Govt rushing COVID laws could have 'very serious' implications on civil rights

Leah Panapa 24/11/2021

LISTEN: Critics are condemning the government's move to urgently pass legislation that will alter the freedoms of unvaccinated people, saying it's an example of poor lawmaking.

Opposition MPs, legal experts and even the Human Rights Commission all agree that the bill needs parliamentary scrutiny before becoming law on December 3, the day of Auckland's reopening.

On Tuesday afternoon, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins moved for the House to operate under urgency in order to pass two bills relating to COVID-19.

The COVID-19 Response (Vaccinations) Legislation Bill and Taxation (Covid-19 Support Payments and Working for Families Tax Credits) Bill will be passed by Labour before the House enters a week-long recess break on Thursday night.

AUT Professor of Criminal Law Warren Brookbanks says it's a "very difficult situation" to be in.

"The government is caught between a rock and a hard place," he told Magic Talk.

"But the critics are right in that legislation is usually a much slower, a much more ordered and a much more thoughtful process which goes through various readings that the Bill is right for public participation through making submissions on legislation."

Brookbanks says the idea of that is to ensure that the legislation is "as bulletproof as it can be" before it is passed.

"It doesn't have flaws, it doesn't have weaknesses, so that when it is passed it's not going to result in other unforeseen problems."

But when questioned, Hipkins said, "I’m not going to tell Aucklanders that they have to wait another month or two”.

Brookbanks believes the rushed passing of the legislation could have very serious implications for civil rights.

In this legislation, the sorts of human rights which are implicated are things like:

  • freedom of movement
  • freedom of association
  • the right to refuse medical treatment
  • the right to be free from arbitrary detention

Listen to the full interview with Warren Brookbanks above.

Magic Talk | Mornings with Leah Panapa, weekdays from 9am

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