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The Nation - John Banks


Interviewed by SEAN PLUNKET

Sean Well John Banks has been many things – a Police Minister, a Talk Back Radio Host, and the Mayor of Auckland City. Now he's giving parliament another shot and has just been confirmed as the ACT Party's candidate in Epsom, in this year's general election. Mr Banks has already had an 18 year career in parliament with the National Party running in the Whangarei electorate before he retired in 1999. But now he's jumped ship to a party known until now for indeed its tough law and order policies. John Banks joins me in the studio now. Looking at that piece on prisons your father spent a fair amount of time in prison. Was it ever in your experience or his experience a place that rehabilitated him?

John Banks – Epsom ACT Party Candidate
No, jail was something my father liked very much. He went back time and time again. Mt Eden is my ancestral home if you get the drift. I have been around jails and law and order policy for a long long time. The first thing that I'd like to say this morning is that I think Judith Collins is doing a first class job around law and order and around Corrections and the jails. Firstly the rehabilitation programmes that are being put in place for drug rehabilitation and alcohol rehabilitation I salute. 60% of our jail population are very vicious and dangerous criminals and we have to be very careful about how we manage those. There are some people in the jails that should never be released, but there are a lot of people in our prisons, and I've been in prisons recently, who are sick, mentally sick, alcohol ladled, drug abuse and lack any purpose and hope, and we release them. There are two things that I want to work on if I get back to the parliament and that is this. The two pronged attack to stopping people going back to jail is, the dignity of work, having had a world class education, and the discipline of playing sport. My long experience with young criminals is that a young man in sport is never in court. I had a lot of experience in Whangarei in the early 1980s where I ran a Black Power gang working party for three years. We did all sorts of constructive work in the community, 50 or 60 Black Power gangsters in the north. Not one offended in the three years I had them on work schemes. In 1984 when the Labour Party came into office they abandoned the work schemes and all of them except one went to jail within two years.

Sean So we're hearing a change I guess in perceived position from the ACT Party, and indeed from the National Party. Heather Roy your party I guess colleague, or your fellow party member saying there that rehabilitation is important. Does this mean ACT is moving away from its perceived hard line lock em up, throw away the key position?

John I got into extraordinary trouble in the early 80s when I named in the parliament and outside the parliament, the vicious criminal that raped and tortured a six year old girl, who has recently been released from jail. That vicious criminal should have never been released from jail. Just yesterday I saw a Whangarei criminal on the streets of Broadway Newmarket, that raped a 94 year old woman in Whangarei. He should have never been released from jail.

Sean So I'll be specific, you are still going to grandstand and grab headlines on specific crime stories, but you're saying the overall policy philosophy has softened somewhat?

John Bill English is absolutely right. Jails are a bankrupt response to law and order, but we need jails for the most vicious criminals, but we need the dignity of work. We can't take people out of jails, put them on a bus at Paremoremo with a brown paper bag and send them back to the north with no opportunity for work. That’s a recipe for them for turning round and going back to Paremoremo.

Sean John Banks it's fair to say though the people that you want to vote for you in the electorate of Epsom are people who statistically aren’t victims of crime as much as other people in other parts of this country, and other parts of society. Indeed they may not be that interested in crime or hard line crime as a policy. What do you want for them?

John Well we're all victims of crime. We're all victims of crime. If we continue the bankrupt response of just paying young Polynesian, young Maori men in South Auckland, the dole to sit in front of TV, smoke marijuana, watch pornography and plan more drug offending and more burglaries, then we're going to have them coming through our window regardless if we live in Epsom or anywhere else in the greater Auckland. We have to deal with the root cause of law and order. World class education reaching out with world class education, and the dignity of work and the discipline of sport …

Sean You’ve just specifically criticised there I guess our current social welfare system. We've already heard from the Prime Minister John Key, he is going to address this after the next election. For you, is that one of the main reasons you joined ACT that you want to deal to Social Welfare, or see real reform of Social Welfare that will at a base level prevent the downstream crime?

John Let me turn that proposition in its head. I'm totally opposed to social welfare that pays young people $6 an hour to sit at home every day watching pornography and smoking drug and planning crimes. I'm absolutely committed to giving them the dignity of work. It is wrong to pay them $6 an hour to do that when you could have them working and getting work experience and apprenticeships in the workforce without a minimum wage rate of pay. Minimum wage rates of pay in this country are failing young people that want to work. My long experience Sean is that even criminals that come out of jail want the dignity of work, and want to play in the local Rugby League team. If they’ve got a job and they're playing sport I'm telling you they don’t go back to jail.

Sean Alright. Why did you join ACT, why did you abandon National? What was it about ACT under Don Brash that you liked more than ACT under Rodney Hide?

John Well I've had a lifetime of politics, 33 years in public life, and 13 elections. I'm a bit of a maverick. I'm not a conformist, I'm a free thinker. I believe in freedom, I believe in choice, and I believe in responsibility. They're the mantras of the ACT Party. I'm very glad to belong to a small political group that can make a difference, a very big difference. I totally support Don Brash. I understand the failures of the New Zealand economy.

Sean How is the party different under Don Brash than it was under
Rodney Hide? Why didn’t you support Rodney Hide?

John Well it's got more focus?

Sean On what? Because it doesn’t sound like it's more focused on law and order. More focused on what?

John Well it's going to have more focus on government expenditure, that’s gone from 28% to 34%. It's going to have some focus on the tradable sector of the New Zealand economy that’s paying for the debt that we're borrowing at 380 million dollars a week.

Sean Do you reckon you'll win it, yes or no?

John In Epsom? Well you know I'm gonna give it my best shot and I'm quietly confident.

Sean John Banks good talking to you this morning, thank you for joining us.

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