Thursday, September 16, 2010

States of emergency

The state of emergency in Canterbury has officially been lifted. So, instead of being under the wide but ultimately limited powers of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act, Cantabrians are now subject to the whim of Gerry Brownlee. I'm not sure that this is an improvement.

Meanwhile, the government of Nauru has just extended its state of emergency for another 21 days, until mid-October. Nauru has been in a state of emergency for the last three months, after two successive elections resulted in a deadlock and failed to elect a new President. As a result, the country now has an illegitimate president with no democratic mandate ruling with "emergency" powers, and no democratic outcome in sight.

Fortunately, such a thing can't happen here. A provision in the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act requires Parliament to sit immediately if a national state of emergency is declared. Its a recognition that at such times, when the government is effectively granting itself extreme powers, the very highest level of democratic oversight is required. If only the House had remembered that on Tuesday night...