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Video Camera Surveillance Bill - Third Reading

Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill
Third Reading; Thursday 6 October 2011; 5.10pm
Rahui Katene; Maori Party

This Bill cuts to the core of some deeply held concerns within our community around transparency; accountability; trust; and corruption.

This legislation has been put forward by the National Government with Labour and Act’s support, asking us to suspend the law temporarily - to condone the unlawful act by the Police; and then to add fuel to the fire by introducing legislation to make the 'unlawful' lawful.

We believe it has been politicking by both larger parties, to create a perception for voters that they are tackling the tough issues – they will not be soft on crime – they are making their mark.

If they had really thought it was such a significant issue, why didn’t they bring it in much earlier during this term of Parliament?

Why wait till the last week of Parliament sitting to bring in this bill?

The question we have asked, is what sort of justice system do we have if the upholder of the law is allowed to break the law and get away with it?

If the police want to forge relationships with the community, then breaking the law – and the Government then introducing new law to make these breaches lawful – is not the way to achieve public trust and confidence.

And I cannot help but think that when we are thinking about public trust and confidence in the police we are walking through some very treacherous waters at this time.



And although the Government have been at pains to say this bill is not about Tuhoe, they are the silent ones sitting through this debate – their experiences cannot and must not be forgotten.

In this third reading then I want to focus us on one thing and one thing only. Corruption.

The Maori Party wants to sound a loud warning against corruption.

And in doing so my colleague, Dr Pita Sharples, has already announced that the Maori Party will take a stand against corruption in the upcoming election.

We cannot as a parliament allow for corruption in our Police, no matter how loud the Police Association screams for it.

The police are supposed to being protecting our citizens, not running rough-shod over the law. They are supposed to be stopping criminals, not acting like criminals.

Make no mistake, as much as some want to deny it, the trust New Zealanders have in Police is tenuous at best, more accurately fragile

Yes. Some want to hide that fact. Well it is time to call out the open secret.

Not because we want to undermine Police. Quite the opposite.

We want to be able to expect a lot more of them.

It is time to say that there is an elephant in the room, and that elephant’s name is: a police force that is at a tipping point of corruption, and we ignore it at our peril.

Look beyond the spin. Look at their own documents.

What you actually find is that FULL trust and confidence in Police is actually at an all time low.

Only 28% of New Zealanders have FULL trust and confidence in New Zealand Police.

What you also find is for those people who have contact with Police, i.e. not criminals but victims, the confidence rating declines.

That’s right.

We all want to believe that the police are a force for good, but when we actually need them, and have an experience of them, we are confronted by the reality that causes our confidence to decline.

If you did not need any more evidence, the most recent crime survey, the 2009 New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey, reminds us again that only one out of every three victims reports a crime to Police.

And Why?

The survey says because victims are too ashamed or embarrassed to go to the Police.

That’s right, the worse sort of criminals – sexual predators - are going free because according to the Government’s own survey, Police could not, or would not have done anything to help.

And if Police are not embarrassed by that, then they should be embarrassed by the fact that the women who were brave enough to speak to Dame Margaret Bazley about police cover-ups in relation to sexual assault allegations have not been apologised to by this government and have not received any compensation.

Mr Speaker, we cannot let declining trust and confidence in police impact any more on the social fabric of New Zealand society than it already has.

Whether it is the women who spoke out against police sexual aggression, and cover ups.

Whether it is the 500 odd cases of child-abuse in the Wellington region alone that were uninvestigated.

Whether it is the few bad apples – and the people who cover for them - that erode the public’s trust and confidence.

Whether it the people of Tuhoe who were terrorised by the state on that fateful and dark day.

The Maori Party will not be party to a legislation that further compromises the fragile trust and confidence that New Zealanders have in their police force.

We will be part of the solution. Not the problem.

The starting point for us is that the Supreme Court cannot be bent or dictated by expediency. Absolute vigilance must be taken and a proper, informed debate needs to happen unless there is a truly exceptional reason to do so.

ALL criminal law must be to protect the rights of an individual against the state, lest the individual become oppressed.

That is why one does not allow Parliament to take away a person’s rights lightly - which is why there are real restrictions on the Police in the way of search warrants. The Hamed decision made it clear that covert video surveillance which involves trespass is unlawful.

We are a rule of law society and we can’t retrospectively criminalise what is not criminal. Let the court decide – they have much more experience and more ability than Parliament to decide these things.

We do, of course, appreciate the move that the Minister has made to remove the retrospective application that was introduced in the bill. We were utterly opposed to the initial intention to make the law retrospective. It is an outright constitutional challenge – a mechanism to flout our constitutional rights and ignore the responsibilities of Government to protect and uphold the law.

The judicial process itself already had sufficient checks and balances in place to determine the lawfulness of evidence obtained by the use of covert video camera surveillance under section 30 of the Evidence Act.

Mr Speaker, I come back to the focus of my korero. Corruption constitutes a major obstacle to democracy and the rule of law. Police lose their legitimacy when they misuse power for organisational advantage.

For those of this House who may think we are overstating the facts.

Let me finish by drawing your attention to the most recent global survey by Transparency International.

In that survey 73% of New Zealanders said corruption had increased over the past three years.

Those same New Zealanders regarded the political parties as the most corrupt. The least corrupt were the military, then teachers, then judges, then the NGO sector - then police.

A close reading of the data says something that should worry us all: only 10% of the people surveyed did not think New Zealand Police was corrupt. Everyone else thought New Zealand Police was between somewhat and extremely corrupt.

The Maori Party will not support any legislation that further undermines people's trust in the political or judicial system, in its institutions and its leadership.

We do not support this Bill.

ENDS

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