Parliament has just passed the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Bill which was only introduced this afternoon.

While everyone is keen to help with the rebuilding process in Christchurch, there are some extremely serious flaws with the law!

In summary, the law gives the minister, Gerry Brownlee, the power to suspend or amend any law without going through parliament, as long as he promises to only use it in relation to the earthquake recovery.

Dean Knight, Vic Uni Law Lecturer says:

“The Bill contains a massive Henry VIII’s clause, allowing the Minister to re-write any legislation that is “reasonably necessary or expedient for the purpose of the Act”. The power to direct the Governor-General to issue an Order-in-Council to “grant an exemption from, or modify, or extend any provision of any enactment”

First, i’m not sure i’d trust any politician enough to let them do that.

Second, the law specifically prevents the courts from assessing whether a change does relate to the earthquake recover.

Dean Knight, again:

“And there is a privative clause which prevents the courts from reviewing the legality of any recommendation made to issue an Order-in-Council (cl 6(3)). So even if the Order-in-Council is not done for the purpose of the Act, it can’t be challenged in the court.”

You can read the bill itself here. Note particularly clause 6.3 and clause 6.4.

And here are some comments from Graeme Edgler:

1. Why does the Government – without first going to Parliament – need the power to unilaterally decide that murder isn’t a crime in Auckland to assist with the reconstruction of Christchurch?

2. Why, if the Government did decide that murder shouldn’t be a crime in Auckland, should this obviously and stupidly unreasonable decision not be able to be over-turned by a Court?

I have often wondered what it would take for me to swear off a political party forever. It would be a very rare circumstance. Plenty of things would stop me voting for a party. I wouldn’t support a party that intended to reintroduce the death penalty, for example, but swearing off a party forever is quite drastic. I usually came down with an answer like “ignoring section 268 of the Electoral Act and extending the term of Parliament without a super-majority”.

I think we have a new winner. If anything even remotely dodgy is done under this law, I will hold every MP who voted for it personally responsible and never ever vote for a party which has a single one of them on its list. And I will encourage everyone I know, and anyone I don’t who’ll listen, to do the same.