Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Herald on the Canterbury Enabling Act

While the media were asleep at the wheel during Tuesday's passage of the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act, some of them finally seem to have woken up to what has happened under their noses. This morning's Herald has a strong editorial attacking the bill:

These extraordinary powers are potentially far-reaching. Effectively, Parliament has handed over its normal law-making role to the Executive. And it has done this while also sacrificing the precept of judicial scrutiny.

Rarely should either be contemplated, no matter how dire the crisis. In this case, an earthquake has triggered a law that goes far beyond what is required to get things done in Christchurch.

The justification offered by Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee is that "business as usual won't work". That is true and strands of red tape embedded in the likes of building law needed to be stripped away. But not to this degree.

The Government should have passed a tightly focused law, which could be broadened if road-blocks persisted.

Unfortunately, now we've got it, we have to live with it, so the best we can do is watch Brownlee like a hawk and scream bloody murder at even the slightest hint of abuse - for example if he uses the bill to greenlight any contentious projects in the name of "reconstruction". Political accountability isn't really a substitute for limited powers and proper judicial oversight, but its the best card we've got.

Meanwhile, DPF, normally a democrat, is busy praising Brownlee's "wise dictatorship". I'm appalled. While I know he's a partisan hack, he had in the past purported to have some principles. So much for that pretence. And it speaks volumes that even his normal sewer-dwellers aren't really buying it.