Speech: Law and Order Discussion Document Launch
Hon Simon Bridges
Leader of the Opposition
26 November 2019
Good morning, I’d like to welcome you all here today for the launch of this document. As someone who, as a Crown Prosecutor, has worked closely with the victims of serious violence, rape and murder, this discussion document is close to my heart.
As the Party of law and order, it is also part of National’s DNA.
Labour thinks you need to be soft on crime to be caring. National knows that keeping people safe with a tough response to crime and reducing it through social investment measures, such as prevention and rehabilitation, go hand in hand. Both are essential.
Softening up just breeds more criminals. Hardening up in partnership with preventative and rehabilitative tools ensures less crime.
While Labour soft pedals on prisoners we will ensure victims of crime are even closer to the centre of the criminal justice system.
One of the reasons we are so different from Labour on law and order is because of our experience.
I couldn’t be more proud when I look out around our Caucus, and at those in our Justice team. From my criminal jury trial experience down we have acumen in spades.
Mark Mitchell leads this team, he has dedicated his life to law enforcement and community safety. His life of hands on experience is the perfect complement to my courtroom career, and he is not the only former police officer we have.
In addition, we have many lawyers who understand how to make it all work, including Courts spokesperson Chris Penk.
My thanks to this brilliant team.
Mark will take you through the paper in a little more detail. I will highlight a few specific proposals that I think show the quality and breadth of this work.
It won’t surprise you that gangs are at the top of my list. Patched gang members have increased 26 per cent under Labour – that’s 1400 men. Our proposals range from setting up a specialist unit within Police with similar powers and a similar approach to Strike Force Raptor in New South Wales, to banning patches in public places and getting harder on parole and sentencing for gangs.
To me, it all raises one fundamental question. Are we serious or not? Like most New Zealanders, National isn’t fooled by gang PR campaigns. We know gangs peddle misery in the form of meth and violence and so we are serious. The Government I lead will harass and disrupt gangs every single day I am Prime Minister, with the single-minded goal of eliminating them.
Victims of crime, as I have said, should be at the centre of the justice system, not an afterthought. In recent days I have had the privilege of talking to three families who have had loved ones murdered and who haven’t received the justice they’ve deserved as victims in their own right. Our proposals seek to correct this, whether that’s by automatically signing victims and their families up to the Victim Notification Register or by giving them the right to read their Victim Impact Statements in court, uninterrupted and uncensored.
Our Police are clearly vital to fighting crime. We are concerned to see standards for entering the Police lowered. They must stay high.
We will ensure Police know what law enforcement targets they must meet and we will free them up to do so with a greater use of non-sworn or authorised officers and mental health professionals. To illustrate, whereas now burglaries and thefts are left unsolved in far too many cases, we will let authorised officers get on with resolving these so that police stay focused on first response in areas such as family violence and gangs.
Other proposals show we are more than simply toughening up the system. Our social investment approach will, for example, give people who’ve committed crimes a second chance where warranted. In certain circumstances where set criteria are met we will wipe the convictions of young people so their lives aren’t defined by one incident, and we will put the estimated one third of prisoners who could be working in prisons into work or training because that will set them up for success on the outside.
This is our seventh Discussion Document and shows National has the ideas and momentum in New Zealand politics while Labour is stuck in a rut, failing to deliver on its promises for New Zealanders. In short, this document is part of the biggest policy development process by an Opposition ever.
We hope you like it – but more importantly that you enter into the contest of ideas with your feedback.