Human rights are a pain in the ass. Yesterday’s protesters were rude, unfit to invite home to dinner, shouty, and so incoherent that you could’t make any sensible point with them. They were and are a pain in the ass. But they are OUR pain in the ass.
New Zealand’s own Human Rights Commission states that “The government measures to combat Covid-19 are extraordinary and place significant restrictions on New Zealanders’ human rights. Even during a pandemic, everyone has human rights and freedoms under the New Zealand Bill of Rights and Human Rights Act.”
The warranted citizens who enforce both rights and law and order are the New Zealand Police. Currently they are simply picking off the organisers once the show is over. The rest of them just smile for their SIS file.They get the balance well.
Yesterday saw multiple “freedom protests” from Invercargill to Wellington to New Plymouth. Because the force of the state in travel and employment is really kicking in now, we should expect them to continue and to get louder.
This was one of New Zealand’s smaller efforts. It’s barely a tenth of us who marched against the otherwise obscure topic of lab-contained genetic modification back in 2003. While the “freedom marchers” blocked motorways north and south, the left have consistently passed on making any unruly noise about anything at all, other than in polite little scraps on message boards and being offended about seriously fuck all.
The Prime Minister may not celebrate yesterday’s protest, but honestly after 18 months of public health breakdowns and multiple rights being curtailed, what exactly did she expect would happen?
No current Member of Parliament joined into what would otherwise be a televisual gift. Therefore it’s so minor no-one has detected measurable votes in it.
The mixture of Tino Raingatira flags, Trump flags and United Tribes flags show that ideological incoherence is not the preserve of New Zealand’s left. It’s simply our postcolonial shorthand for “we’re just pissed off”. Such co-opted symbols pop up every time there’s a scrap and will continue to do so.
There are limits to rights that defend us from harm, which is why the unnamed Christchurch Massacre perpetrator is going to have his day in court about how mistreated he’s been, and then he will go back to a cell consisting of the thickest-possible concrete slabs imaginable where he will in time die in silence.
The “freedom protests” are rebelling against the largest publicly-funded and staffed comms programme in recent history, fronted by the most popular Prime Minister in recent history, against the entire mainstream media, against 90% of vaccinated Kiwis, and in some respects against their own interests. It only feels slightly weird because it’s not a traditional leftie cause rallying the citizens. The left do not own human rights.
New Zealand’s Parliament is one of many governments throughout the world that have introduced emergency measures that seriously constrain individual freedoms like expression, social rights like returning to your country, and economic rights like your job. These regulatory measures have closed schools, workplaces, transit systems, cancelled public gatherings, confined people to their homes, deployed large scale mass surveillance, and got a lot of people fired. Anger is reasonable.
But I can almost bet that none of that rights stuff was addressed at COP26, APEC, CPTPP, Cabinet, or indeed anywhere else recently.
Probably it will die down once we can all start shopping again. And party.
The only time you need a right is when you are being a pain in the ass to someone else. So it is in the nature of such rights that their exercise will mean you are being a pain in the ass. That goes for the left and right. We should in general strongly defend the right of people to be a pain in the ass.
The scale of rights suppressed here by Ardern won’t look good in history, and never does.
The Public Safety Conservation Act 1932 conferred on the executive the power to declare an emergency whenever it judged “public safety or public order to be imperilled.”
The Economic Stabilisation Act of 1948 similarly had about zero safeguards.
Both Acts were good for Holland dealing to the Watersiders Union and Muldoon dealing to any business they liked.
The 1956 Health Act’s powers coming out of the Polio epidemic had the powers to enable the state to lock down the population last year with just a few hours’ warning.
The Epidemic Preparedness Act of 2006 allows Acts of Parliament to be modified or suspended by executive regulation.
Serious questions already existed about using the 1956 and 2006 Acts to roll over the Bill of Rights Act with the full lockdown, which is why as soon as Parliament met again in 2020 it enacted the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act, which spells out nice a clear the government’s wide powers to deal with COVID-19 specifically.
Since this crisis is soon to be over, Prime Minister Ardern must commit to restoring all human rights within BORA as soon as possible, and must also commit to entrenching the Bill of Rights Act by 75% majority rather than simple Parliamentary majority as it is. The state needs to retreat, big time and fast.
If civic life were intended to be convenient, instead of marching and raising your voice and expecting something, all protesters would simply be in jail. Scruffy little proles.
Meantime, thank God we still have many prepared to express their human rights and be a great goddamn incoherent pain in the ass.