- Date published:
6:00 am, June 9th, 2009 - 9 comments
Categories: animal welfare, greens, local government, national/act government, Parliament - Tags: david carter, Parliamentary Sovereignty
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.