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A Crime Referendum That Parliament Can’t Ignore

ACT Launches 2002 Election Campaign With Call to Make the Party Vote a Referendum on Crime that Parliament Can’t Ignore - Prebble Speech

Sunday 16 Jun 2002 Richard Prebble Speeches -- Crime & Justice -- Zero Tolerance for Crime

Zero Tolerance for Crime Truth-in-Sentencing

Speech by Hon Richard Prebble, Leader ACT New Zealand,

at the launch of ACT's 2002 Election Campaign at Mount Eden Prison, Auckland,

on Sunday 16th June 2002 at 11.30am

Welcome to the launch of ACT's 2002 election campaign. ACT is campaigning to make a vote for ACT a referendum on crime and justice that Parliament cannot ignore.

In the Norm Withers referendum last election, 92 percent of the electorate voted for tougher sentences for violent offenders, and for more concern to be given to the victims of crime.

Labour has ignored the referendum.

Labour's justice policies are the opposite of what 92 percent of us voted for.

* Labour has removed the minimum 10-year sentence for murder. An offender can now be convicted of murder and walk out of the court having spent not one day in jail.
* Labour has cut in half all short prison sentences. An offender sent to prison for two years for armed robbery can every day in jail say he will `fix' the witnesses when he's released, and by law the Corrections Department must release that offender after 12 months.
* Labour has reduced the minimum time a violent offender must spend in jail to just one-third of the court-imposed sentence. A rapist sentenced to nine years prison can be out in just three years.

Parliament has treated the referendum, and the public, with contempt.

Labour has increased the penalties for so-called `hate' crimes. According to Labour, the murder of pizza delivery man Michael Choy was not a hate crime. The murder of Marcus Doig in the Pakuranga pizza takeaway store was not a hate crime. Labour says the murder of a woman while jogging in a local park, is not a hate crime.

ACT says all violent crime is a hate crime.

ACT has chosen to launch our 2002 election campaign outside Mount Eden Prison, to make a point. The public of New Zealand voted for violent offenders to be kept in prison longer, and to end the early release of violent criminals.

I have with me today families who have been the victims of crime. Their loved ones have paid the ultimate sentence - their lives. The victims' families are serving a life sentence. But the criminals who did these murders will one day walk free from this prison.

Because Labour ignored the referendum, the criminals will be eligible for early parole and will walk free from jail early.

Labour apologists say that being soft on crime helps rehabilitate the criminals. ACT says, rehabilitation by early release from prison is a policy that has failed.

The two old parties have been releasing offenders from jail early for more than 30 years, and the policy has failed. The Justice Department's latest report, in May this year, says that over one-third of all prisoners will re-offend within six months of being released, and nearly three-quarters re-offend within two years.

National's election policy is not much better than Labour's. National, in its election policy release, said it would honour the Norm Withers' referendum. And what is National's policy? To go back to the old law of releasing offenders after two-thirds of their sentence. The Norm Withers referendum was in protest at that law.

The two old parties think the public is stupid. Both parties believe that once elected they have a mandate to ignore the public.

I believe the issue of law and justice is an important constitutional issue. The first responsibility of a government is security - the security of individuals and the safety of citizens.

Neither of the old parties have fulfilled this constitutional duty.

Every day in New Zealand there are more than 100 brutal crimes of violence. There is, on average, a murder a week. From 1920 to 1960 - a period of 40 years - there was, on average, just two murders a year. Now we have more than 60 a year. More New Zealanders have been murdered in the last 12 months than were killed in the Vietnam War.

There are days when the murder toll exceeds the road toll.

Last year, there were 200 times the number of home invasions that there were when I was at school. Every minute of the day there is a burglary.

You are more likely to be the victim of a violent crime, an assault, a robbery, a home invasion or a rape in New Zealand than in the United States. The US homicide rate is still higher than ours, but New Zealand is catching up.

New Zealand has the highest rate of violent crime in the OECD.

Parliament has failed in its constitutional duty to protect our property and the safety of our families.

I say that law and justice is a constitutional issue, because otherwise referendums mean nothing. Does a Labour/Green government have the constitutional right to ignore the will of the people? Is New Zealand a democracy?

Let me make it clear. Even if Labour achieves its objective and gets a majority in Parliament, Labour is still planning on going into coalition with the Greens. The Green Party knew the date for the early election before Helen Clark's own caucus knew. The reason Helen Clark gave for the early election was so Labour and the Greens would have time to negotiate a coalition deal before Christmas.

Helen Clark is endorsing Jeanette Fitzsimons in Coromandel. Helen Clark's ambitions know no limits. She is already planning for 2005. Sue Bradford could be the next Minister of Corrections.

If you thought Matt Robson was bad, with his policy of warm milk and cuddles, just wait for Sue Bradford and Keith Locke.

Already our prisons serve cooked breakfasts, have colour TV, well-equipped gyms and student loans for university courses. The thought of prison holds no fear for violent offenders.

Labour and the Greens treat prisoners as if they are the victims of crime. And the real victims of crime are forgotten.

In the carry over motion in Parliament last week, there were 94 bills that Labour has not got around to passing. Number 88 was the Victims of Crime Bill - the bill Phil Goff promised Labour would pass.

Labour has found time to give more money to the arts. Labour has found time to give more money to Closing the Gaps. Labour has found time to give money to Maori TV, the People's Bank and to Indonesia, but not for the victims of violent crime - a crucial part of Norm Withers' referendum that 92 percent of us voted for.

If Labour gets its wish and gets an outright majority, the victims of crime will never get justice.

ACT is campaigning to put into law the Norm Withers referendum.

ACT's policy is Truth-in-Sentencing. ACT says offenders must serve their full court-imposed sentence.

"If they do the crime, they should do the time."

Everywhere countries have introduced Truth-in-Sentencing, crime has fallen. It is difficult to re-offend while in prison.

ACT will re-introduce my Truth-in-Sentencing Bill into the next Parliament.

Tougher sentences will lower the rate of violent crime - but it is not enough. ACT's policy is to introduce the New York approach of Zero Tolerance for Crime. In New York, Zero Tolerance for Crime has reduced all crime by 30 percent.

Under a Zero Tolerance for Crime policy, the community police enforce the law on minor street crimes such as graffiti. The policy targets entry-level criminals and holds them to account.

Would it work in New Zealand? I am a former Minister of Police. I noticed when I was Minister that where the local community policeman was tough on graffiti, all crime fell. New Zealand actually invented Zero Tolerance for Crime. We have abandoned it for politically-correct family group conferences.

The answer to crime is ACT's core value - personal responsibility. ACT will restore accountability to our justice system.

ACT's policies will require more police and more prisons. The cost is minimal. Crime cost the average household last year $4000. Labour today spends just $2 per person per week for Corrections. ACT's policy, even as costed by Phil Goff, is still less than $3 per person per week - a cost well worth paying to be safe.

A dollar a week so that a woman and her children can feel safe in their home, their street and their neighbourhood.

ACT's policy costs less than the politically-correct Closing the Gaps policy, so it can be funded by re-prioritising government spending.

ACT does say we must be tough on crime and the causes of crime.

I will be releasing practical, positive solutions to the causes of crime during the election campaign. Let me give just one. To have secondary schools where half the pupils can't read a simple text book, is a recipe for future crime.

ACT has been saying to both Labour and National, for quality education we must pay good teachers more.

New Zealand does not have to have the highest crime rate in the OECD. New Zealand used to have one of the lowest levels of crime in the world. We can again.

I have a vision of a country where there is the rule of law, one law for all. A country where you can leave your door unlocked and not be burgled, where you can walk anywhere and not be mugged. Where our children can walk to school and not be mugged.

I am describing what New Zealand was like in the 1950s - and it can be again.

If they can clean up New York, we can clean up Auckland. I was in New York 18 months ago and I felt safer there than on the streets of Auckland.

I grew up in Symonds Street, in what was supposed to be a tough neighbourhood. My parents did not lock the house or the car. Today, my parents live only a block away from Helen Clark. Unlike the Prime Minister, they do not have VIP police protection. They have been burgled four times and woken at night to find an intruder in the house.

ACT's message to the electorate is this. There is a way we can make the issue of law and order a referendum that Parliament can't ignore.

This election is under MMP. We all have two votes. Let's use our party vote as a referendum on violent crime. A party vote for ACT is a referendum that Parliament cannot ignore.

Send Parliament a message. We want Truth-in-Sentencing. We want Zero Tolerance for Crime.

Make your party vote a referendum that they can't ignore.


For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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