Towards banana republic status

Written By: - Date published: 9:30 am, November 19th, 2015 - 43 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, David Farrar, democracy under attack, labour, national, Politics, same old national, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: ,

Labour received some stick in comments on my previous post for its stance on the Social Welfare (Commencement of Benefits) Amendment Bill.  It is unfortunate but there was some scepticism about how it would vote.  I am pleased to note that Labour opposed the bill strenuously and attempted to improve the bill behind the scenes although these attempts were eventually futile.

To recap the bill’s purpose was to change the definition of stand down period in the Social Security Act 1964.  The law as enacted in 1998 clearly stated that relevant benefits started on the day the stand down period ended but administrative practice started those benefits the day after.

The previous law was paradoxically also passed under urgency.  A select committee process is important so that issues and mistakes in the drafting can be fixed.

The use of urgency on this occasion is, to be frank, appalling and a constitutional disgrace.  The problem was discovered 18 months ago.  The bill is very brief.  If there was such a problem the bill could have been introduced months ago and a full select committee process gone through.

The use of urgency is especially appalling because the bill has retrospective effect.  The right of beneficiaries to insist that the law be applied has been taken away from them and instead the current view of the executive on what the law should say has replaced the clear and unambiguous words of the Act.

My view could be discounted because I am a Labour aligned left wing blogger.  But David Farrar agrees. His comment about the bill was:

I would have though if practice doesn’t match the law, then it is the practice you should change – no[t] the law.

Even Cameron Slater is opposed to the Bill.  He said:

You might expect me to take the position that beneficiaries don’t deserve the money, and they shouldn’t get it.  But that’s not on. A deal is a deal…

You can’t just legislate your way out of it when you made a mistake.   What sort of example does that set?

And for an academic view of the Bill Otago University Law Lecturer Simon Connell says this:

Retrospective legislation is inconsistent with the rule of law. There is nothing especially compelling about this problem so as to justify the evil of retrospective legislation (indeed, the especially evil evil of retrospectively stripping citizens of a right conferred to them under the law). The solution to this problem is to amend prospectively, and to meet the Crown’s obligations. This is how the rule of law is supposed to work. Any attempts to present this retrospective legislation as simply clearing up a problem ought to be opposed. Waldron noted of purportedly “curative” retrospective legislation that:

Often it is a way of covering up or avoiding the embarrassment of administrative irregularity — pretending it did not happen, and depriving the citizen of the remedies that would otherwise be associated with its occurrence.

That is what the Government is seeking to achieve here. It is deplorable.

The justification for the bill, that there would be lots and lots of people claiming money, had never been tested.  There was no regulatory impact statement, and the Departmental Disclosure Statement is almost completely bereft of meaningful detail.

Carmel Sepuloni attempted to have the bill amended so that a six week period would be allowed for all intending applicants to apply for arrears.  Labour would then have supported the bill.  It would still suck, just not as much as before.  At least individuals would have had an opportunity to file their application.  Instead of this the rights of an individual to be treated in accordance with the law as it existed at the time has been retrospectively taken away under urgency.

One of the roles of the opposition is to improve things and if this had been achieved then all strength to them.  That this Government refused to allow even this modest change reinforces how appalling the measure is.

The really sneaky thing is that the Government tried to slip the change through under separate “remedial” legislation.  Kay Brerton spotted the attempt and submitted against it.  But for her vigilance and perseverance the change may have been slipped through without notice.  Interestingly the drafting under that bill did not have retrospective effect.  Perhaps this was to be introduced by way of SOP.

To finish here is film of some impassioned speeches by Carmel Sepuloni and Jan Logie about the bill.

43 comments on “Towards banana republic status”

  1. savenz 1

    +100

    Deplorable and shady is an understatement!

    • Wensleydale 1.1

      You owe the government money = hounded to the ends of the earth.

      Government owes you money = retrospective legislation under urgency.

      These smirking villains have no shame, no honour and are unfit for the offices they hold.

  2. savenz 2

    Good speech by Jan Logie.

    The National government definitely thinks they are above the law having ignored 2 court decisions and now changing the law to be right – sounds like a dictatorship!

    There is getting to be a pattern here…

    • Steve Withers 2.1

      High in the polls = do whatever with impunity

      One has to wonder when or if their voters will ever care about right vs wrong.

      Or has NZ – defacto – become a corrupt state.

      • savenz 2.1.1

        I’m not sure how accurate the polls are….. look at Northland even the conservatives have had enough.

        • Chooky 2.1.1.1

          +100…I dont think the polls are accurate at all….IN FACT DEEPLY SUS!

          …and they are used as a PR weapon

          …they put people off voting because they think it is hopeless

          Polls are best ignored

        • Lara 2.1.1.2

          I reckon they’re accurate.

          I have no idea why people like FJK so much, but they do.

          I’m in Northland. There are plenty of people up here how love FJK. They’re generally older, wealthier and comfortable. They characterise the poor and Maori as undeserving, lazy and criminal.

          I’m surrounded by them.

          • linda 2.1.1.2.1

            “They’re generally older, wealthier and comfortable” bloody baby boomer’s who had the best of this country and there holding x and y to ransom fjk brighter future was never for x and y

      • Redelusion 2.1.2

        Focussing on the wrong thing, Nats or JK are not that popular, it just that labour are deeply unpopular, Nats seen as the by far the better of two average options

        • mickysavage 2.1.2.1

          So what do you think about the law change? Knock yourself out, let us know what you think.

          • Reddelusion 2.1.2.1.1

            Thanks for the invitation Micky 😀 i assume you agree with my first point but here you go

            Pretty much agree with tone of blog, retrospective legislation is not just, Saying that labour has been known to use this tactic on a few occasions, electoral financing if my memorary serves me right, was not the foreshore and seabird issue of a similar ilk. Saying that two wrongs don’t make a right, national should be the party that respects property and contract rights, The left are far more comfortable in tramping over these rights.

  3. Ad 3

    This government are a bunch of constitutional morons.

    • weka 3.1

      Or they know exactly what they are doing and don’t care.

      • Ad 3.1.1

        Only Findlayson could claim that.

        The rest by their consistent actions of rolling over BORA tests, Crown Law advice, and reasonable time for the Parliamentary Counsel’s Office to do their job, are indeed Constitutional Morons.

    • Reddelusion 3.2

      But they are our morons who are less unpopular than the morons on the other side, hence jk is your prime minister and national is your government, and i suggest this will be so be for at least another 2 terms

      • Stuart Munro 3.2.1

        The traitor Key is not my government – he disenfranchised me – he’s a crook and a tyrant and he must go.

    • wattnot 3.3

      No, They are not morons. They are white collar terrorists. They know exactly what they are doing, and the mission is to cut the balls off democracy.

  4. madtom 4

    Where was the flood of outrage when an even more despicable retraction of government promises was imposed retrospectively on the sadly cheated ratepayers of Kaipara?

    This is SOP for National.

    • savenz 4.1

      Kaipara was shocking too. The government and council are making the rules to suit themselves and public are powerless within the decision making process are then powerless when the poor effects from the government or their officials poor decisions are inflicted on them and they have to reap the consequences.

    • weka 4.2

      What happened in Kaipara?

      • savenz 4.2.1

        The Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association chairman has at least 500 local residents refusing to pay an estimated $1 million in rates this year because the Kaipara District Council secretly ran up an unsustainable $58 million debt building a sewage treatment scheme for about 2000 people who own homes here. The scheme has virtually bankrupted the council, which was forced to resign three months ago.

        But many locals still face rates increases this year of about 40 per cent. Rates have more than doubled for some and several residents told the Weekend Heraldthey would sell if they could.

        John Brown, who lives one street back from Rogan, is reeling from a 38 per cent increase in his rates bill to $3052. His five kids, now aged 13 to 25, have grown up at their Mangawhai bach over the past 24 years and Brown loves the place but he’s almost had enough.

        http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10844763

        • weka 4.2.1.1

          Crikey, that’s a bloody mess and a half.

        • Molly 4.2.1.2

          Joel Cayford has a good history of the issue on his blog – Reflections on Auckland Planning. As he has a property in Mangawhai he has been involved in the dispute since the beginning.

          A primary issue is that the Kaipara Council did NOT following council procedures when committing to this spend. And the project did not meet the council criteria for such a commitment, and the decision was made in close sessions if IRC.

        • joe90 4.2.1.3

          John Brown, who lives one street back from Rogan, is reeling from a 38 per cent increase in his rates bill to $3052. His five kids, now aged 13 to 25, have grown up at their Mangawhai bach over the past 24 years and Brown loves the place but he’s almost had enough.

          Oh, the poor fellow has a rates bill on what’s presumably his second home that’s not an awful lot more than that of an average dwelling in Whanganui.
          //

          • savenz 4.2.1.3.1

            @Joe90 – You’re missing the point. Whether you are a beneficiary, a prisoner on Christmas Island or someone who owns a bach, the law should be the law, and processes should be followed.

            It shouldn’t be about judging who ever is effected and make it about the victims being deserving enough to have proper laws and processes given to them. Under law everyone should be treated the same in regards to what rights are afforded to them.

            Whether it is about the government underpaying beneficiaries, or the Kaipara ouncil in closed sessions running up 58 million dollars of debt (which also sailed by the auditing bodies with zero red flags). Likewise on Christmas Island it is not about what the victim did or did not do, it is about what the Australian government is doing, what Serco is doing and what our government is doing about it.

            • joe90 4.2.1.3.1.1

              By all means neck auditors and councillors who deceive rate payers but really, would Mr Brown be reeling had the expected boom eventuated and he and other land owners pocketed large tax free gains.

              Spilt milk and all that…

          • greywarshark 4.2.1.3.2

            Bit harsh joe90. It’s always a problem for little settlements to upgrade water and sewerage from the old simple systems of rainwater off the roof into a tank and septic tanks for sewerage.

            The job was too much for a small Council that I bet wanted to give the impression it knew what it was doing. It is the fault of Labour? I may be corrected here. in changing to general competency for Council’s spending. There should be a line drawn in the sand for Councils, with an overview from central govt and a local referendum explaining. This would stop Councils from building infrastructure more expensive in design than is appropriate because some pushy well connected people had big ideas. It would also limit huge dams of dubious cost effectiveness, and definite environmentally detrimental impact.

            In Nelson we are getting the same architects to design a new airport terminal as designed Wellington’s leaning into the wind one. I hope they concentrate on the basics and don’t add unnecessary fancy touches that will have to be paid for by the airlines/passengers. Our present has to be changed for earthquake strengthening reasons.

            • joe90 4.2.1.3.2.1

              A bit harsh, yup, but TBH my piss and vinegar levels are running pretty damn high.

              Whanganui is close to $100 million in the hole because of an ongoing waste water treatment saga that goes back more than a decade – from mates looking after mates to design fuckups to stenches to more fuckups to delays to cost over runs to stenches with no end in sight. The ongoing rates burden on a small low wage low property value community with a high level of fixed incomes is huge and slowly strangling us.

              Yet even though I’m forced to contribute to the damn saga through an ever increasing general levy I have absolutely no chance of ever ditching my own on site treatment system and connecting to the city waste water scheme.

              That’s a bit fucking harsh too I reckon.

              • greywarshark

                Joe90
                Sounds like a never ending saga. Awful. These problems should result for small communities in being able to draw on expertise from a university with a specialist dept handling this problem. Sounds like the wheel has to be invented independently by each community. A vicious circle. I guess you would be more resigned about paying if only the stench could be banished.

          • Lara 4.2.1.3.3

            Some of us live here Joe. It’s not just a wee town of holiday homes for rich Aucklanders, although there are a lot of them.

            Some of us live here all year round.

            • greywarshark 4.2.1.3.3.1

              Lara
              I don’t think Joe90 is thinking that it easier for you who live there all the time.
              But someone who has a bach as an extra house might regard it as disposable and not complain so hard if there was a big rise in value, and a nice profit.

              Unlike yourself, stuck with a rising bill for rates that sounds as if it will be high for some years. Even higher property valuations would be of little ‘value’ to a permanent home owner lumped with rocketing rates.

        • Sabine 4.2.1.4

          and guess who is part of it – albeit ‘reluctantly’ our promint NZ ‘er from Northland who caused a byelection and can’t be named.

          http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11167160

          http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/rodney-times/9494525/Kaipara-rates-bill-passed

          Last week the High Court ruled that the council acted illegally, both in starting the scheme in 2005 and increasing its cost by about $22 million the following year without telling ratepayers.

          Justice Paul Heath said the council’s debts to banks which lent the money must be repaid and the court had no power to overturn a law passed in November last year which validated the council’s incorrectly set rates.

          But he urged the commissioners to consider alternatives to steep rate increases to pay down the debt, including renegotiating the loans and taking legal action against those responsible.

          Justice Heath referred to Auditor-General Lyn Provost’s report on the Mangawhai scheme last November, in which she apologised unreservedly for the auditing failures, and to the Local Government select committee’s report, which urged accountability for any parties found to be at fault.

          Northland MP Mike Sabin – who has campaigned for the Office of the Auditor-General to pay the increased cost of the scheme instead of ratepayers – said the Auditor-General’s long delay in investigating the problem had pushed key events out of legal reach.

          He said Mangawhai property owners had alerted the Auditor-General to the problem in 2009 yet it took three years to start an inquiry in late 2012. The inquiry, which was supposed to take six months, dragged on for 20 months and the final report was made public on December 3, days after the expiry of the statute of limitations for the council’s November 2007 decision.

          ———————————————————————————————————–
          so it really has got nothing to do with ‘increasing values of the properties’ n such, it has all to do with people overstepping their powers, racking up debt and then expecting others to pay them, in this case the rate payers and the tax payer.

          oh well…..

    • savenz 4.3

      @Madtom

      What happened after that to Kaipara… Did they call in government cronies to run the council and what happened to the rate payers … it has all gone quiet on the media front?

      • Lara 4.3.1

        AFAIK there are still government appointed commissioners in charge up here.

        We have not had local body elections for years.

        Those who were in power when the debt was racked up have never been bought to justice. They resigned I believe. The whole thing was swept under the carpet.

        They broke the law, but because they did it to the tune of millions of dollars (not for their own benefit but still, it was done illegally) they get off.

        At least, that’s the outcome.

        • savenz 4.3.1.1

          See if you run up debt as a government or council official you are not charged with misuse. If you were an employee such as a money trader and go awol and run up massive company liabilities for shares, guess what they prosecute you under the law.

          Big double standard for workers against government.

          In my view those in government or council office should be asked to have a higher standard – they have a lot more resources afforded to them and more innocent people are effected by their bad decisions.

  5. Sabine 5

    i would like to know how Winz calculated the amounts that beneficiaries have to re-fund, whenever WINZ is of the opinion that they mis-calculated the benefit.

    The day from the stand down period, or the day after that. 🙂

  6. Dorothy Bulling 6

    Lovers of the Key govt will simply claim that ‘those deadbeat dopey unemployed don’t deserve any better’. So hit them harder. Wonder how many of their children have been unemployed at some time. Bet there would be plenty who have been affected by this.

  7. seeker 7

    Annette King made an outstanding speech too. It was so good I thought it might actually have an effect on Tolley, but she had left the chamber. It put everything in perspective. Can’t link to it ,sorry.

  8. Tracey 8

    Was Slater in line for a bak payment?

    Joking aside did the total payment affect Bill’s surplus?

  9. Kay 9

    MS I’m pleased Labour fought the bill but they still deserved all the stick they got in your previous post. And they will continue to get it until it becomes clear (via consistent advocacy and fighting for beneficiary rights, both in the House and in policy) that they do truely give a damn and aren’t just using us for political point scoring when it suits them.

  10. linda 10

    ihc workers were striped of there back pay retrospectively as well by this fucken government

  11. Politicians can do almost nothing that serves to undermine democracy and the rule of law than to pass retrospective legislation.
    Even sending in the tanks and killing protestors is, in the big picture, less harmful to the fabric of society than what this government is now doing on a regular basis.

    In the trials that followed WW II the morality of the proceedings was dictated by who had won. A very courageous woman philosopher, Hannah Arendt, a Jewess who had herself had to escape the pogroms tried to point out, in reporting on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, that inventing a crime that did not exist in order to be able to send Eichmann to the gallows, put the so-called western democracies on the same page as the National Socialists.

    Canada and UK have judiciaries that are much more courageous and independent than ours, which is a pusillanimous gaggle of brown-noses sucking up to power, and those countries are having serious discussion about assaults on the rule of law. High on the agenda is the repugnancy of retrospective legislation.

    Retrospective legislation is the ultimate counsel of despair. It is the device of the caliphate, of the totalitarian, of the bully, of the bigot, of the terrorist who has come to power. It is synonymous with Zimbabwe, Myanmar, former South Africa, Republican America, modern Russia, and now, New Zealand. One thing that must be said for Key, once it was determined that we were in a race for the bottom, he was the perfect choice for leader.e

    • madtom 11.1

      Well said!

      Being a simple cheater or liar is not usually considered a desirable feature in a political leader.

      But changing the clear, printed black-and-white rules after the game has been played, and redistributing the winnings and losses so your friends take all and the trusting fools who relied on laws, promises and rules lose all – that is light-years beyond simply being a cheater or liar.

      Such are the people now in power in our country.

      It was such a lovely country. How did this happen?

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