Public Health Response Act belatedly referred to select committee for review

The Government has belatedly decided to allow a select committee in Parliament to scrutinise the controversial Public Health Response Act

One of the controversial things about the Bill/Actt  that was rushed through Parliament under urgency this week was that it affected civil liberties, giving police greater powers to enter homes, and that it hadn’t been subject to the full scrutiny of Parliament.

NZ Herald: Human Rights Commission ‘deeply concerned’ about Public Health Response Bill

The Human Rights Commission says it’s “deeply concerned” about the lack of scrutiny and rushed process for the Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill.

The bill, which set up the legal framework for future alert levels, was rushed through most of its legislative stages under urgency, with the support of Labour, NZ First, the Greens and Act.

But the Human Rights Commission says that despite the Government knowing for weeks that New Zealand will be moving to alert level 2, it has not allowed enough time for careful public democratic consideration of the alert level 2 legislation.

“There has been no input from ordinary New Zealanders, which is deeply regrettable,” said chief human rights commissioner Paul Hunt.

“This is a great failure of our democratic process. The new legislation, if passed in its current state, will result in sweeping police powers unseen in this country for many years.”

The Human Rights Commission is “strongly of the view” that the legislation must include a provision to ensure those making decisions, and exercising powers, under the new law, will do so in accordance with national and international human rights commitments and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

“Given our concerns expressed to the Attorney General yesterday about the two-year sunset clause in the bill, we are pleased to see that Parliament will be changing this to 90 days,” Hunt said.

“However, given that the legislation encroaches on the civil liberties of New Zealanders we have serious concerns about whether the powers are proportionate.”

The Government has reacted to criticism and pressure and decided to allow a select committee to review the Act (albeit after it has been in force).

Legal framework for COVID-19 Alert Level referred to select committee

The COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, which set a sound legal framework ahead of the move to Alert level 2, has been referred to a parliamentary select committee for review.

Attorney-General David Parker said the review of the operation of the COVID-19 specific law would be reported back to the House by July 27, in time for the House to consider whether to renew the Act in line with the 90-day review specified in the law.

“That will allow the House to take into account the advice of the committee before it makes the decision whether to continue with the law for another 90 days – or longer if the House decides,” David Parker said.

The Police can only use their enforcement powers under the Act if the Government has authorised a COVID-19 Alert Level notice.

The post-enactment review, which has been recommended by legal experts and academics, will be conducted by the Finance and Expenditure Committee, which will have MPs from all parties in Parliament on it.

David Parker reiterated that the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act ensures controls on gatherings of people and physical distancing are still enforceable. The new Act narrows the Police powers compared with those which applied under Level 3 and Level 4.

This is better than no review, but the Government should have made time for proper process before dumping the bill on Parliament under urgency last week.

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  1. Lockdown was vague and threatening, says former Attorney-General (Chris Finlayson)

    Two important elements of the rule of law are that the law must be accessible, intelligible, clear and predictable, and that powers to enforce the law must rest on explicit legal authority.

    When faced with an incident like the coronavirus pandemic, there is no question that a government must use extensive powers to limit the damage and preserve life. But in order to do so in a way consistent with the rule of law, the exercise of all powers must be properly authorised.

    We have seen two general approaches to the imposition of coronavirus restrictions around the world. Some countries have relied on largely voluntary compliance with restrictions. Others have taken more authoritarian approaches with strict penalties for those who do not follow the rules.

    Since the end of March, New Zealand has adopted the worst aspects of both of these approaches: vague requirements underpinned by the threat of enforcement.

    It has now become clear the government essentially imagined the Coronavirus restrictions operating in a largely co-operative, voluntary manner, underpinned by feel-good instructions such as ‘be kind’ and ‘be strong’. We were told that the Police would seek to educate the public.

    We now know that, at least for the first several days of the level four restrictions, it is unlikely the Police had the legal authority to carry out the former Police Commissioner’s threats.

    Only this week did Parliament finally enact legislation to provide clear authority for level two restrictions and their enforcement. This new law brought with it its own series of human rights issues and concerns about draconian state powers – but at least we can be sure it is actually the law.

    • Duker

       /  17th May 2020

      Why are these has beens taking up the political cudgels again as proxies for National.

      This was the man who was Attorney General when the Chirstchurch Earthquake Acts swept away many rights of appeal to the courts and various private property rights. No lives were saved. The one where the red zone uninsured got only 50% for the land value ( not the house) , which wasnt barred from legal action was also ruled illegal by the courts.

      And there was the dropping of charges for Pike River managers/directors in return for money , which was ruled illegal ( 3x) by the courts. Finlayson was AG and Bridges was Minister of Labour at that time.
      Pleeeese the crocodile tears from ‘Mr Legal’ now is pitiful

      • Gerrit

         /  17th May 2020

        Andrew Little, as EMPU president endorsed the mine as safe, now enjoys the protection served by the government at the time.

        He can now safely (from responsibility) bask in the glory of spending over $50,000,000 in the vain body “recovery” scam. $50,000,000 that would better have been spent on a new Pike River Memorial wing extension to the Westport Hospital.

        Pleeeese the crocodile tears from Duker now is pitiful.

        • Duker

           /  17th May 2020

          he’d never been there at the time, and like everyone else wasnt aware of the serious failings of the mine owners and then Worksafe mine inspectors.
          Could Finlayson and Bridges say they were ‘ignorant’ of the illegal deal to get the owners and management off the hook. Or was it ‘pretty legal’

          • Gerrit

             /  17th May 2020

            Makes it worse. Shooting his mouth off based on no information!!

            Could Little say he were ‘ignorant’ of the illegal deal to get the owners and management off the hook. Or was it ‘pretty legal’.

            Little said nothing at the commission or in parliament, less he be smeared with the same innuendo you are proclaiming here.

            Stop digging. You are in the hole and the ladder is only so long.

            Worth a read
            — EPMU National secretary Andrew Little (now a Labour MP) told the New Zealand Herald on November 22 2010 that there was “nothing unusual about Pike River or this mine that we’ve been particularly concerned about”.
            He then appeared on TVNZ’s Close Up to again defend PRC management.
            He told Close Up that underground mining was inherently unsafe and the risk of gas explosions, particularly on the West Coast, was high.
            While the industry was aware of the risks and took the necessary precautions, unfortunately these kinds of incidents still happened, he argued.
            On November 26, 2010 the Dominion Post ran an article that denounced ‘wild’ rumours that the mine was not safe. It declared that “Any suggestion of obvious or known safety lapses does not find traction with unionised staff or union leader Andrew Little.”–


            –Andrew Little’s conciliatory views toward PRC management were echoed by Labour MP Damien O’Connor. He suggested that no one was responsible for the accident and that the disaster was “just one of these things that the West Coast unfortunately has had to get used to over the years”.

            Little and O’Connor’s views would of found favour with the Minister for Energy and Resources, Gerry Brownlee. He insisted that PRC had “an absolute focus on health and safety”.–


            • Duker

               /  17th May 2020

              Yeah what . Pike River Coal pulled the wool over a lot of people eyes about the real situation, as the Royal Commission found out.

              It wasnt an accident …it was a disaster waiting to happen….the real issue was the Mine inspectors had minimal resources to check on the miners and every one assumed PR as a new mine was sweet as.

              Which government gave the go ahead to mine without the full safety measures completed …National.
              The previous labour govt on gave the go ahead for the drift only which wasnt in the dangerous coal seam and was completed without safety issues..other than over budget and late.
              And which government wanted the drift sealed with concrete using false information, they even made Solid Energy buy the mine so government appointed directors could seal it shut.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  17th May 2020

        The Commissioner’s aggressive performance was disgraceful. So were some of the initial stances and statements from his subordinates. Our local civil defence published one from some officious Northland HQ cop which another resident and I took exception to. After that their stance toned down a lot.

  2. Gerrit

     /  17th May 2020

    In one online discussion about the police new entry powers the old chestnut; if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear, was often used as an excuse to abide and endorse the new police and state powers. .

    Until it was explained to them that even if within the law and only 9 people in the private residential dwelling, police could still require entry and do a head count. They could look under your beds, open every closet, rummage around the garage, garden and outbuilding to look for and “find” hidden visitors.

    Only excuse they would need would be a neighbours snitch or a count of cars outside their gate.

    Oh, was the response from the righteous, never thought of that. Suddenly people were not so keen to have a police rummage squad search inside their private dwelling on no more pretense than to do a head count of people visiting?

  3. Corky

     /  17th May 2020

    ”If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.”

    When I hear people spout that bs on the radio, I have mad desire to see what they look like.
    I imagine them in a cardigan and fur lined slippers.

    The problem is people cannot perceive our rights are slowly being extinguished in small increments. I usually tell people to think back to 1995 and ask them what has changed since then…and more importantly, what is tolerated and taken seriously compared with the 90s. In the scheme of things the 90s isn’t that long ago.

    • duperez

       /  17th May 2020

      In the scheme of things the 90s isn’t that long ago. We forget most of the bits along the way to do with rights and playing fast and loose from positions of power.

      Journalists (the ones who aren’t kids) probably remember. A Prime Minister complains in the media and inappropriate action by police against journalists happens. Tea tapes, John Key, John Banks and Bradley Ambrose come to mind?

      Cameron Slater, Jason Ede, Judith Collins, thePrime Minister and Nicky Hager and the Search and Surveillance Act 2012?

      • Gezza

         /  17th May 2020

        Corky’s hindsight seems pretty blurry at the best of times. He misremembers what he even said last week.

      • Corky

         /  17th May 2020

        @ Duperez.. great post if it didn’t have a politically aimed slant to it….and let’s not forget social legislation. Separate legislation for Maori regarding governance and councils. Have you forgotten those? Or aren’t those RIGHT enough for you?

        • duperez

           /  17th May 2020

          I was commenting from the perspective of civil liberties and police powers and their use.
          What’s ‘seperate legislation for Maori regarding governance and councils’ about? I wouldn’t have thought that came under civil liberties, police powers and their use.
          (I’m not an expert on the Treaty.)
          I wouldn’t have thought they were a matter of Right or Left, just what is right.

  4. NOEL

     /  17th May 2020

    “sound legal framework ahead of the move to Alert level 2, has been referred to a parliamentary select committee for review.”
    So there will be a report back from the committee and a minority report back from National and Act.
    Just like now.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  17th May 2020

      But the public will get their say not just like now.

      • Noel

         /  17th May 2020

        I’m not so sure about that.
        After the SC on Vietnam Veterans the Department of Internal Affairs published a very a delayed analysis of the submissions.
        There were a number of issues that have variable importance.
        The Crown Apology was shown as not that important in the majority of individual submissions but was promoted by special interest groups.

  5. Alan Wilkinson

     /  17th May 2020

    We are finally discovering the reasons for many of the half-witted lockdown prohibitions, and in most cases it will be found the science was over-ruled for bureaucratic ease and convenience.

    The latest example: Banning international students.

    • Duker

       /  17th May 2020

      That was before we had the full international lockdown and only kiwis allowed back…. we have quite rightly given returning kiwis priority over non nationals especially from China.
      The idea of Non Wuhan students being low risk is very dated and quickly was wrong.
      This info was only relevant for late Feb and was way out of date by Mid march….. we are now at mid May….yawn… trust you to be the one flogging a dead and outdated horse. The following month showed MoH to be right, and maanaging the wave of kiwis returning was our only priority.
      Remember Universities closed their campus after this time ( late Feb) too…why would we bring in students to sit around, they would want to return to China


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