Green Torture Question Leads to Criminal Confusion
During yesterday's Oral Questions to Minister's the Acting Minister for Justice, Rick Barker, was posed this question from Green MP Nandor Tanczos in relation to Justice Minister Phil Goff's recent proposals for drafting amendments relating to whether or not inmates should receive compensation for illegal acts inflicted upon them whilst incarcerated.
Nandor Tanczos: Can the Minister tell the House what would be just about a law that allowed a millionaire to murder, to be sentenced to prison, and to keep all of his or her assets, but that, if a poor person were to be tortured in prison, would remove his or her basic right to compensation?
Hon RICK BARKER: This is a matter for the courts to decide. If a person was a millionaire and did conduct a regime of torture, then the victim could very well take a common law case against him or her for compensation. This legislation is not going to change that at all.
The Acting Minister somehow managed to interpret Tanczos's moral conundrum as relating to the hypothetical actions of presumably excessively wealthy sadist conducting his own private 'regime of torture' in the prison system, and the possibility of compensation for the hypothetical victims of these hypothetical cruel and wealthy individuals.
Understandably perplexed by Mr Barker's somewhat bizarre take on his question, Mr Tanczos sought the assistance of the Speaker Jonathan Hunt. He even went so far as repeating his question twice to help clarify it for the confused Mr Barker. Unfortunately despite the question now having been read thrice – the Speaker considered the question was open to multiple interpretations and considered the Minister had answered the question adequately.
Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the Minister may have misunderstood my question. My question was about a millionaire who murdered someone and went to prison. There was no reparation order granted, so none of that person’s assets would be lost, whereas an inmate who was in prison and was tortured would, under this proposal, lose his or her right to compensation.
Mr SPEAKER: I heard the question that was asked. I could see that it was open to two possible interpretations. The Minister chose which one he was going to give, and he is entitled to do so.
After being rebuffed by the Speaker Mr Tanczos held his tongue whilst other members were able to gain some degree of clarity from the Acting Minister. Finally in a last ditch stand for the rights of incarcerated individuals within the Department of Correction's care, Mr Tanczos attempted one last time to point out that his question related in no way to private 'regimes of torture' carried out by excessively wealthy and degenerate citizens
Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to clarify your earlier ruling. I realise I should have brought this point of order up immediately, but I was obviously hesitant to raise it because I do not want to be seen to be challenging your ruling in any way. You ruled, Mr Speaker, that my question could have been interpreted in a way consistent with the Minister’s answer. In my question—to give you the actual wording—I asked the Minister about a situation that allowed a millionaire to murder, to be sentenced to prison, and to keep all his or her assets. I am asking for your clarification, because I do not see how that question could have been interpreted in line with that answer. I am pushing the point because I think it is important that the Minister justify what is a significant proposal to remove the right of inmates to go to the law—a proposal that is not being questioned by any other party in this House. The Greens have an important role in standing up for these fundamental human rights.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not agree with the member. The Minister addressed the question by dealing with whether a civil action could be brought against the millionaire.
Nandor Tanczos: My question did not refer at all to whether civil proceedings could be brought against that millionaire.
Mr SPEAKER: I cannot carry on with this. I could not quite understand the member’s question. The Minister addressed it as he heard it. I adjudged that he addressed that question.
As today's first "question for oral answer" relates to similar territory, it will be interesting to see whether Mr Tanczos again attempts to pose his question and if he receives a sensible answer or not this time around.