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TRANSCRIPT: Tariana Turia Faces The Nation


LC: Linda Clark

TT: Tariana Turia - Associate Minister of Corrections

DO: Denis O'Reilly - consultant and prisoner rehabilitation advocate

GM: Garth McVicor - tougher sentencing campaigner

LC: Let's start with Garth McVicor - What do you make of what Tariana Turia's been accused of doing?

GM: Basically whether this is something in breach of the Minister's responsibilities or not, is not something that concerns me. What's been forgotten here is the victims that are involved.. Thomsen has pointed loaded fire arms at four different people I understand, and I see those people as victims, as such. That's what concerns Sensible Sentencing here - as a nation we've forgotten the victims.

LC: There has to be a genuine concern about the rate of Maori reoffending. I read this week .. Peter Doone put out a report earlier this year .. 3.3 times more likely Maori are to be arrested, put into jail and then to reoffend. Isn't it time we had a more innovative way of dealing with Maori offenders?

GM: No doubt, and what we're saying Linda, even though you introduced us as tougher sentencing, we're saying sensible sentencing. We believe that the way the violent crime is going in New Zealand at this stage is that something drastically needs to be looked at and we're building an organization throughout the country that is trying to motivate the apathy that's in NZ at this stage .. look at this question, and I admire Tariana for the way she's having a go at it, that's fine, but Sensible Sentencing believes that these guys have committed offences do their time.

LC: Denis O'Reilly what about you. What do you make of the week's events.

DO: Well first of all I'm glad to live in a country where a Minister might get up in the morning and have some individual person in mind and the first thing they do is make a telephone call, thinking about the needs of that person. Because if we're making decisions with people in mind they're more likely to be good decisions. I don't think Tariana's been meddling I think she's been modeling. I think she's been modeling leadership, I think that she's been showing that communities both the people who've committed crimes and also care for the people who have been victims of crimes. I'm all for sensible sentencing, but we seem to have at the moment is something that is obviously unsensible, an 82.6% rate of recidivism is intolerable, we've got it wrong - we need to think again.

LC: What do you put it down to, that phenomenal rate of recidivism. I mean I know that's a big question and I'm not expecting a big answer - but is there one ingredient we can blame it on?

DO: Well you asked a big question and you are going to get a big answer. It isn't a single thing, it's going to take all of us to get down and think it through. Therefore it must be multi-partisan in its approach and to make cheap political shots as have been made at Tariana over the last 48 hours is the first part where we start solving the problem. If the politicians can get out of the grubstakes on it .. and we can sit down and say, hey listen this is the lead in the belly of Maori social and economic development in this country and if it's the lead in the belly of Maori social and economic development, it's the lead in the belly of the entire country.

LC: Hang on a minute though - let's not be too hard on the Opposition MPs for bringing this case out into the public. When we're talking about law breakers, well equally Cabinet Ministers have a set of laws they have to follow and in this case the allegation is the Cabinet Minister, and I think we've established it, broke her own laws.

DO: You're talking to a very good person to talk to about that because I've been on the other end of Cabinet Ministers not exactly sticking by the rules so this won't be the first time that's happened and as Tariana said at least she is straight up, she writes stuff down, it's all traceable, and she fronts up with the stuff. So I just think there's a little bit too much high squeakiness in the voices of the people that are throwing the mud at the moment. Look back in your own house, let's move to the issue - the issue is we have a nation which the youth of our country are disproportionately imprisoned. If you look at the stats I suggest that the Maori people are probably the most imprisoned race in the world relative to their population. This is the thing that is going to cripple our country - this is where we're setting up the things for violence. So let us take this notion of sensible sentencing and let us get sensible about it.

LC: Alright, take a pause there. GM let me come back to you. The Minister has said all week that the underlying policy that has been driving her actions is a very firm belief, that happens to be Government policy too, that offenders should be in prisons close to their family. Do you accept that? .. As a principle do you accept that?

GM: No, as a principle no I don't. I believe they've got to serve their time. They've got to realize that if I live by a set of rules in this country as Tariana does, if you commit the crime you do the time. I think you need to learn that we have standards, we have laws, we have rules, you break those rules, you point a loaded firearm at somebody you do your time. I think part of the punishment, even though prison isn't seen as punishment these days - I don't agree with that - you must be punished for your crime.

LC: However these people are going to come out of prison one day, sooner or later. If we want them to come back and actually function with the rest of us in an open society don't they stand a better chance if they've been able to keep family connections during that time in prison.

GM: You have to realize, if you have the statistics as I have, that we lost the plot in the 1980s as far as homicides are concerned, a little earlier for violent crimes. The statistics are going through the roof here .. we'll have over half a million violent crimes for this decade. So I believe we've never actually tried sensible sentencing here, we actually say OK you've done the crime, you do the time. You put your finger in the flame, and it hurts, you don't go back. At the moment it doesn't hurt.

LC: So what do you want people to do when they're in jail?

GM: I have no problems with rehabilitation, that type of thing at all, but what I'm saying is you've got some horrific crimes out there at the moment and it just seems to be that we're regurgitating them - the justice system is a factory.

LC: And Tariana Turia, that would be a commonly held view in the community.

TT: The view that people don't deserve to be close to their families?

LC: The view that they should be in prison, that they should be doing their time .. a bit of rehabilitation is OK but mainly they're there to be punished.

TT: But isn't that exactly what's happening. Your punishment when you go to Prison is that you lose your freedom, you lose any sense of freedom and you lose considerable rights along with that. That is your punishment. All of these men are still in prison, serving their time. They have rights, their families have rights - why should their families be punished as well. Whey should they not be able to have access..

LC: But that isn't our responsibility is it - if male x commits a serious crime he hasn't been thinking about the impact on his family at the time he has committed the crime. He didn't give a toss.

TT: Well that's probably true, they didn't consider the consequences of their offending. But Linda you still can't take away the fact that these young men are going to come out of prison and they might very well live next door to you. Surely, surely as a society and everybody I've spoken to about this matter really believe that in prison these people are receiving rehabilitation. The high recidivism rate actually indicates that they're not.

(GM: That's right.)

LC: Denis O'Reilly a report out today, Better Corrections Law, it's a summary of submissions on better corrections law for New Zealand. One of the things it says which is interesting is that it blames the culture of the Corrections Department. It says it's a big part of the problem when it comes to this rotation we have of young Maori going in prison, going out, going back in again. Is that your experience?

DO: Yes. It's not just the culture of the Corrections Department it's the culture of our country. We talked just a few minutes ago about the notion of punishment - punishment is a disincentive to do an action - a reward is an incentive to repeat the action. We've got the thing back to front. So yes there is a difficulty in the culture of the prison - but there is also a wider difficulty in the culture of our community in how we see it. You see the fact that the rate has risen since the 1980s, might that have to do with things like unemployment, might that have to do with the marginalisation at the side of society - we've got a young Maori population - crime is a feature of young populations ..

LC: OK, hold that thought. Tariana I want to get your view on all of this.. we're running very quickly out of time.. do you agree the culture of the Corrections Department is part of the problem? It's your Department actually.

TT: Certainly I have been concerned about the culture that operates within the Corrections Department but I do agree with Denis O'Reilly there is a particular attitude in our society and unfortunately young Maori people understand that attitude well. They know how they are treated, they know how they are made to feel. I've had young people say to me that when you have the media portray Maori people in particular ways day after day, day after day what hope does that give them that they can participate in a society that's inclusive.

LC: Garth McVicor -have a quick response to that?

GM: I just feel totally, as I said earlier, we're all about victims in New Zealand. We've got it totally wrong that we have a heap of documents on offenders' rights etc, victims rights are way down the bottom. Victims have been forgotten about in this country and we're just trying to turn that around. We're no doubt coming from the same direction - we want to reduce the number of victims in the country and reduce crime.

LC: We're out of time. we could talk about this a lot longer..


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