Re: Chauvel on CERRA

Written By: - Date published: 1:44 pm, September 24th, 2010 - 17 comments
Categories: democracy under attack, labour, law and "order", Parliament - Tags: ,

A few days ago Charles Chauvel wrote a piece on Red Alert on why Labour voted for CERRA (the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act or the Gerry Brownlee Enabling Act). I give him credit for not resorting to Brendon Burns’ ‘women and children first’ crap* but I’m still not convinced.

Chauvel makes two points:

  1. “we had a call to make. Go down in glorious defeat in a vote on the bill while the Government did what it wanted anyway, or use the possibility of there not being unanimity to get concessions”
  2. “frankly, we’d rather not spend the next 18 months being portrayed by National and the media as having obstructed the post-earthquake recovery.”

On the first, I would say Labour may have gotten some concessions but it didn’t get the vital one.

The problem with CERRA more or less boils down to seven words “any enactment, including (but not limited to)”. These words in section 4 of the Act mean that the “relevant Minister” (which is actually any Minister nominated by the Prime Minister, not just Brownlee) can alter in any manner not just the Acts listed in CERRA but any Act save five.

If you were going to focus on getting any particular concession from the government, it ought to have been limiting the powers of ministers to alter laws by decree to just the 22 listed. Without that limitation, CERRA is a dictators’ charter. Ministers can even alter CERRA itself to remove any of the other concessions Labour won.

This has already had ramifications, with Brownlee extending State agents’ emergency powers including the power “to examine, mark, seize, sample, secure, disinfect, or destroy any property, animal, or any other thing” even though the state of emergency has been lifted.

It’s good that Labour and the Greens won some concessions but they didn’t get the one that would have made it OK to vote for CERRA.

On the second point, there’s a dangerous mentality underlying the position that Labour had to vote for dictatorship or get pilloried in the media and lose votes. Apart from the obvious problem with the idea that any principle can be sacrificed to win votes,I think it assumes, wrongly, that Labour can’t win a media debate and that the media and the public itself will back authoritarianism during crisis. Neither of these things are necessarily true.

If Labour had said ‘we support Canterbury with everything we’ve got and we want to vote for CERRA but we can’t vote for a Dictators’ Charter’ that would have been a strong line that would have turned the question to why the Government was making such a power grab.

The media, in fact, isn’t very supportive of CERRA. The Herald wrote a scathing editorial and the gallery journos aren’t fools, they understand that the foundation of democracy is checks and balances on the exercise of power. If Labour had had a chat them, their line would have got traction. Right-leaning columnists like John Armstrong, Audrey Young, Fran O’Sullivan, and Collin James are no authoritarians. They wouldn’t have done a hatchet job on Labour. But Labour is clearly hugely risk adverse after so many hatchet jobs in the last few years.

And the public isn’t supportive of CERRA either. The polls on the news sites aren’t scientific but they tend to pop up a result that’s to the Right of the general population’s opinion, and the polls shows the public split on CERRA even with no Parliamentary party opposing it. Has anyone spoken to a non-RWNJ who agrees it was a good idea to give dictatorial powers to Brownlee? Because my experience is that whenever it comes up in conversation even non-political people’s reaction is disbelief and outrage.

Ultimately, I think that the Key Government is nearly as scared of the media as Labour (OK, not quite that scared). If National had been confronted with the option of limiting CERRA’s powers to just the named Acts or a possible drubbing in the media, I reckon Key would have folded.

But we’ll never know because the opposition failed to oppose.

* (on the subject of Burns, while his defence of CERRA has been ill-advised in the extreme the man is doing fantastic work on the ground for his people. His words have on the blog are wrong but his actions speak louder)

17 comments on “Re: Chauvel on CERRA”

  1. BLiP 1

    Doesn’t say much for Labour if they are willing to give away democracy because of what the media might say. Reeks of the creeping “managerialism” seeping into politics. Its like our leaders have abandoned us and been replaced by a bunch of CV-grooming executives on a career trajectory into the board room.

    • Rex Widerstrom 1.1

      Well said BLiP. My thoughts exactly.

      And surely, Eddie, the other thing necessary to make it palatable would have been a reasonably short duration “sunset clause” on the whole thing?

  2. Zaphod Beeblebrox 2

    Have they been asking Mark Arbib, Bill Shorten and Bitar? Honesty this is the same wimpy pandering that sunk Rudd and nearly took out Gillard.

  3. Herodotus 3
    from my perspective the Green were leading the limitied charge against thento modify this bill, and from this post above, get absolutely pillared for theior actions. In my mind unfairly.
    Yet all we get from Laour is pithetic appologist behaviour, our media perception is more important than principles. Where will this take us-them? Do we now have to review all Labours behaviour based on medias perceptions and not their principles?
    Why was it that The Greens blog was so severe and labours lukewarm?
    The Greens have a belief/principle basis that we keep then to, and Labour can do what they want As Long As They Win an Election?
    I have some sympathy towards the Greens on this issue
    And with no strong basis from Labour against this bill yet another case of the
    Right Wing Labour party = The left/middle wing Nats

    • freedom 3.1

      it does not matter what concession was won,

      They voted for it, all of them, unanimously,
      they are all guilty !

      capcha: equal

      see, even the universe agrees

    • BLiP 3.2

      First of all, big ups to the Greens for not only fronting the blog but also putting up the leader to take the fall out. RESPECT. None for Goff whatsoever, he is coward.

      I think the reason the Greens copped it so hard is because it claims to put its principles first. It has time and again dissented from what might be seen as popular policies on the basis it stood firm with what it apparently *believed* in. This mirage was supplemented by the practise of real democracy within the Party structure itself and a sense amongst members that they also “owned” the Green’s brand. The MPs played along, acting out as dignified members in the House, not stooping to the usual bullshit that goes on in that cauldron, plus the fact that they have avoided any scandals or dramas fighting publicly amongst themselves. Then, suddenly, it turns out that the Green MPs are just the same as the rest of them – supporters were not just angry but also shocked!!

      Just about anything Norman had to say was going to get dealt to but to tell us that although the MPs knew it was a bad decision they still voted for it for pragmatic reasons!! FFS!!!

      As a wiser man than I said:

      In short, when your political strategy is to be principled, then refusing to act on principle is not a pragmatic decision.

      Labour supporters have had plenty of opportunities to get used to being disappointed with their MPs. Not so with the Greens.

  4. the sprout 4

    Well said Eddie, voices all my concerns.
    It’s a serious blight on Labour that they bent over so readily.
    I also have mixed feelings about Chauvel ‘fronting’ this, only have King write a preface saying CC is heading out of the country so won’t be able to respond to comments. Do they not have inet in the US, or is it just that this isn’t worth his attention.
    Moreover, considering the outrage this has provoked amongst many members, why didn’t King front it herself. Again, was this not worth her attention?
    So yeah, better than Burns’ hapless ravings, but still a piss poor response and justification.

  5. freedom 5

    i had a great ‘discussion’ with a friend the other day who is an avid Greens supporter, but could not concede that they should not have voted for CERRA.

    The whole discussion centered around the ‘not looking bad’ by voting against the bill.

    It is so obviously a crap position as the Greens could have all voted no, taken the stand expected, the bill would still have passed and all the BS media spin would have been useless as who would actually believe the Greens did not want to help CHCH.

    The Greens could have gone on the offensive and attacked the Government, (and Labour) for their authoritarian over-reaction. More importantly, they would not have lost a huge chunk of their (fledgling) support base.

    The disguting and disturbing outcome of CERRA shows we have a house overflowing with politicians, who are so corrupt that ensuring positive facetime with the Media means more than their responsibility to democracy

  6. rich 6

    I think a lot of people gave up on Labour years ago. Zaoui, the Tuhoe raids, police rape, that sort of thing.

  7. Ben 7

    Why are Kiwis all living in fear of media. They are the real dictators in NZ. Many people shut up about many issues for fear of our media. Its time that changed.

    • just saying 7.1

      Labour MPs doing their jobs and acting as an opposition is as yet untried. Even if the media is biased the point is moot when the main opposition party fawns and crawls and panders to them again and again and again.


      Goff is beneath contempt

  8. Jum 8

    The one major for me is that these blogs, these politicians, these media scum all run their own agenda. I have to try and sit back and sit objectively about what has actually happened here.

    Most New Zealanders won’t even have noticed. Those who have will be putting their hands in their pockets as we speak for the people of Canterbury fund, and will be thinking how nice of the gummint to be pulling all the stops out to help us poor people. Labour is right in that NAct pondscum would have made this the perfect storm for Labour. What Labour should have done is make it perfectly clear to everyone they spoke to as well as put it on their blog that in no way are they allowing Brownlee to bulldoze any bad stuff through, apart from what has already gone through like paying off the SCF bastards, who will now gain from the sale of these land assets which Key, Brash, Shipley and Richardson helped drive through.

    New Zealanders are essentially – thick; just managing to survive which is where this government manipulated them, misogynistic which is why they swapped Helen Clark who would have made a far better job of governing in this recession for a US-backed patsy Key; or only in it for themselves as NActMU supporters, or all of the above.

  9. Jeremy Harris 9

    As I said on the RA thread, my favourite part was when they said Chauvel was out of the country so he couldn’t respond…

    He is a special envoy to the heart of the Congo where he can’t get Wi-Fi… They must think we’re dumb and believe the dodging reasoning…

    • ghostwhowalksnz 9.1

      Oh dont be silly. They mean he would be flying for long periods and couldnt monitor the comments as closely as required. Or have you not noticed we are on the other side of the world.

      I think this discarding of democracy like an out of date suit is a terrible decision
      Isnt the best way to walk them back on the decision and hear the excuses and say how unacceptable they are.
      To say Yes , if we had thousands dead, and bodies lying unburied in the streets, all the railways , ports, roads airport unusable and hundreds of thousands homeless we could understand a very brief CERRA for possibly weeks only in Canterbury could have been possible.
      But not for this. That parliamentary democracy is the still the best way when circumstances are most difficult.
      It seem that the Electoral Finance Act has cast a long shadow

      • Jeremy Harris 9.1.1

        Nonsense, there are often a couple of days between checks from MPs… It’s an excuse pure and simple…

  10. Drakula 10

    I cannot and will not accept the fact that the Green and labor MP’S voted for the bill on the pretext ‘that they would be portrayed by the media as “not doing their bit”‘

    It’s pure bullshit and Eddie has stated the reasons as to why it is bullshit.

    Any way it’s getting late I posted a rant on this on Bills post ‘Pause for thought’ that also applies here.

    Good night.

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