliament being our sovereign and supreme law-maker, it would be somehow illegal for him to override an unaccountable body whose only mandate is the Animal Welfare Act passed in 1999 giving them the power to write delegated legislation.

Hon DAVID CARTER: I ask that member to familiarise herself with the Animal Welfare Act. By law, I cannot override the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee process and ban sow crates immediately. Sections 70 to 79 of the Act make it absolutely clear that the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee process must be followed. That is the law that was passed by Parliament. I intend to adhere to the law, and I think that member should stop being irresponsible and should adhere to the laws of this land.

It was the hypocrisy of this final answer which really got to me. The National government has shown no compunction in removing delegated power from other bodies, so why pretend it’s a valid argument here?

The Resource Management Act (RMA) – National are currently passing legislation to overhaul the entire process for the granting of resource consents, limiting the powers of both local councils and the courts, and creating a new authority (Environmental Protection Authority) to deal with consent applications.

The Auckland Supercity – Recent legislation passed takes delegated authority away from the Auckland councils, giving decision making power instead to their new Auckland Transition Agency. The Supercity legislation also had to override the part of the Local Government Act which contained a requirement for a referendum to be held when merging councils.

The 90 day “fire at will” legislation – Passed in National’s first 100 days, it limits the powers delegated to the Employment Relations Authority under the Employment Relations Act 2000, preventing them from assessing claims of unjustified dismissal if a worker is fired in their first 90 days of employment.

These are all examples of delegated authority overridden by our sovereign parliament since National became the government last year. At least our local councils are accountable to the public who every three years get a say in how they should be run. NAWAC on the other hand have no accountability other than to their Minister, and perhaps the Pork Industry Board who they let draft the current Pigs Code of Welfare, the Egg Producers Federation who drafted the current Layer Hens Code of Welfare, and the Poultry Industry Association who drafted the current Broiler Chickens Code of Welfare.

So some advice to David Carter: Perhaps his government could pass legislation amending the Animal Welfare Act 1999 to remove NAWAC’s authority. He could even handpick their replacement as in the case of the Supercity. Or he could overhaul the entire process for determining animal welfare standards, in a similar manner to which his government is doing with the RMA.

Even better, since the current government seem to relish abusing the democratic process by continuously having parliament sit under urgency, we could have this whole matter dealt with by next week.

9 comments on “It’s called sovereignty, stupid! ”

  1. lprent 1

    Good post. Tight, clean, clear message, and not too wordy. Made my blood boil just reading it. Hypocritical bastard.

    Have you been taking lessons from Irish?

  2. rocky 2

    Well I have to admit Irish is my favourite writer on The Standard, so maybe I have picked up a thing or two 🙂

  3. Craig 3

    So the National Goverments logic is when it comes to pigs welfare the current law needs to be followed. So they up hold the lawful right for pigs to be abused. ( wont pass new laws to protect the pigs)!

    However when it comes to Democracy and the peoples right to vote on a super city they don’t want to follow the Law ( our rights to the law and democracy in local body government removed ).

    This Government is a bloody disgrace. Their hypocrisy knows no limits! This is a case of the Kart before the horse! Or is it a case of the Carters before the pigs/democracy .

    • George D 3.1

      It is already illegal. Nothing lawful about it. That’s the point (albeit one which Rocky hasn’t made clear in this one – it’s been discussed elsewhere on this site though).

  4. George D 4

    To address the poster’s point – NAWAC are legislated to advise the minister,

    But NAWAC are facilitating the breaking of the law. Sow crates are already ILLEGAL under existing law; see section 4 (c) and (d) of the Act.

    Definition of physical, health, and behavioural needs:
    In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, the term physical, health, and behavioural needs, in relation to an animal, includes—

    […]
    (c) opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour:

    (d) physical handling in a manner which minimises the likelihood of unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress:
    [….]

    The Act binds the Crown

    Act to bind the Crown

    (1) This Act binds the Crown.

    And may only be disregarded in exceptional circumstances.

    Despite subsection (1), the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee may, in exceptional circumstances, recommend minimum standards and recommendations for best practice that do not fully meet—

    (a) the obligations of section 10 or section 11; [….]

    NAWAC have declared that the law should be ignored, and they are failing in their statutory duties. The Minister should know this (he probably doesn’t), and dismiss them at the next opportunity.

    Oh, and would someone please put Jim Anderton into a nursing home so Labour will grow a fucking backbone and stand up for animal welfare?

    • rocky 4.1

      Thanks George. And on your point, the abuse of the “exceptional circumstances” clause was addressed by the Regulations Review Committee who ruled that “exceptional circumstances” cannot last forever, and any practices in breach in the codes of welfare need to have an end-date/phase out period set.

      They also ruled that in the case of layer hens on battery farms, there are no exceptional circumstances.

  5. Zaphod Beeblebrox 5

    He doesn’t actually deny that he could or should do something about it. All you need to do is substitute following the law with not upsetting rural producers.

  6. Macro 6

    Now Wodney is saying that all major local government decisions should be decided by referenda – but of course Central Govt doesn’t have to have one in the case of their decision on the “Super” city!
    How hypocritical is that?
    But what can you expect from this shower!

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