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Robson-on-Politics - 8 July 2008

Robson-on-Politics - 8 July 2008

Laura Norder Column Draws Comment

I was delighted with all the reader comment on my piece on crime and what to do about it last week. Debate and discussion, with reference to facts , on this important subject is what is needed not the idle boast of politicians at election time that they have the simple answers to all criminal offending. They are lying.

Particularly nauseating is hearing Pansy Wong the National candidate for the leafy Eastern ( not South as she claims) electorate of Botany tell people that she and National will solve all crime by, more prisons, longer sentences and no parole. She is also by the way promising voters that National will do this and significantly lower their taxes as well. My point last week is that this has all been said before in election campaigns and does not bring us one step closer to safer communities.

National Mayor in Auckland John Banks has also joined in with the Pansy Wong line. He became Minister of Police in 1990 promising that all crime would be eradicated. Soon after he took office the Aramoana massacre occurred. It was the largest civilian killing in New Zealand's history leaving 13 dead. Throughout his term crime and murder numbers rose. More and more were imprisoned. And at the same time the policies of Rogernomics continued in full force under Ruth Richardson with unemployment reaching record numbers and more and more families disintegrating under the pressure. Anyone in politics who tried to link economic and social well-being with the levels of crime was rounded on as being soft on crime.

The Progressive Voice on Crime

As Minister of Corrections I oversaw the building of 4 new prisons between 1999-2002. I can tell you that Not in My Backyard was alive and well. New Zealanders who voted for longer sentences in the 1999 referendum, which of course meant more prison beds, did not want a prison next to them.

With Labour's Phil Goff I also worked on the 2002 Sentencing and Parole Act which provided courts with the power to sentence those committing particularly brutal crimes to longer sentences or preventive detention. Under this law Ross Bell was given 28 years before parole could be considered. But the Act also allowed courts and the Parole Board the flexibility to use a range of other methods besides prison for those who were not a danger to the community.

The Parole Board was changed from its more amateurish form to a more professional body with a priority of community safety first.

The Bail Act was amended to put the onus on offenders to show that they were not a danger to society.

But the Progressive Party also recognised that criminal offenders are the products of the society that they live in. Thus we have pursued policies that promote full employment, quality and free education, good and low cost or free healthcare and affordable housing. We have led the way in trying to raise the alcohol purchase age, control the cavalier practices of the liquor industry and minimize the illegal use of drugs. Increased prison penalties have been part of the latter as well as rehabilitation programmes for drug users.

What we won't do is tell the lie that more prisons; longer sentences and no parole provide the solution to criminal offending.

KiwiBank, KiwiSaver, KiwiRail.

That all has a good ring to it. And the Progressive Party has been pleased to have a hand in all of this as a governing part.

New Zealanders never endorsed the 1984-90 Labour selloffs of assets and National's continuance of that. Nor did our party.

And although it is ironic that rail seller Jim Bolger is the chair of KIwiRail the Progressive Party is pleased that its party colours have been chosen for the new state asset. We think that that is a proper nod in the direction of the anti- asset selling role of the other Jim.

When Thieves Fall Out- the Basset book

This should have been the title of Michael Basset's self-serving history Working with David on the disastrous 1984-90 Lange-Douglas government. Alternatively, he could have called it Why I hate Jim Anderton. That is because on every page, almost, he spits tacks at Jim's (sole) opposition in the Parliamentary Labour Party to the Douglas prescription of wholesale sell-off of public assets and the introduction of user pays for education, social services and health. There is an interesting section on all factions (Lange, Clark, Douglas) uniting behind Ruth Dyson stopping Jim becoming Labour's President in 1988. After this victory the factions went on merrily to sell as many state assets as quickly as possible even though they continued to plot against each other. Just think how much pain could have been avoided and how much money kept from the corporate raiders and how many assets would not have had to be bought back if this unholy alliance had not succeeded and Jim Anderton had won.


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