New Zealand is a land that loudly proclaims to free, democratic and transparent. That is certainly true when it is compared to nations such as China where freedom of speech is frowned on and dissent of the government is likely to land you in jail; where their use of the death penalty is one of the highest in the world and where torture is rampant in prisons. But how does New Zealand’s own performance stack up against these claims?
It is true that no Government is totally protective of human rights or democracy. All have had their failings in one respect or another. In supposed times of war, on a number of fronts the perceptions of a crackdown become particularly strong. In a war such as World War 2, where there was a clear and present danger to the free world by aggressive well armed foes, perhaps the censorship and lose lips warnings of those times were justified. But that is not now. Islamic State is not Nazi era Germany or Japan and the circumstances that brought I.S. about are different from those that gave rise to the World War Two aggressors.
Sometimes it is a government of a nation that is supposedly at peace that wants to make life a bit more exciting for itself, that decides it needs to have a foe that can be the problem. Whilst that is not the case in New Zealand, it could well be the underlying cause of the constant wars that the United States finds itself in. America could make the world a much safer place in a fairly short time if it unilaterally stopped arming dictatorships, closed all bases in the Middle East and ended the War on Drugs. But to do that would be hugely damaging to the military industrial complex that – ironically – an outgoing Republican President (Dwight D. Eisenhower) forewarned the U.S. about, which employs more than one million U.S. citizens, to say nothing of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, the C.I.A. and so forth that rely on the complex for gadgets and weapons.
Although I have just acknowledged New Zealand is not – and hopefully never will be beholden to the military industrial complex – the foreign policy of nations friendly to us that are, has an at times negative impact on our own wellbeing. This can be reflected in events and policy changes that happen under a particular Government during a period of higher tensions. The fifth Labour Government for example:
- Passed the Electoral Finance Act 2007, which many considered an attack on election campaigning rights because of the nature of the provision changes
- The New Zealand Police carried out “anti-terror” raids to test the provisions of the Terrorism Suppression Act of 2002, passed by the Labour Government in response to the change in the international security environment caused by the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks
- Prior to the current Government of Prime Minister John Key, had the highest number of Acts of Parliament passed under urgency
However, since November 2008, New Zealand has been governed by a National-led Government that has shown unprecedented disregard for New Zealand democracy and human rights. Since the start of 2009, it has:
- Sacked an elected Regional Council and installed Commissioners, first with a three year limit and then with another three year extension
- Removed clauses from numerous Acts of Parliament regarding corporate and investor social responsibility
- Committed New Zealand troops to a war at the request of allies, without either asking the public for permission or permitting Parliament to have a vote
- Warned the Human Rights Commission to effectively watch its step, hinting that its funding might be cut if it did not
- Passed legislation in the shape of the Crown Minerals (Crown Land and Permitting)Act 2013 that the Human Rights Commission found to be in violation of New Zealand human rights law after the author of this blog lodged a complaint
- Thus far refused despite significant and growing concern about the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement to release the details of the trade agreement
- Ignored key recommendations from the United Nations Universal Periodic Review for human rights
I, like the majority of people reading this blog, am a New Zealander first and foremost. Like any decent citizen I want the best for my country and for it to be all that it can be. I want to see it be a nation respected by all on the world stage for being fair and compassionate, yet unmistakably New Zealand. To me, the first and foremost priority of ANY government is to put its people and the nation that it is elected to represent, FIRST.
I fail to see how attacking its democratic foundations that this dream can be achieved. I fail to see how the aspirations that the older generations of New Zealanders went to wars in foreign lands to fight for are going to be realized by Governments that trample on their hard gotten gains. That first and most fundamental priority is certainly not being met by the fifth National-led Government.