Make New Zealand egalitarian again

Egalitarianism (noun): the doctrine that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities

My interpretation is identical: egalitarianism is based on the premise of a fair go for everyone, with same access to opportunities and same responsibilities before the law.

This is how many New Zealand politicians believe New Zealand should be. This is how I believe New Zealand should be as well. Egalitarianism is not something that we should allow to die. It was once something we collectively took pride in before the politics of division, the idea that dystopia is somehow better began to creep in.

I see some dangerous distortions creeping into New Zealand society. They are mainly socio-economic, such as encouraging proverbial rat race conditions that make a few get very wealthy, whilst. These are aided by willful hindrance of justice by removing or undermining watchdogs such as the Human Rights Commission and Privacy Commission, and also deliberate dilution of Bills of Parliament to sit in legally murky zones.

It should not be like this. New Zealand is better than that.

We can address these distortions though. But to do so one needs to understand what they are and how they work.

  1. Justice – whilst some aspects of justice certainly need a kinder, more compassionate approach such as that which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern espouses, failing to address the very weak “wet bus ticket” approach of judges when handing down sentences erodes confidence in the justice system
  2. Dilution of laws – the deliberate dilution of various Bills of Parliament regarding these mean employers can operate in legally grey zones; people on work visas can be exploited because there is not a strong judicial and enforcement component. The same can be said for environmental laws – the R.M.A. still works, but there is a lot of grey zone non-compliance because councils have been made to streamline their regulatory sections, which has contributed to the decline in fresh water quality
  3. Constitutional reform – whilst no politician has directly attempted to usurp key Acts of Parliament, the risk remains, and there has been attempts at tinkering around the edges, which is why I believe a light but robust constitution that checks the executive, legislative and judicial wings of governance, needs to happen
  4. Education about the legal system – some of the arrogance shown today by youth is down to a refusal by politicians to make civics compulsory in school, even though everyone deals with the law at some point in their life

When these are addressed I think much of the social injustice happening in New Zealand and loss of confidence in society, the marginalizing and isolation of vulnerable sections, as well as the perceptions of greed will disappear. It will not be an overnight job – the best time for constitutional reform would be when the Queen of England passes on and we are left to decide whether to accept her successor as a head of state. The distrust between some sectors of the community and law enforcement will persist until the judges become more consistent and all students are made to learn how the legal system works.

But it can be done.

The real question is does New Zealand have the will to do so?

Attitude change to Police pursuits needed

On Saturday 3 people were killed when the car they were in ran over Police spikes, crashed into a tree and went up in a ball of flames. They were in a car that was the subject of an abandoned Police chase when it went over spikes that punctured the tyres, causing immediate and catastrophic loss of control. As families of the dead prepare to mourn the loss of their loved ones, it is time to have a look at why so many people are making the really silly mistake of running from the Police.

A Police chase starts because it is an offence to evade law enforcement. If the Police see someone has noticed their presence and is trying to evade, it is an offence to harbour or otherwise assist them in their evasion.

Despite this there is a long and sad litany of people who have or killed/injured others as a result of running away from Police chases.

  1. A pregnant woman and fleeing driver are killed in a two car collision.
  2. A vehicle in Lower Hutt flees the Police, flips, injuring 3
  3. An underage driver and passenger killed in a crash fleeing Police

I personally believe that the ability to stop a chase from happening before it starts lies solely in the hands of the person that the Police want to talk to. Simply stopping for the Police will save lives, money, and resources.

However that attitude change is not going to happen unless there is an effective deterrent. It needs to be something that is grave enough to make someone contemplating a pursuit think twice, such as a week or a month in jail for simply evading arrest. Few, if any will want an instant jail rap on their criminal record. The potential impact it would have on ones employment prospects and ability to obtain things like a passport or go overseas because they had committed an offence for which they would receive a jail sentence, is something the sentencing judge should consider remarking on – crime has consequences and often the longer term aspects such as loss of certain liberties could be better highlighted.

For their part though, Police might want to look at the case of Queensland, Australia where officers are only permitted to chase if there is an immediate danger to life or have good reason to believe a serious crime has just been committed. The same applies in the state of Victoria. In South Australia incident controllers can terminate a chase at any time. That said, a lot of chases in New Zealand only last a couple of minutes or even seconds, because Police see that the danger of continuing the pursuit is too hazardous and stop.

But it is all too late for three boys aged 13, 13 and 16 who are now dead, and devastated families wondering how it came to this.

New Zealand needs to draw a line on New Zealander’s privacy

New Zealander’s spend much of their internet time using the services of a few very large tech giants. Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! are some of them.

I am no exception. I have this blog, which requires an e-mail account, which I have with G-Mail. I have a Facebook page for this blog as well as my own private profile. I have a Twitter profile. Across the course of my presence on the internet, I have downloaded applications from Google Play, both free and otherwise.

In order to supply those services and products it is understandable that they will need to store some basic data about their users. They will need to know that their users are verified and not some sort of computer bot. They will need data specific to the types of services and products they supply.

What is not so easily acceptable – and which should be the subject of honest, robust debate – is whether these companies should be able to build up a vast profile of ones internet footprint. Below is an example from Britain of how Google was able to do so.

A contributor to The Guardian wrote an article a few months ago about how much Google and Facebook for example were able to store about him. The results he found were rather startling. Google was able to store every single search, purchase, e-mail sent/received, app downloaded that he had done for nearly the last 10 years, in his case dating back to 2009. At the time of him publishing the article Google had 5.5 gigabytes of information about his activities.

A few weeks ago I deleted my Google + accounts. Aside from having barely used them since they were formed, wanted to reduce the footprint across which Google could collect data about me. Yesterday I became aware of how to check Google’s knowledge of the ads it displays that one might have clicked on – deliberately or accidentally. Over the next few days I am going to see how far I can reduce my Google Ads footprint.

Google is not the only tech company I am trying to reduce my online profile with. Facebook, long accused – justifiably so – of being in breach of the privacy laws of various national jurisdictions, has been issued ultimatim’s to fix the breaches and demonstrate having done so, for face sanctions.

In my case I have removed photos from prior to 2016. I have family and friends who used to be quite active on Facebook, who have stopped posting and have simply walked away from their accounts. Others have deleted their accounts outright when they have concluded that Facebook has access to too much of their private lives.

I am but a gnat against the likes of Google and Facebook, but I honestly believe that if first world nations made these companies respect their privacy laws, there might be a fighting chance of an overall sea change in how these companies view the world. If New Zealand took a stand and told these companies they would face sanctions for non-compliance, their contemptuous outlook might change. It would have a precedent to follow – other nations have already attempted to lay down the law to Facebook. How long before they try it on Google and the others?

Hopefully not long.


The gun control divide in New Zealand

Every so often there is a move to further regulate gun ownership and the permitted uses around them in New Zealand. Sometimes it is the result of concern about patterns in gun ownership and registration. Sometimes it is the Green lobby trying to reduce their role in New Zealand society. And sometimes it is the result of a spike in gun crime.

Whatever the case, it is something that is guaranteed to arouse controversy, and not necessarily for the right or otherwise proper reasons.

Most New Zealand gun owners are moderate, but there is a fringe at both ends of the spectrum who become verbally aggressive and agitated if they believe that their views are being persecuted. Andrea Vance reports misogynistic abuse and threats of violence being made against Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage for her decision on the Tahr cull.

The National Rifle Association of New Zealand could not be more different if it tried to its American counter part. The N.R.A.N.Z. is quiet, promotes compliance with the existing gun laws in New Zealand. No doubt it has its views on control as it is entitled to under New Zealand law. The N.R.A. of America is under its laws, and not least because of the Second Amendment, entitled to its views. But that is where the similarities end. The latter is highly active in politics, actively lobbies against any changes to gun control laws in the United States. It has even gone so far as to attack Australia for implementing gun control after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, when gun man Martin Bryant shot dead 35 people in a rampage in Tasmania.

I have no problems myself with the firearms code or the legal requirements around obtaining a license. I would only suggest that a firearm cannot be owned by a person with a firearm licence until they are 18 years of age.

However I believe that the laws for buying/selling importing/exporting firearms should change:

  1. All firearms entering and exiting New Zealand should arrive through a licenced firearms dealer. As this is an added responsibility, an administrative fee would handling the exchange of firearms would be acceptable.
  2. All firearms being bought must come from a licenced dealer.
  3. When sold they must go back through the dealer who will have a storage area and require both the seller and the buyer to present their current licences
  4. Ammunition purchases should require photo ID to be presented

After the Defence Force brought guns to a school a couple of years ago, there was a huge outcry and M.P.’s on both sides of the House of Representatives railed about it. Showing the weapons to primary school students is probably too early, but a show and tell display at Intermediate would be acceptable, assuming the personnel there did not allow the children to handle the firearms. If there are any agencies best suited to showing students how to safely use guns, one is the Police and the other is the Defence Force.

Children are going to have a natural curiosity around guns, so it is essential that they learn how to safely use them in a controlled environment. This is why it is essential that rifle clubs continue to operate at High Schools. I was a member of my High School’s rifle club in 1998-99 and it was great fun. We learnt how to competitively shoot. We were entered into the Winchester Postal Competition. During 1999 I was one of the top shots in the school with three scores over 90.0 out 100.10.





Changes to terrorism control laws?

A review of the laws that govern how New Zealand deals with terrorism has been announced by the Minister for the Government Communications Security Bureau (G.C.S.B.) and the Security Intelligence Service (S.I.S.).The Minister of Justice, Andrew Little, announced the review whilst saying that the 2007 Urewera raids where Police swooped on Tuhoe. Those raids, which generated nation wide controversy were seen as a test of the Terrorism Supression Act 2002 and the more recent Counter Terrorism Act.

The Urewera raids are widely viewed as a failure. The Police handling of them was poor and nearly all of the charges laid in the aftermath wound up being dropped because they were not admissible in court.

The Police now say that they would be reluctant to use the laws if there were grounds for doing so.

I have reservations myself. On one hand the law needs to be strong enough to prove a worthwhile deterrent – the sentences for terrorist related activities I believe need to be strengthened. On the other hand it needs to respect human rights and civil rights law – detainees need to be charged with something quickly or released; property should not be able to be searched without a warrant.

I agree with the need to review the law and believe that a review clause should be inserted, with a recommendation for legislative change if the review panel deems this necessary. But to add another piece of legislation to the existing mix, is not something I believe is necessary.

The countries in New Zealand’s neighbourhood where Islamic fighters are returning in a radicalized state have a different set of problems to what we face here. Those countries – Australia exempt – do not have as strong judicial processes as we do here. Malaysia and Singapore, as well as Indonesia are predominantly Muslim countries and therefore have strong Islamic influence. The radicalization that is happening would be taking place in Mosques. Most of the Muslim population who have come to New Zealand did so to get away from war, famine and civil instability in their home countries. Some may have come as migrants.

New Zealand also does not participate in military actions going on in Middle East countries to the same extent that Australia or its allies, the United States and Britain do. Whilst these are nations that are significant friends of New Zealand, they have a more America-centric orientation in terms of geopolitical priorities. New Zealand’s are more focussed on the Southwest Pacific.

This is not to say we should ignore the Muslim population. We should not give exceptional treatment to any group and they, like any others who are deemed a hazard, should be monitored accordingly. Whilst New Zealand has mosques, Islamic fighters are only a part of the small number of people who are thought to be a concern to the Security Intelligence Service (S.I.S.). A total of 30-40 people are thought to be of interest to the S.I.S.