- Date published:
12:58 pm, November 26th, 2019 - 44 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, crime, human rights, labour, law, law and "order", national, prisons, same old national, Simon Bridges, uncategorized - Tags:
I have the greatest of respect for Andrew Little. He says things the way he sees it. And he sticks to his principles.
As far as he can he does what is right rather than what is popular. Which is why I am pleased that he has announced a change to National’s odious attack on prisoner rights law to return it to its previous position.
Up to 2010 the law stated that if a prisoner was serving a sentence of three years or more then they were ineligible to vote. National through a Private Member’s bill changed this so that if a person was in jail, for whatever period, they could not vote.
The bill was hotly contested. National was told by the Attorney General that the blanket disenfranchisement could not be justified. Many anomalies were pointed out, for instance someone in jail for not paying fines was caught, and someone serving a one week sentence during an election date was caught but someone serving a two and a half year term for a serious offence was not. Someone on home detention could vote but a co-offender sentenced to jail because they could not provide a suitable home detention residence could not. The advice from the Attorney General was that “the blanket disenfranchisement of prisoners appears to be inconsistent with s 12 of the Bill of Rights Act and that it cannot be justified under s 5 of that Act.”
The bill passed with National and ACT support. Hillary Calvert (remember her?) gave one of the more extraordinary Parliamentary speeches and said this:
I cannot pretend this bill is my favourite thing. Trevor Mallard leaving the House earlier, and not being able to vote while he was away, could count as a favourite thing. Perhaps popping a ping-pong ball in the mouth of the honourable member over there who all day keeps turning his head from side to side with his mouth open could count as my favourite thing. This bill is not my favourite thing. However, Act is supporting National on this bill.
Legendary bush lawyer Arthur Taylor and others challenged the law on the basis that it breached their rights. In the High Court Justice Heath agreed with the Attorney General and ruled that the law change was inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act and could not be justified in a free and democratic society. On the more esoteric point about what can the Court say to Parliament he was prepared to make a declaration of illegality. As to whether the original limitation (three year sentence) contained in the law before it was changed was also justified he said “[t]here are powerful arguments that the limitations on the prohibition contained in the original s 80(1)(d) are justifiable in a free and democratic society.”
The Court of Appeal agreed with Justice Heath as did the Supreme Court. Eleven judges looked at the issue and all agreed that the law change breached fundamental rights and the breach of prisoners rights was that egregious that a declaration of breach should be made.
So what does Simon Bridges do? Does he work through a reasoned principled process to see if the proposal is appropriate? Does he analyse the judgments and consider the fundamental rights that are being dealt with to work out what the appropriate interference with this most important right is?
Nah just kidding. He blows the dog whistle hard. From Radio New Zealand:
National is adamant offenders who end up in jail do not deserve the right to vote.
The government is overturning the previous National government’s ban and will allow inmates serving sentences of less than three years to vote at next year’s general election.
The move was announced yesterday by Justice Minister Andrew Little.
He said the government plans to make the change to the Electoral Amendment Bill before the 2020 general election.
The law change will affect 1900 prisoners and means the law will return to how it was before a National-led government removed voting rights from all prisoners in 2010.
A Waitangi Tribunal report found the law change disproportionally impacted Māori prisoners and a High Court declaration stated the current law is inconsistent with the right to vote in the Bill of Rights Act.
But National Party leader Simon Bridges said many prisoners are by no means model citizens.
“We’re talking about people who have possessed multiple child sexual abuse images; who’ve indecently assaulted multiple children; who have been involved in serious male assaults female [cases].
“This is not for very minor offending.”
He said the government’s plan puts criminals before victims and amounts to giving criminals back the voice they have taken away from others.
He promised National will restore the ban if it wins the next election.
I wonder what the Judiciary think of the prospect of a Simon Bridges led Government taking over. It must fill them with dread.
And talking about model citizens what about a party that breaches Electoral law by dividing up and partitioning a donation so that it is not disclosed. What should the consequence be for that party?
To reinforce his tough guy image old sunshine wants to deal with issues of homelessness by fining beggars and has told the Tauranga City Council that this is what they should be doing. This will work well. It will mean that they will have to beg more to pay their fines. Or end up in jail. And then lose their right to vote.
This is cynical unprincipled dog whistle politics. It shows how deep Bridges will go to