Keith Locke on the Rugby World Cup 2011 (Empowering Bill) – third reading



The Green Party will also oppose the Rugby World Cup 2011 (Empowering) Bill. Like Labour speakers, we are very much in favour of the Rugby World Cup itself and hope that it will be a wonderful festival of rugby and an opportunity for New Zealand to showcase itself to the world and for those in every provincial town to mix with the teams playing games there. It will be something that enlivens our communities across the country, particularly in the pool games, and then the big games in Auckland.

There is no excuse to override normal process under the Resource Management Act the way that this bill does. We got the hosting rights to the Rugby World Cup back in 2005 and there has been plenty of time to go through all the proper process. It is not as this is an unknown event and that things will pop up that we have not expected in any large way. It is a good discipline to operate within the constraints of our existing law.

We are having training efforts towards organising it: there was the Four Nations rugby league test, the one held at Eden Park 1½ weeks ago. That was a test and, by and large, it went well. I was at the game and what happened there has been blown out of all proportion. People got a bit carried away with Mexican waves. They could have been stopped at the beginning of the first Mexican wave. I was there and in the first Mexican wave not much went up in the air. Once the wave had gone around three or four times and people got into the habit of it, more stuff went up in the air. The situation could have been handled very easily with a loudspeaker, as it was at the end of several Mexican waves. The idea that there was a bunch of hoons is quite wrong.

We are on track to organising things right, but I worry about the way, in practice, that this bill will loosen up the liquor licensing, not tighten it up. We already have the concept of party central and people drinking like mad down on Queen’s Wharf. When I went to the rugby league test, all the pubs were full to the gunwales with people preparing themselves for the game. That will continue in Kingsland, Mount Eden and throughout Auckland. Unfortunately, I do not think that the extent of imbibing that takes place will be restricted by this bill. There will be a very competitive environment amongst people providing liquor to get just that bit longer under these emergency provisions and to be able to cram more people in to their premises etc. So I do not think the bill will lead to a reduction in alcohol consumption.

Then we have one of the major sponsors. There is a range of official sponsors, and the beer sponsor is Heineken, which will be going flat out to get people to drink beer, particularly its own brand. As I understand it, though it could change, Heineken will be selling branded cans. If those cans have a bit of beer in them when the Mexican wave starts it will be quite dangerous for those underneath the falling cans. I do not know whether the Minister for the Rugby World Cup will use his veto powers to constrain Heineken from distributing its beer in cans, but hopefully there will be some move on that between now and the 1 July date, and we can sort that out. There is no excuse. We know about liquor licences and all the venues know how to apply for them. They can start applying for them now if they have not done that already. There is no reason why liquor licences cannot be sorted out without this emergency legislation, be it for a liquor licence at a venue, or for one away from a venue, which this bill covers. When we talk about temporary adverse effects being allowed for under this bill they will include more adverse effects of alcohol. Heineken is pushing its beer and promoting alcohol, and we have had it in other sports: there is Lion Red and rugby league, Steinlager in rugby, and all the rest. That will continue, I am sure; even though the Law Commission is moving down the track of discouraging alcohol advertising, the major sports are reluctant to move away from alcohol advertising. So that will undercut any efforts in this bill to control excessive drunkenness that may occur around the Rugby World Cup. The report-back from the select committee also has a section on ambush marketing, which relates back to the Major Events Management Act passed a few years ago and which, in the Green Party’s opinion, goes a bit too far in terms of protecting these major sponsors of the Rugby World Cup in all respects in quite a dictatorial way. Let us take Heineken for example. I am not sure that Heineken will be putting forward an organic beer at the Rugby World Cup. I not sure that it will be, though I might be proven wrong and maybe between now and 1 July, when this bill comes into effect it will start to realise that there is quite an appetite for organic beer in New Zealand and it will come out with a Heineken organic beer brand. But I can see problems arising: we saw problems arising at the Football World Cup in South Africa where people were not even allowed to wear orange dresses because they had a tiny tag on them advertising a competitor brand to the official brand of that world cup. So I can see that if the Green Party has a little stall, perhaps outside my place—I live close to the Eden Park venue—selling a green beer of an organic variety, I will get hustled away for breaking this ambush marketing legislation by selling much more healthy organic beer. I can see problems along that line. Under the Major Events Management Act the ban on branding and all the rest of the restrictions on so-called ambush marketing—selling products that are a little different from the multinational brands, like organic beer—applies for 5 kilometres along some of the access routes to the venues, so I can see problems developing there.

The speaker for National qualified the ministerial veto by saying that the Minister will have to consult with a couple of other Ministers, but I do not think that having to consult with a couple of other Ministers will hold Murray McCully, or whoever it is, back very much. He will be the dictator in this respect and that is one of the key reasons why the Green Party is against this bill. Trevor Mallard was right to look at this bill against the background of the Canterbury earthquake legislation, which, he said, when looking back on it leaves some questions. There has been a very significant reaction to the Canterbury earthquake legislation—the cancelling of a whole realm of our legislation and allowing Orders in Council to override all kinds of bills. At the time, the Green Party moved about seven amendments along the lines of the criticisms later advanced by the Law society, all sorts of law professors, and the like. We hope that that earthquake legislation, given that there has been quite a bit of progress in terms of rectifying the situation in Canterbury, can be ended as soon as possible. But it should warn us in terms of the public reaction to that legislation, particularly from the legal profession, not to proceed down another course that gives big ministerial veto powers, as is the case in this particular bill. We hope that the Rugby World Cup goes very well and that there will not be too many streakers put in jail for 3 months, which is a provision under the Major Events Management Act. The two pieces of legislation together, the Major Events Management Act and this Rugby World Cup 2011 (Empowering) Bill, create the problem of a too dictatorial approach, much of it at the behest of international brands and not in terms of what will make this Rugby World Cup click as a really authentic event that everyone gets involved in, which is what we very sincerely hope will happen.