Heather Roy's Diary
Heather Roy's Diary
Laws on Gangs
Following the murder of two-year-old Jhia Harmony Te Tua in Wanganui on 5 May 2007 there have been calls for more laws to control gangs. Jhia was shot in a drive-by shooting by the Mongrel Mob, who were firing on a Black Power house. This appears to have been in retaliation for a similar drive-by shooting by the Black Power that produced no casualties. There has been a series of incidents creating tension between the gangs in Wanganui and there appears to be the possibility of an all out gang war.
Many of the suggestions as to how to deal with the gang situation have been silly and unworkable and I doubt if any would be effective for the simple reason that current laws are not being enforced. Gangs have grown wealthy on the proceeds of illegal drugs which is illegal but enforcement is patchy. Most of the gang members are able bodied but few work at all, enabling them to live their gang lifestyle at taxpayer expense. Benefit fraud is widespread but it would be a brave WINZ case officer who investigated the issue. Even with serious crimes there have been cases of gang members wandering into courthouses and intimidating the jury in the Court. Put simply, gangs get away with thuggish behaviour. Law abiding citizens who live in state housing areas with a heavy gang presence find life very difficult.
Talking tough about gangs has been popular for decades. Mike Moore used to talk about "taking the bikes away from the bikies". It was aimed to fill a gap in Labour's credibility on Law and Order but when Mike Moore was in a position of power he took no action on it. Current suggestions include introducing a bill to parliament that would give police the power to enforce a ban on gang patches and colours in Wanganui's CBD and other public places. The trouble is the shooting didn't happen in the CBD or a public place so that would have had no effect at all. Another is a law to ban gangs entirely making it illegal to belong to a gang.
There have been calls to have a legal definition of gangs but this too is fraught with difficulty. At what point does a motorcycle club become a motorcycle gang? It is a question of attitude and that is impossible to legislate against. There is also the danger of those in power having the opportunity to label organised groups they don't like as gangs. A definition may be confined to motorcycle gangs today, but who will be included tomorrow - a small political party with an opposing philosophy, clubs like Business New Zealand and Rotary, or organised religious groups like the Destiny Church?
If an organisation requires criminal behaviour in order to join then that already renders that organisation illegal but the gangs that are fighting in Wanganui are too amorphous to have a "constitution". The criterion for joining varies widely and therefore everything has to be proved on a case by case basis.
What is needed is a zero tolerance attitude to thug and criminal behaviour. That would mean considerably beefing up police resources so they could back up other agencies where required. If the government was serious about getting tough on the criminal activity of gangs it would announce a zero tolerance policy and instruct all government agencies to prosecute any lawbreaking activity no matter how trivial. A proper analysis of welfare benefits would be a good place to start. The Devil finds work for idle hands.
Finance Minister Dr Michael Cullen's 8th Budget contained little in the way of surprises (except the compulsory employer contributions to KiwiSaver) as most items had been 'leaked' to the media by Labours supporting parties or made as government pre-budget announcements by Helen Clark or Dr Cullen. The widely expected 30 percent company tax rates, subsidised contributions to the KiwiSaver scheme, Regional Petrol Taxes of up to 10 cents per litre were all announced 'officially' on Thursday. Around a third of the extra government spending went to health, but apart from the increases to the Aged Care sector, many just seem to be inflation proofing of existing initiatives. The government is still anticipating large surpluses - $6.3 billion in the 2006/07 year, $6.4 in 07/08 - but the widely called for personal tax cuts, again as predicted, didn't happen. Dr Cullen is holding these back for an election year sweetener. The really bad news however is the projected rate of economic growth of an average of 2.3 percent over the next five years. Given that Dr Cullen said his policies would be judged on whether they produced four percent real growth it is time he was held accountable for his failure to deliver. To borrow a famous saying: Dr Cullen, "You've been weighed, you've been measured and you've been found wanting". In NCEA speak Dr Cullen has earned a ' Not Achieved'
ACT would have:
* Dropped income tax to 20 percent.
* Held government spending in real terms.
* Dealt to red tape through a Regulatory Responsibility Bill.
* Demanded transparency and accountability for all government departments through Service Level Agreements that would see Department Heads fired for failure to deliver and Cabinet Ministers held accountable.
* Distributed shares in the SOEs to everyone.
* Dismantled the Cullen fund with a dividend into everyone's KiwiSaver or an Education endowment.
Why has Gordon Copeland resigned?
United Future MP Gordon Copeland's resignation from his party this week stole much of Dr Cullen's thunder as he was headline news rather than the budget. It really isn't clear why Mr Copeland has resigned, his explanation being that he didn't like the way his former Leader Peter Dunne voted on the 'anti-smacking' bill which passed its third reading in parliament on Wednesday. Mr Copeland has brought into question the ability of the government to pass legislation on matters of confidence and supply. When Taito Philip Field became an independent MP Labour's majority of one vote was gone. Now, with Gordon Copeland leaving the United Future Party, the government can only muster 59 guaranteed votes and are heavily reliant on the Green Party to abstain on matters of confidence and supply. This is hardly a stable majority. Mr Copeland missed the vote on the 'anti-smacking' bill but later managed to have his vote registered with agreement from the rest of the House, and has supported the government on the budget and budget legislation, giving Labour his vote. One could be forgiven for asking why he (known for his centre right views and unhappy with many of the rats he has had to swallow in supporting Labour) has left his party to act in the same way his party wanted him to anyway?
Lest We Forget This week in history:
14 May 1955 - Start of the Cold War
15 May 1957- Britain tests its first hydrogen bomb in Operation Grapple
15 May 1942 - US bill creating the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps passed into law, allowing the women of the United States to serve their country.
17 May 1943 - The Dambusters (RAF No. 617 Squadron) attacked German Dams using a specially developed "bouncing bomb" as part of Operation Chastise. Peter Jackson is involved in a remake the movie The Dam Busters.
18 May 1944 - Allied Forces captured Monte Cassino and broke the winter line.
And for the sports lovers:
14 May 1870 was when New Zealand's first game of Rugby was played in Nelson between Nelson College and Nelson Rugby Football Club.
Heather Roy MP
ACT New Zealand