Last night the National Government pushed through the earthquake recovery legislation under urgency. A large number of last minute amendments were introduced to the bill, and none of these were properly debated. Labour, the most supine of oppositions, whined about the process but voted in favour of the bill anyway.
But this post is not going to explore why we have such a timid opposition, and why the Greens appear to be the only party in Parliament prepared to stand by its principles. That would be a long post indeed.
On Wednesday night National rammed through the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill under urgency. Nobody has adequately explained why there was a need for urgency in the case of this bill. It can only be surmised that National pushed it through because they feel as if they have impunity and can do anything they want.
Even National Party stalwarts are now lamenting the overuse of urgency by this government.
The debates on both lots of Canterbury earthquake legislation (in September 2010 and this week) demonstrate that this government has only contempt for the concept of consultation. Its preferred method of governance is rule by decree. At the heart of this government is a savage disdain towards democracy and the traditions of parliament. Urgency is a way to bypass the select committee process, a process designed to identify the flaws in legislation and to give the public the opportunity to comment on proposed laws. Bills frequently get amended as a result of the select committee process, because it exposes politicians to expert opinion on whether draft legislation is workable or appropriate.
But National doesn’t seem to care what the public think about the laws being passed. Nor does it care for measures designed to restrain the powers of its ministers. The Canterbury earthquake legislation has given ministers enormous powers, although some may argue that the crisis warranted such extraordinary powers. However, some of the checks and balances proposed by opposition parties during debate on the bills and rejected by this government were perfectly reasonable and wouldn’t have impeded the legitimate exercise of power for recovery purposes.
This government is now threatening our right to participate in the legislative process, and its use of urgency and extraordinary measures is increasing. For a democracy to function properly all citizens must have the right to participate in the process of making law, otherwise we are simply living under a three-year dictatorship.
So why does National hate our democratic freedoms? And how is it that we let them get away with this?
And when will the New Zealand Herald commence a "Democracy Under Attack" campaign over this outrage?