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Policing Bill: Third Reading

Policing Bill: Third Reading

Friday 5 September 2008; 5.15pm

Hone Harawira - Maori Party

Member of Parliament for Tai Tokerau and Police Spokesman

On the 25th October last year, a crowd of over 700 kaumatua, pakeke, rangatahi and tamariki, marched through Rotorua, in a peaceful protest against the Police Terrorism Raids into Tuhoe - they marched for civil liberties, they marched for indigenous rights, and they marched for justice.

On that hikoi were senior students from Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Rotoiti. Tumuaki of the kura, Hawea Vercoe, told the crowd of the views of his students:

On hearing the news, during their korero on the topic, one student commented“It must have been scary to have the police with guns coming to your house, especially when you are just waking up”.

Another student questioned the tactics used by police by asking “If the Police thought there was trouble happening in the bush, why didn’t they just go and see the kaumatua or call a hui at the marae”.

Mr Speaker, in the years that lie ahead of us, those young people, those whanau, and this nation will return again and again to the events of 15 October 2007 to question the role of Police.

Just as this year, on May 25th, we returned to Takaparawha; to reflect on the traumatic actions of thirty years ago, when state forces rudely, violently, and incorrectly arrested 222 people occupying Bastion Point.

1978 was one of many low points in contemporary Maori-police relations, with Tainui Awhiro’s occupation of ancestral land also being rudely and violently interrupted by police arresting and charging them with trespass on their own tribal burial grounds.

So how wonderfully ironic it is then Mr Speaker, that thirty years later,Angeline Greensill, Maori Party Member of the House of Hauraki-Waikato, andRahui Katene, Maori Party Member of the House of Te Tai Tonga, will take their rightful place in this House, for they are the children of Eva Rickard and Big John Hippolite, who were arrested at Raglan all those many years ago.

And that they will be joined on the Maori Party List byGrant Hawke, chairman of Ngati Whatua o Orakei Trust Maori Board, who along with myself and hundreds of others, was arrested at Bastion Point in 1978 as well.

And for those who think that these events are just bad memories to haunt the national psyche, please note that the Tuhoe court cases are ongoing, and that theIndependent Police Conduct Authority has still not released its findings on the shooting of Steven Wallace, killed by police in April 2000.

April 2000 !!! The homicide inquiry was over by June 2000; the policeman was cleared of criminal charges in 2002; the coroner’s findings were released in 2007 – and yet still the questions remain.

Mr Speaker, I have taken the time to track back over some of these events of national significance, because they form a crucial context to this Bill, which aims to improve the Police's effectiveness, and which should take as a starting point, the climate of anger, mistrust and fear, that still haunts those communities, and many others besides.

Mr Speaker, I have taken the time to track back over some of these events to remind the House that the purpose of this Bill – to confirm and strengthen Police operational and governance arrangements – will never be achieved, until we take a genuinely fresh look at the powers of the police.

The sixty recommendations of the Bazley Report gave us some real pointers about what standards of conduct the Police, as an Association, as a branch of Government, and even as an agency of social control, should have, if there is to be any improvement in the relationship between police and Maori.

Police wield great authority and considerable power in our society, and it was disappointing to hear the arrogant dismissal by the Police Association’s Greg O’Connor, of concerns about the taser being“high-jacked by political parties with points to score” or corrupted by the influence of minority interest groups making the taser seem more dangerous than it is.

Well, well, well. I wonder whether the British Defence Scientific Advisory Council Medical Committee would consider themselves a minority interest group, for having the temerity to say that there was a risk that children and adults of small stature, were at great risk of suffering"a serious cardiac event".

Maybe Mr O’Connor would like to volunteer to be the target of a taser shot - not the controlled experiment that the police did for the television, but one out on the street where your head doesn’t land on mats, but is likely to bounce off concrete.

I say that because I know the police had a helluva time trying to get some poor bugger to volunteer for the TV shot, and even though he knew what to expect, still he screamed in agony, and suffered the uncontrollable muscle spasms, the writhing body-wide cramps, and the total loss of control that the taser brings.

And after Greg O’Connor has been dropped screaming to the ground, maybe one of the politicians who support the taser can go next.

And then after that, maybe one of your teenage kids – especially you Maori politicians who support the use of tasers, ‘cause believe me, it’s your kids and mine who are the prime target for these weapons of torture.

And let’s do it out on the forecourt of parliament, so we can all see the pain and suffering that 50,000 volts will do to your kids, so we can all hear the screaming, and so we can all witness the horror that the taser will bring to our streets.

No takers? Nah – didn’t think so.

I can just see the TUI billboard now –true - tasers don’t hurt - yeah right.

Yeah I know what you’re going to say "Why us? It’s not us politicians committing crimes". But in fact we do. The only difference is that when we get snapped we just pass a law to make our wrongs right again. Pity our kids out on the street can’t do that.

Mr Speaker, we support the new human resource management processes, the new code of conduct, and any moves to improve police organisation, but I return to the key issue we face – the poor way that Police deal with communities, particularly Maori communities, and that theme ran through many of the submissions:

• Dr Trevor Bradley, from Victoria University’sInstitute of Criminology, said that the Bill bypassed the importance of public consent.

• TheAlcohol and Liquor Advisory Council said that the Bill should identify the New Zealand police’s commitment to partnership with Maori, and

• Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, on behalf of the Commissioner of Police’s Maori Focus Forum, challenged us to recognise that policing can be, and has been, misused as an instrument of government, which has often impacted most painfully on Maori.

• Ngai Tahu also said that it was important for policing to reflect the foundations of our nationhood, and that the absence of a Treaty clause in the bill was a big disappointment.


Mr Speaker, the Maori Party takes those views very, very seriously, and three weeks ago we argued for the inclusion of a Treaty clause to ensure that Maori would be involved in all decision-making, from governance to operations, and proposeda simple amendment to the Bill, that“in interpreting and administering this Act, effect be given to the Treaty of Waitangi”- highlightinggovernment's Treaty obligations, and the need for government to do all that it can to improve the relationship with Maori.

Mr Speaker, that Treaty Clause was voted down by every one of Labour’s Maori MPs, includingParekura Horomia, Nanaia Mahuta, Mahara Okeroa, Mita Ririnui, Dover Samuelsand Dave Hereora. Indeed, the only people with the courage and the foresight to support the Treaty were the Maori Party and the Greens, and my deepest thanks to the Greens for their support.

Mr Speaker, we remember the use of armed police to destroy Maori communities all over the country, from the Hokianga to Takaparawha, from Hauraki to Whaingaroa, from Tuhoe to Taranaki, and from 1846, right through to the cowardly police terrorist raids into Tuhoe territory, in 2007, and we know only too wellthat our people will not forget the hurt and the pain inflicted by the forces of the state, upon Maori.

And Mr Speaker, given the refusal of the government to recognise and deal with that history in an open and honest Treaty-based manner, the Maori Party will be standing alongside its people in voting against this Bill.

ends


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