Rugby World Cup, Canterbury Earthquake, filming of The Hobbit.
I believe all are important to New Zealand – but all have been handled poorly by the present Government.
This evening the Government pushed through a law containing some extraordinary Muldoon-esque powers in part 4 of the RWC Empowering Bill. Murray McCully is set to have sweeping powers to make decisions about anything that can be connected with the World Cup – without further reference to Parliament or the Executive. This is bad legislation.
This is worrying enough on its own. But perhaps more worrying is the trend that is starting to show in law-making by the National Government. This Government is developing a taste for unbridled power; they are increasingly avoiding the checks and balances of Parliament.
The powers given to Murray McCully in the Rugby World Cup legislation follow hot on the heels of the Canterbury Earthquake legislation. Don’t get me wrong: there was an argument for extra powers to be given to Gerry Brownlee at the time. But now the size and shape of quake damage is better understood, those sweeping powers should be removed. Instead, the Government is busy pushing through more extraordinary powers.
Parliamentary urgency is increasingly being abused. We recently saw the Government fail New Zealanders during the Hobbit dispute; it pushed through some irresponsible employment legislation under the guise of appeasing Warner Brothers. Again, a worrying trend: there was no need to make the law in a rush without proper examination. The Government keen to avoid too much scrutiny, pushed that legislation through under urgency.
Of course, I’m not the only one worried about this trend. Labour’s Chris Hipkins has produced a thoughtful piece reflecting on these issues. Just last weekend Sir Geoffrey Palmer, recently retired from the Law Commission voiced similar concerns in an article published in the Christchurch Press. Public servants I have spoken to privately are horrified at the abuse of power represented by these laws.
The Ghost of Muldoon lives on – and not just on twitter.