Urgency and overreach is not democracy

We are disappointed that the government recently passed a law that would have been highly contentious if it hadn't been passed under urgency and without public input.

The Bill

The Taxation (Income Tax Rate and Other Amendments) Act was recently passed through all three parliamentary stages in just two days.

We have no comment on the income tax rate change, but were alarmed to see that it also included a new power for the Commissioner of Inland Revenue to demand any information from any person where the Commissioner considers it "relevant for a purpose relating to the development of policy for the improvement or reform of the tax system".

This is an incredibly wide and invasive power for what seems like a relatively trivial purpose. It's not even to enforce the law or catch tax cheats. There's no limit in what can be demanded. There is no real attempt made to justify this. 

It is so obviously an overreach that even the Attorney General's section 7 report says that it "appears to be inconsistent with the right to freedom of expression, and the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure".

The Rush

We would have made a submission and opposed this section of the Bill but we had no opportunity to do so. Rushed through in two days, there was no way for people or groups to make submissions. While passing the tax rate change could possibly be justified as urgent, there is no way that anyone could argue it was vital to pass the Commissioner's new interrogation power without notice.

We support participatory democracy. The Select Committee process isn't perfect but it provides a valuable way to check and improve bills before they become law. In this case we hope that the offending clauses would have been either removed or extensively rewritten in a more rights-respecting manner (and the eventual 'compromise' of promising that they wouldn't be used for enforcement isn't enough).

Conclusion

We don’t think it’s acceptable for the government to cast aside our civil liberties for the sake of convenience. We want two things:

  • That the government should remove this clause from the law.
  • That the government must commit to participatory democracy and stop using urgency and non-existent or very short submission times to ram through contentious legislation with little or no feedback.

 

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