Helen Clark seizes more control

Further to my previous post on Labour making constitutional changes, we just had another major one pushed through. Labour has passed the Police Bill (hat tip: Tumeke!), a bill which is probably well intentioned and has a lot of stuff the police certainly like the sound of.

BUT, this bill also:

  • Lets the Prime Minister appoint the Police Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner
  • Places the Minister of Police under the authority of the Prime Minister

As Bomber says:

Meaning the Police are answerable to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister hires and fires those who run the policy, it is a closed relationship that does as my co-blogger points out “invites political manipulation, under-performance and ultimately corruption”.

Once again this seems a minor change to law. What is really wrong with the Prime Minister being in charge of the Police? Someone has to and she is democratically elected after all. But when this Act is passed by a Prime Minister who has been investigated by the Police more than any other Prime Minister in the history of the country, who each time have declined to prosecute claiming it is “not in the public interest”, it becomes a bit suspicious.

When it comes at the same time as Labour is planning to abolish the Serious Fraud Office (currently independant of the police and not under the control of the Prime Minister), which is currently investigating the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and move its powers over to the Police (where they would be under the direct control of the Prime Minister now), it becomes still more suspicious.

When it comes after a long string of questionable constitutional changes by Labour, and is rushed in before they leave office, it becomes very worrying.

Now if the Prime Minister were to do something illegal or undemocratic, whether minor (say, speeding or blocking handicapped parks), moderate (such as financial fraud, such as what Mr Peters is currently accused of), or major (such as deciding we aren’t going to have an election after all), who could do anything about it?

  • The Police and the SFO, who could investigate, would be under her control.
  • The court system is under her control (through judicial appointments), and may be unlikely to rule against her.
  • The Governor General would probably not interfere, they are ultimately controlled by the PM.
  • The final safeguard, which you never wish to need, is a military coup. But the military is small and poorly equipped.

I am not suggesting that the current PM will choose not to call an election this year. But we have safeguards around the government for a reason. The more these safeguards are eroded, the more risk we have of some PM, sometime, doing something like this. Hitler was democratically elected, and should be a strong reminder of the need for these safeguards which Labour is systematically removing.

Constitutional change by Labour

No Minister has an excellent post about Labour’s trustworthiness or lack thereof. Labour has made major constitutional changes (such as removing the right of appeal to the Privy Council and removing knighthoods) without campaigning on this policy at any election or seeking public input. Currently Labour has no policy released at all for this election. What might they be intending to do should they get another term?

We currently live in a monarchy, with the Queen’s representative (the Governor General) being the head of state. Most democracies have three branches of government – the judiciary, the legislative branch (parliament, which makes laws) and the executive branch (a President or Monarch, who provides a double-check on those laws through the right of veto and gives clear leadership to the country). We are no exception, having a judiciary, Parliament and a Governor General. The Governor General must give the Royal Assent to law before it is passed. Our connections to England have allowed excellent services such as the Privy Council, a final court of appeal in London that could judge important cases without being influenced by the New Zealand government (who influences judicial appointments here) or the NZ media. In theory this should work fine, and in the past it did.

The problem we have is that the powers of the executive have been reduced, and the influence of the legislative branch has been increased, so that now pretty well everything is controlled by Parliament with no backup in case Parliament does anything against the interest of the country.

This has occurred in a number of ways:

  • By convention, the Governor General gives the Royal Assent to any Act that is passed by a majority of Parliament. They act on advice from the Prime Minister primarily, rather than the Queen. So ultimately the final power rests with the Prime Minister.
  • Although the Queen appoints the Governor General, she does so from a list of nominees chosen by the Prime Minister. So ultimately the Governor General is selected by the PM, who can make sure that everyone on her list would be happy to sign off on whatever the Government wants them too – cementing power with the PM.

Now this shouldn’t be that bad, Parliament is elected democratically after all, so theoretically they should be passing laws that are in the best interests of the population. But in recent years Labour has been making large changes, including major constitutional amendments, without either a public mandate by way of a referendum or necessarily the mandate of the Queen (as every Act gets the Royal Assent anyway we have no idea whether or not the Queen approves). Examples of this (all of which were secret agendas not declared in party policy) include:

  • The Broadcasting Act 1989 (under Labour) established partial state funding of political party advertising and limits on advertising that make it harder for minor parties to challenge the ruling party (see how it is currently restricting The Family Party here). This is minor however compared to what the current administration has got up to:
  • The abolition of the right of appeal to the Privy Council, the final court of appeal in England. This has been very important for high profile cases such as the David Baine case. Now the final court of appeal is in NZ, where Parliament can influence the appointment of judges. This places Parliament in ultimate control of the judiciary. So with no public debate and without announcing this policy before an election, Labour placed themselves in ultimate control of all three branches of government. This was a major secret agenda.
  • The abolition of Knighthoods. We still have equivalent honours, but the recipients can no longer be called “Sir” or “Dame”. This seems a pointless piece of legislation initially. On closer inspection it can be seen to be part of the general socialist strategy of dragging down high achievers (high earners are taxed heavily for example) to enforce some sort of artificial equality and retain Parliament as the ultimate authority and great provider. It is also another cut to further isolate us from the Monarchy, the executive branch of government, again leaving Parliament in ultimate power.
  • The abolition of smacking. This was not a constitutional change as such. But it was government intruding into our very homes and telling families how to raise their children. Labour seems to see our children as theirs, and parents and teachers the tools through which the state raises children, rather than teachers tools through which the parents raise children. This was a major change which around 80% of the population seemed opposed to. Yet it was passed without a referendum, and the Royal Assent was granted despite this public opposition.
  • The Electoral Finance Act. This Act is a major restriction on free speech, and severely damages our ability to have democratic elections. It was opposed by the public and eminent bodies like the Human Rights Commission. Yet it was passed, and we are dealing with the disastrous effects now.

I am sure you can think of others. These are all very different policies, and individually they may seem minor.

But taken together they all seem to have the same general effect – they institute the state, and specifically Parliament, as the ultimate authority above the other branches of government. They do this by severing ties with the Monarch (the Executive), placing Parliament in control of the judiciary, and making it harder for anyone to oppose Parliament or change its makeup. Parliament has at the same time seized greater control over our lives and families.

We need the three branches of government to be reasonably independent and able to have a stabilising effect on each other. We must remember that Hitler was democratically elected, and the further we allow Parliament, and specifically Labour, to whittle away at these safeguards the more risk we have of a repressive regime being established.

They have not really been pushing us towards being a republic, as a republic would have an effective head of state (executive), while they have been whittling away the authority of the head of state. They have been pushing us towards ultimate control of everything being in the hands of the ruling Party, which is more similar to a communist system than a republic as such. I am not accusing them of communism, that is too strong, but that does seem to be the general direction they are heading.

The Family Party is taking the first steps to counter this. We will look into the possibility of reinstating the Privy Council as the court of final appeal. We cannot promise it of course as it may require the approval of the British parliament too, but we will be looking into whether we can reinstate it. This would remove control of the final section of the Judiciary from the NZ Parliament.

We would reinstate the old s59 of the Crimes Act (allowing smacking again), returning to parents the authority to decide what disciplinary measures are appropriate rather than having government dictate how we are to raise our families. We will trust parents to raise their own children. We would also repeal the Electoral Finance Act, to restore the right to free speech in our democratic process.

I would welcome your thoughts on this very important issue.