28 September 2010

Trust them they know what they're doing?

I was glad to see this column appear in the Herald today.

A letter signed by 27 international legal scholars raises concerns about the government's new legislation intended to expedite post-quake recovery in Canterbury, and says that this Act "represents an extraordinary broad transfer of lawmaking power away from Parliament and to the executive branch, with minimal constraints on how that power may be used."

I share the alarm of these legal scholars about the Canterbury Earthquake
Response and Recovery Act 2010.

S 6 of the Act permits Orders in Council on the recommendation of the relevant Minister "to make any provision reasonably necessary or expedient for the purpose of this Act".

But, further, subsection 3 says: "The recommendation of the relevant Minister may not be challenged,reviewed, quashed, or called into question in any court."

And Subsection 4: "An Order in Council made under subsection (1) may grant an exemption from, or modify, or extend any provision of any enactment, including (but not limited to)" a list of 22 Acts - and note the "but not limited to."

There are only a few basic Acts that serve fundamental constitutional purposes that cannot be excepted or modified under s 6(4). (Well, isn't that a relief!)

I am alarmed at the cowardice of opposition MPs who wouldn't stall this legislation, as much as I am at the authoritarian ideology of the National-led government that introduced it.

This is the state of exception in our back yard, and anyone curious about the consequences of this kind of thing needs to watch the documentary 'Draquila' which observes the dictatorial and corrupt actions of the Berlusconi government following the earthquake in Aquila.

The following quote comes from a review of that movie from this link.

"Guzzanti's film stresses that Italy's reaction to the earthquake shows the country's democracy is on shaky ground. She documents what she sees as a disturbing shift toward authoritarianism. As an example, she shines the spotlight on Italy's Civil Protection Agency, which oversaw the [refugee] camp and is handling reconstruction efforts. Guzzanti argues that Berlusconi has given it sweeping powers that allow it to skirt the law when awarding building contracts. Guido Bertolaso, who heads the agency, is already under investigation in another case for allegedly giving contracts to friends."