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Roy: Making New Zealand Safe For Our Children

Making New Zealand Safe For Our Children

Heather Roy MP
Tuesday, June 10 2008

Speech to Mana-Tawa Grey Power Meeting; The Porirua Club, 1 Lodge Place, Porirua; Tuesday, June 10 2008

New Zealand needs a real vision and goals - and neither Labour nor National seem to have either. But until those setting the political agenda know where we're heading - as in, what sort of a country we want to leave for our children and grandchildren - we have no hope of having policies that work towards goals and a vision.

I have a vision for New Zealand: a safe, prosperous and smart green country where we can all get ahead, and where the vulnerable in our society are treated generously.

It is with this vision in mind that ACT has already announced our plan for the future - unlike some Parties that are planning to do so just before the election. Why? Because our plan is too important to delay.

ACT's plan is a comprehensive one, covering the many areas in which New Zealand could - and should - be doing so much better. These areas are listed in ACT's recently released 20-Point Plan, which I invite everyone to read in the policy section of my website and spend some time looking at how we could make our country a better place for everyone.

Today, I'm going to talk about point number 17 on the plan - 'Law & Order'.
'Law & Order' or, as I prefer to call it, 'Justice & Security' begins in the home - my own children were taught right from wrong since they were tiny, as I myself was by my parents. Sadly, however, too many of our children do not live in homes where this is the norm.

As a nation, we deal with this by throwing money at those we consider 'disadvantaged' and then sit back in the expectation that this will magically solve all problems. And, while waiting, we under-utilise other avenues that could make a real difference.

As important as money is mentoring - programmes that provide real practical assistance for those who struggle with parenting and life skills. A good example is of an organisation which does just that is Plunket, whose nurses go into people's homes to help them where - and how - it matters most.

Community Policing
We've all heard tales from our parents about how the local Bobby used to give errant youngsters a clip around the ear and deliver them home to their parents. In those days, police were an integral part of the community and such policing was an effective way of nipping the wrong sort of behaviour in the bud.

Sadly, those days are gone; communities and the wider public have been disenfranchised by current police policy for some time now, and many distrust the motives of a police force that has become highly politicised at all levels.

For many reasons, the police are no longer responsive to community requirements and concerns - rather than being available to attend burglaries and the like, they now have a hefty focus on gathering extra revenue through such means as issuing speed tickets and the like.

If police truly WERE serious about reducing the road toll, they would actively monitor road 'Black Spots' - rather than hiding speed cameras around corners and behind shrubbery in order to fill their quotas.

The police have lost the confidence - and, therefore, the support - of the public and operate as an elite force, separate from the community. Police need to be brought back into the community so that they work WITH - and as part of - the communities they are supposed to serve.

There ARE exceptions to the rule, however: I was recently heartened to hear about the Wellington policeman who has had pink vests made with 'TAGGER' emblazoned across the back. When he catches taggers - and he will make it a point to do so - he will make them wear these vests while they clean up their handiwork. Banning spray-cans to under-18s won't fix the problem - shaming them, and making them right their wrongs, will teach them a lesson. This is community policing as it should be - a policy of early intervention for minor 'Broken Windows' crime is correct in its 'zero tolerance' approach.

Many will have received the email about Sheriff Joe Arpaio, creator of Arizona's Tent City Jail. The Sensible Sentencing Trust's Garth McVicar has visited Sherriff Arpaio and proposed a similar concept for first-time offenders here in New Zealand for crimes such as drink driving, vandalism and graffiti.

According to Mr McVicar, a range of benefits would flow from such a facility, which would be located well away from civilisation. For instance, it costs $110,000 a year to house the 600 offenders - sentenced to between 12 hours and one year - at the Arizona model, compared to the approximately $52 million it would cost to keep them in a conventional prison. Further, it has a recidivism rate of only 16 percent; in New Zealand prisons recidivism reaches 52 percent after a year and 70 percent after three years. Every inmate at Sheriff Arpaio's facility works for their keep. The details for a New Zealand version would need to be worked on, but the concept is worth considering.

Sentencing and Parole
To begin with, I think we can all agree that sentences should fit the crime. ACT believes they should also consist of a combination of victim restitution, punishment and rehabilitation - in that order.

Concurrent sentencing and automatic parole should be phased out and 'truth in sentencing' - sentences served in full - introduced immediately. ACT policy is 'three strikes and the max' - meaning that when, convicted of the same crime three times, criminals should automatically receive the maximum sentence.

Only when the law is enforced at all levels - for example, ending the practice of writing off offenders' unpaid fines - will it get any respect form the public and criminals alike.

Individuals must also have the right to self-defence, and property rights must be strengthened. The law should protect victims, not protect and incentivise criminals.

Parole is a failed experiment that has been used as a tool to keep the prison muster and the costs of prisons down. The rate of re-offending among those on bail and parole is unacceptably high - proof that bail and parole have become abused privileges. Parole should only begin when a sentence has been served in full, with criminals expected to obey the law upon release or be detained again.

Progress through our court system is unacceptably long, and the delays experienced - especially by victims - unfair. Crimes should be dealt with swiftly - what is wrong with having night courts as a solution? Judges and lawyers might be against it, but too bad for them. Junior judges could be required to do the 4pm-10pm shift - if that were considered unfair, then rosters could be drawn up. What's truly unfair is making victims wait months - sometimes more than a year - to give evidence of the often brutal crimes inflicted upon them.

As MPs, we are entitled to visit any prison in the country. I can honestly say that they're truly awful places and that I've always been pleased to leave - with one exception. Better known as the private prison run by a private Australian company, Auckland Central Remand Prison was established under a National Government and given a five-year contract.

A memorandum of understanding was established between local iwi and Pacific Island groups, and their representatives were active participants in rehabilitation. Classes teaching inmates to read and write were available as a privilege to be earned with good behaviour, and mental illnesses were treated. Not surprisingly, this prison's recidivism rate was much lower than that of its State counterparts.

Unfortunately, with Labour in power - and a philosophy of "it's the State's job to run prisons" as the rule of the day - the private key was locked. The only well-run, outcomes-based prison New Zealand has ever seen was closed. ACT would change the law to allow private prisons.

It's an old cliche, but it's true: prevention is better than cure. Crime most often begins in dysfunctional families where children have no father figure and are often subject to physical and sexual abuse - the risk factors are no secret whatsoever.

The two big Parties have already shown a reluctance to significantly change the areas of greatest contribution: Welfare and Education. ACT believes they are key to reducing crime and returning society to a high civil standard where security can be assured. THAT should be our goal: safe homes, safe streets, safe communities - for all New Zealanders and, most importantly, for our children.


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