Bill Ralston on police spying

Written By: - Date published: 2:09 pm, December 18th, 2008 - 8 comments
Categories: activism, police - Tags:

Bill Ralston usually gets stirred by posters at The Standard for what he says. I’ve generally liked him after seeing him give some politicians a degree of ribbing at the annual foreign policy conference in Dunedin in the mid-80’s. I really liked his most recent blog “Wimpy response to out-of-line cops”.

The latest Hager/Hubbard story about the police spying on community groups and other activists is a good one, however. I’ve waited a few days to see what action the government would take and how the other media followed the story.

I needn’t have bothered. The government seems to have simply shrugged and the rest of the media contented themselves with merely noting it had occurred.

This story is much more important than that and should not be allowed to fade quietly away.

I’m pretty sure that it won’t. The air of disquiet about the implication of the police actions seems to spread across wide areas of society, and across the political spectrum.

It is worrying in the extreme that the SIG was monitoring the activities of at least one political party, the Greens.

There is no risk of serious criminal offending by these groups. There is no threat to the security of the state or the people of New Zealand. These folk are going about their lawful, if noisy, business exercising their democratic rights.

Where was the indignation from the government at this appalling waste of public money and police resources? Where is their anger at this heavy handed Iron Curtain approach to people voicing their legitimate dissent as part of the political process?

John Key tut-tutted that the police should only be investigating groups that posed a ‘real or credible risk to the safety and security of communities’. He is right but what is he doing to stop them abusing their powers? Nothing.

I suspect that Bill is being a bit impatient here. This issue about the use and abuse of police powers will continue to rumble for a long time yet. It is a problem that I’ve been thinking seriously about for some time now. Now we’re not likely to have an election for a few years, it seems like a good time to start following it up. At present the police seem to need to have a mirror set up to look at their own actions from the outside.

I really did like his last few paragraphs.

Broad’s assurances are patently ridiculous and anyone with half a brain could see that most of the individuals and groups targeted posed no risk to anyone but their macrobiotic sandal-wearing selves.

The police were patently out of line and yet nothing is to be done about it. It exposes the dangers inherent in John Key’s lack of real political principles. Key’s wimpish, tepid response shows how he and this government are most probably going to be snowed by the public service over the next three years.

Frankly, the media’s coverage of the fallout from the affair was equally tepid and wimpy. Few thundering editorials, fewer still hard probes of what else the SIG might have been up to.

So much for the Fourth Estate and its eagle-eyed guardianship of our civil rights.

Ouch, even the posters here usually don’t hit quite so many targets in one sitting.

8 comments on “Bill Ralston on police spying”

  1. Bill 1

    Everywhere that power is concentrated, power will monitor dissidents . How far they go; how paranoid they become varies. That the cops have partly focussed on animal welfare groups and environmental groups is, well…bizarre.

    SAFE, Greenpeace et al are not Earth First!

    So are we to expect Jamie Oliver to be under suspicion/surveillance or refused access to NZ should he ever visit? I ask because as far as I’m aware he has used his celebrity chef status to expose more about, and do more damage to factory farming than any of the accumulated actions or campaigns by SAFE and well as raise more people’s conciousness on the matter. He is obviously a figurehead in much the same vein as other evil ne’er do wells and will, if smart, keep his nose clean while quietly manoeuvring his foreign minions to overthrow the NZ establishment and stock the beehive with a smarter breed of animal.

    Go Jamie!

    ( I guess I’ve blown it now and my phone will be tapped and surveillance procedures enacted…..again.)

  2. higherstandard 2

    What you’re in agreement with Bill Ralston and Garth George !

    Isn’t that one of the signs of an impending apocalypse ?

  3. Rex Widerstrom 3

    As I said before, if Key won’t set up a “mirror to look at [police] actions from the outside” (or perhaps even if he does) it’s time for a Police Reform Group to operate along the same lines as Prison Reform Groups – to suggest policy improvements, highlight systemic failings, and occasionally take up individual cases where such cases highlight either particularly bad abuses or illustrate the system’s flaws.

  4. Anita 4


    It’s not a sign, it is the apocalypse 🙂

  5. ak 5

    Oh yes, now our fearless columnist pipes up about Key’s “lack of real political principles” and lambastes his own colleagues. Now. After being the prime tory cheerleader and Helen-hate inciter among them prior to the election when his privileged position carried some influence. Too late, old son. Credibility of a pock-faced car salesman in a shiny suit.

  6. Quoth the Raven 6

    I agree with ak. It’s a bit late for old man Bill to be critical now. He’s had his time to prove himself a critical thinking worthwhile journo and not a has been. Right up through the election he was a useless fatuous cheerleader for the right with a massive conflict of interest he wouldn’t talk about. And now he has the gall to criticise the rest of the media. What a c. u. n .t.

    It’s over Bill retire.

  7. lprent 7

    Rex: In general I agree. The problem with the police in general, is that a lot of them do what can only be described as a really hard job. They get a *lot* of leeway because of that. Especially after the underfunding of the police in the 1980’s and 1990’s relative to their task.

    The problem is that underfunding has largely been corrected. Staff numbers have increased – they actually turn up for burglaries at my apartment block now. That is something that didn’t happen 10 years ago. However there is an embedded culture inside the police that is increasingly divorced from the wider NZ culture. NZ culture is changing faster than the police culture appears to be able to cope with.

    For instance hanging out with Rochelle used to be a real pain. We’d have to find somewhere that had vegan coffee (I’m a typical programmer – caffeine addiction). Now it is easy to find soy lattes (disgusting as they are), even when I head out of Auckland central.

    However first we really have to convince the police that it is in their own best interests to get and take external advice. No point giving advice if they don’t listen. The best way to do that is to be a total pain and point out their little flaws loudly, often, and with a degree of sarcasm.

  8. the sprout 8

    ak, QtR – agreed.

    while i agree with ralston’s comments over this scandal, ultimately he just sounds like someone worried that he’s nailed his colours to the wrong mast and is now desperately trying to claw back some, or any, credibility as a commentator.

    way too little, way too late. he’ll need to do an awful lot more than that to absolve himself in the eyes of the sentient.

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