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On The Right: Who Is The Worst Minister?

Last year, while in opposition, the Alliance website ran a poll asking us who the worst Minister in the Government was. In the unlikely event they ran the same poll now, my answer would be, without a doubt, Matt Robson.

Oh sure, there are a lot of Ministers who come close. Margaret Wilson has made employer's lives a misery with her Employment Relations Bill. Pete Hodgson's Abolishment of the West Coast policy has also raised many eyebrows. But when it all comes down to it, Matt Robson is the David Beckham of the New Zealand Government - lots of activity, just none of it particularly intelligent.

Unlike Beckham however, all Robson has managed to do is score own goals. In particular, his sex in prison's idea went down like a German fan surrounded by English hooligans. Labour dismissed it not only immediately, but publicly. Prisons should be a place of punishment. While rehabilitation is also important, letting criminals have their partners/mistresses/friendly neighbourhood hookers pop in for a quick bit of nookie is not the way to go about equipping them for re-entering society.

Basically, Robson's "when the cell's a-rockin', don't come a-knockin'" policy was aimed at normalising prison life. The question has to be asked, what do we achieve by normalising the life of people who spent their time ruining the lives of innocent people? Especially in light of the other great policy plank of Robson's, the plan to let children live with their mothers in prison. This runs the dangerous risk of normalising prison life, and the prisoners themselves, to the children. They won't see prison as a place that is worth avoiding at all costs. This would be a tragedy.

Now lets fast-forward to the present. Robson has decided to honour the contract the Government signed with Australian Corrections Management, specialists in privately run prisons. However, being a socialist by trade, Robson let his ideology override any common sense he may have left and has already predicted that the trial will fail. If he is wrong, and I’m predicting he will be, then he will resign. To help his chances, Robson has promised to return the prisons to State ownership once the trial period is over.

This statement runs the risk of ruining the trial before it begins. If there is no chance of ACM running the prisons longer than five years, then there is no incentive to plan any long-term investment here. Just look after our prisons for five years, then get out of our country, is what Robson is saying.

And how do we define what a better prison is? I know what 92 per cent of the country would consider a better prison to be. Matt Robson however has other ideas. Tony Ryall put it best when he wrote: "From Matt Robson's point of view it would appear that better prisons are those where inmates have ready access to sex and other home comforts, and where they can be allowed to go home early."

I'm sure that he also echoes Phil Goff's rejection of ACT's Truth in Sentencing Bill. The Government's view is that it is too expensive - $838 million over three years - to lock up the more dangerous offenders for longer. This ignores the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research's data, which estimates the cost of crime to be $5 billion per year. Even Beckham could figure out which of the costs is higher.
The social cost is also being ignored. While Goff is on TV every night lamenting the plight of impoverished Fijian-Indians, he is ignoring the problems of impoverished New Zealanders in high-crime areas, through capitulating to Robson's ideology.

Essentially, our Corrections Minister is advocating the antithesis of what New Zealanders voted for in last year’s referendum. Matt Robson wants shorter and more luxurious prison sentences for all, no matter what the public says. In short, he, more than any other minister, has let his ideology interfere with what’s best.

On a personal note, it’s good to be back in Scoop writing about what I believe in. This column will be appearing fortnightly from now on. That is unless something really shocks me, like Jim Anderton rips up a picture of Lenin on Saturday Night Live or something, in which case my writings will be a little more frequent.

ENDS

Note: On The Right is a weekly column from Prebbles Rebels Mike Heine...

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