One of the most dishonest, yet most successful tactics of National in opposition was to rant on and on about the “Nanny state”. Here’s John Key fairly foaming at the mouth:
I’ve had nine years of being told what lightbulb I can screw into the house, what shower I can take, what food I can eat, what things I can do, what thoughts I am allowed to have.
Count them – five progressively stupider lies in one sentence! But it all gets taken seriously by the media, and the “Nanny state” meme does its damage. I must confess that it amuses me now to watch this meme turning on its master, and the growing horror of far right voters as they face the realisation that this government is a far bigger nanny than Labour ever was. In just a few short months National have stuck to their guns on Section 59 reform (Bravo!), want to ban cell phones for drivers, are planning revisions to alcohol limits, are regulating cold medication and other products, are banning certain kinds of chainsaws. Nanny is even reminding us to brush our teeth at night. Eventually even The Herald had to ask “Is National also guilty of ‘nanny-state’ policies?“. Umm, that would be a yes, yes they are.
The serious side to all this is that we might just switch off and stop paying attention to claims of state interference. That would be a disaster, because some kinds of interference are a lot more significant than others. Heads up people, here’s two current bills that we should really be taking seriously. Both were introduced by the last Labour government, both are (in my opinion) dangerously flawed, and both are being advanced by the current government (Simon Power). The first is the “Search and Surveillance Powers Bill”. While some of its aims make sense (there’s a balanced evaluation here) in other respects it goes too far. Concerns have been expressed by the Privacy Commissioner as reported in this morning’s Herald here, and are strongly stated in this summary:
Govt plans to increase surveillance powers
Activists say the Government’s plans to extend police powers of search and surveillance effectively lead New Zealand toward a police state – but the Government says the bill is aimed at improving powers to catch real criminals.
“Anybody who’s arrested or detained, police have the right to go an search their place without a warrant,” says activist Annemarie Thorby. “We are going down an extremely dangerous line in terms of democracy in this country,” says activist Graham Howell.
The bill is intended to enable police and regulators to catch criminals with more up-to-date techniques. It will see homes or businesses searched without a warrant. Police carrying out greater surveillance using any available technique, including searching computers without a warrant – and that means everything on the computer, not just what’s of initial interest, and it could be done remotely – effectively hacking. Also, people will be forced to answer questions, losing the right to silence.”
The second bill is the “Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill”, described by Labour MP Charles Chauvel at Red Alert here:
Parliament is in the process of passing the Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill. It would allow the Police to take DNA samples when they arrest anyone.
I can see the possibilities for better crime prevention in this proposal. But I’m troubled by the lack of any checks and balances in the Bill. A similar English law was set aside by the European Cout of Human Rights on that ground, and the Attorney-General has certified that the NZ Bill breaches the NZ Bill of Rights Act.
I put an amendment up tonight, further to a Labour caucus resolution, that would have required the Police to get a warrant before taking DNA. … The Greens, Progressives and Maori Party voted with Labour for the amendment. Peter Dunne voted against. So did ACT (so much for being ‘the liberal party’). And so did the Nats, without really bothering to say why. I guess they think it will play well out in talkbackland. … Not a good day for civil liberties.
It is great to see that Labour recognised the problems with the second bill and tried to address them. National blocked that effort and is proceeding with the flawed bill! Labour must now acknowledge the problems with the first bill and move to fix that too. Will National once again ignore feedback and ram this through? Will National bring us warrantless surveillance and DNA sampling, and take away the right to silence? After all their hypocritical posturing about the Nanny state, will National bring us the Surveillance state instead? Those of you who voted for National – was this what you wanted? If not, what are you going to do about it?