In which the author takes the opportunity to settle accounts in a petty and petulent fashion.
So the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Bill has passed through the House, and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority is set to take over the rebuild of Christchurch.
I had quite a bit to say about the legislative response to the September earthquake last year (see here, here, here). Those musings resulted in a bit of media attention ... I guess when you claim Parliament's "action was a mistake, and [MPs] too quickly and readily abandoned basic constitutional principles in the name of expediency", you can expect both some attention and also a degree of scepticism. So I ended up doing a bunch of interviews of the "is this really a problem?" variety.
This time around I've consciously chosen not to involve myself in the public discussion. The reason is not because I think the new legislation has no problems. I do think the Government has done a better job of considering the balance between giving powers and ensuring those powers are properly controlled, but Dean Knight has done an exemplary job of very quickly identifying some new and ongoing concerns relating to that balancing exercise. Rather, it's because I've just become a father for the second time, and frankly I don't have the time or the energy to go through it all again.
So I'll just confine my comments to one aspect of the debate.
Back in 2010, when I and others raised concerns about the extent of the powers granted by the CERRA, Clayton Cosgrove slammed our intervention on the basis that the people of Christchurch “don't have the luxury of hypothesising about constitutional theory as some latte drinkers in Kelburn and Ponsonby have.” He obviously likes this phrase, as he used it again later in the year: "There's been a lot of latte-drinking people who have the luxury to contemplate the constitutional niceties. That's wonderful if you're not digging sewage out of your own home."
Well, fair enough, I guess. He's a local MP. He saw firsthand the damage wrought by the disaster. He drinks black tea with 3 spoons of sugar in it.
But jump forward to 2011 and the debate over the establishment of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, given very broad powers to deal with an even more extreme emergency.
And we see Clayton Cosgrove on The Nation saying he is "very worried about that abrogation of appeal rights" in the upcoming legisltion. Followed by him rising in the House and warning "Mr Brownlee is the earthquake tsar. He holds the pen over the [Authority's] chief executive and all he or she does." WIth his comments in the final reading debate that; "Labour is supporting the legislation but we are deeply concerned about the obscene way it has been rushed through Parliament by Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee without the proper checks and balances. We had a chance to get this critically important piece of legislation right. That opportunity has been wasted by Gerry Brownlee who was just hell-bent on ramming through a law without proper scrutiny."
So here's my concern. I think someone has slipped a latte into Clayton Cosgrove's mug and infected him with a dose of constitutional liberalism.
I only hope, for the sake of plain speaking common men and women in Christchurch and beyond that it is not a fatal one.