Andrew Geddis writes:
I’m not alone in regarding this lawmaking process as being a “constitutional disgrace”, as my VUW colleague Dean Knight has so appositely put it. I mean, let’s go back to the last time we had major legislation put in place to govern the creation of a new system of Covid controls – the enactment of the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, back in the now-halcyon days of our first national lockdown. At the time, I criticised the “ridiculous speed” with which it became law after the bill had been made available for some comment 18 hours before its introduction and then debated over a full two-day period. Now, having had the chance to reflect on that lawmaking process, the government appears to have decided on a “more cowbell” approach and moved even more quickly when enacting its new Covid-19 Response (Vaccinations Legislation) Bill.
So having abused urgency last time, they are now ramming major law changes through at even greater speed.
Remember, this is a bill that authorises the government to set constraints on who can and cannot take part in large parts of social life for the foreseeable future, that specifically permits it to require people in certain occupations to be vaccinated, and that is going to authorise other workplaces to decide if their employees have to be vaccinated or else lose their jobs. It’s getting pretty close to effectively mandating that people accept a vaccination, even if it isn’t imposing direct penalties on them for not doing so.
That may well be fine to do. I’m double-vaxxed, my kids are/will be when the age limits shift, and the science is the science. But, still, legislation that allows the state to say “put this in your body or else largely forgo social interactions” is a big step. And it’s one that ought to be taken with due respect; given time for proper scrutiny and debate, with input from an informed public.
Worse of all, those who will lose many rights under this law, are not even being allowed to submit on it. No wonder they become angry and do marches that breach lockdown rules.
Indeed, if you were trying to construct a lawmaking process to set off the conspiracy minded and undermine the social licence needed for success, it would look something like this. Hide the information that’s informed your legislation, introduce it at the very last moment, whip it through the House overnight, and present it as a fait accompli the next day.