Three Waters was bad, Five Waters is worse and a sneaky addition has made it worse still:
The Government has been caught sneaking a rarely-used legal provision into the proposed Three Waters legislation which will make it harder for Parliament to overturn, National Justice Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith and Local Government spokesperson Simon Watts say.
This week, while Parliament sat under urgency pushing legislation through, Labour and the Greens added a provision that means once Three Waters becomes law, it would take 60 per cent of MPs to overturn it, instead of a simple majority which applies to almost every law passed, except for a few constitutional matters.
That is a very high threshold.
Applying it to non-constitutional matters sets a very dangerous precedent that any future government could follow.
“Entrenched provisions are used rarely in New Zealand for good reason and until now they have been reserved for core constitutional issues like parts of the Electoral Act,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“Labour and the Greens have now colluded to entrench in law a contentious policy position, without any real debate and while the House was sitting under urgency.
“Entrenched provisions in law should be reserved for matters largely above politics, and when used they should be subject to careful scrutiny and debate. The exact opposite has happened in this case.
“As constitutional lawyer Dr Dean Knight has said, “this is unusual and doesn’t sit well with our current constitutional traditions… it’s regrettable this significant constitutional development only came to light in committee of the whole stage and was not subject to scrutiny and public submission”.
“The passing of this SOP sets a very dangerous precedent. If a National Government had passed a provision like this over, say, for example, the three strikes sentencing regime, Labour and the Greens would be outraged,” Mr Goldsmith says.
Local Government spokesperson Simon Watts said Labour has used the veil of urgency to ram through an unconstitutional clause to block future changes to a broken bill, which National will repeal and replace.
“Labour and the Greens need to immediately walk this move back. When the House resumes in December, National will move to recommit the Water Services Entities Bill back to the committee of the Whole House Stage to excise this unconstitutional and undemocratic clause. We urge the government to vote for it and for cool heads to prevail.”
The headline to this media release calls it skulduggery.
It is also constitutionally dodgy.
It’s a very dangerous game that could be played by future governments.
Three Five Waters has steamrolled over democracy and democratic conventions from the start.
From the lies in the advertisements, through reversing the promise that councils wouldn’t be compelled to be part of the scheme and not even looking at tens of thousands of submissions to this.
Labour has the numbers to push the legislation through and given its disregard for even the most reasonable attempts to dilute the damage it’s inflicting with this legislation, it will.
The only way to undo the damage and get a government with far higher regard for democracy is to vote this lot out next year.