Wednesday, March 29, 2023

A crime against democracy

Yesterday the government introduced the Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Legislation Bill to the House. The bill is a response to Cyclone Gabrielle, and (like the Christchurch earthquake legislation) enables Ministers to amend laws by order in council across half the North Island, for five years. The list of laws allowed to be amended is huge (and can itself be amended), and includes laws such as the Climate Change Response Act 2002, Conservation Act 1987, and of course the RMA - so if Ministers felt it "facilitated the improvement of the economic well-being" of the affected area (or their donors there), they could exempt polluters from the ETS, allow mining in Schedule 4 land, or of course greenlight specific projects. The potential for corruption in this Henry VIII scheme is obvious, so what oversight will there be? A panel of government stooges. And that's it. There will be no requirement for orders to be automatically reviewed by the Regulations Review Committee, or for them to be automatically revoked unless confirmed by the House. Similarly, there will be no regular review and confirmation of the necessity of these powers by Parliament as there was with the Covid-19 legislation. Instead, its absolute, despotic power, for five years.

That's bad enough, and a reason for the bill in its current form to be rejected. But it gets worse. Because Labour rammed it through its first reading yesterday and sent it to select committee. You'd expect such a bill to receive serious and prolonged scrutiny and the input of constitutional experts and legal academics. But Labour has made this practically impossible by allowing less than 24 hours for submissions and requiring the bill to be reported back (so it can be rammed through under urgency) tomorrow.

This isn't public input or democratic oversight. It is a joke, which shows utter contempt for the public and our constitution. But that's what happens when you allow majority government: the bad old habits of elected dictatorship return.

Labour's constitutional habits are a disgrace and a crime against our democracy. And we should tell them that in October.