Little announces changes to Prisoner voting rights

Written By: - 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.

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

44 comments on “Little announces changes to Prisoner voting rights ”

  1. Anne 1

    That man is not fit to be in parliament let alone the leader of a major political party. He is a mentally challenged boof-head and it's time Labour and the Greens – and NZ First – stood up and said so.

  2. tc 2

    "I wonder what the Judiciary think of the prospect of a Simon Bridges led Government taking over…."

    After the shafting under Shonky that Simon Powell gave them they'll know what to expect.

    Gotta love that soimon doubling down, hope he sticks with that tactic on the run to the GE.

    • I've been thinking (haven't hurt myself yet either). But it may be time for the Judiciary to be a little more outspoken, and remind politicians and the electorate alike of certain points of law as they stand.

      One of the amusing things for me lately has been the way the likes of a Soimun and his ilk were willing to scream "Nanny State Nanny State" over a few shower heads.

      They don't seem to realise how Nanny State most of their policies of late are – much to the disgust of a few of their own Nats who must be rolling in their graves about now. Might be time for a Bolger or a McKinnon, or one or two others to be a little more outspoken as well.

      Soimun's getting desperate

      • tc 2.1.1

        " may be time for the Judiciary to be a little more outspoken…" never going to happen.

        I heard many retired in disgust at the more odious changes.

        Bit like IT currently, older hands getting out leaving the cloud/outsourced/disruptive newbies to it as they're hard work being such an easily led bunch who know best.

  3. Dukeofurl 3

    Model Citizens ?

    That would exclude well known members of his caucus, or does 'model' not include those that have been badly tarnished

    https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/election/2017/08/10-transgressions-of-new-zealand-politicians.html

  4. adam 4

    Look on the bright side Mickey – this really does make Bridges look like a right tosser, it makes him look some sort of hybrid Chicom/Trump wannabe.

    It was un-kiwi when they passed the original law, and it's un-kiwi to keep punching down.

    This is the new national party – about as un-kiwi as you can get.

  5. Bruce 5

    “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].

    I would hope for these sort of offences there would be a term of at least 3 yrs so the change would not apply.

    • Incognito 5.1

      A former leader of a former political party was sentenced to nine years for these kinds of offences. It is almost as if Mr Bridges doesn’t know what he’s talking about but of course, he does know, which makes his cynical ploy even more cynical.

      • Psycho Milt 5.1.1

        "Cynical ploy" is exactly what I was thinking too. He knows he's spouting risible bullshit, but there's a constituency ready to lap it up, so off he goes. I presume it's not difficult for him, untroubled by stuff like principles and self-respect as he is.

        • gsays 5.1.1.1

          You are right, there is a constituency for these odourous utterings, Wannabuyabridge? is finding out it's size.

  6. Wensleydale 6

    Bridges is the gift that keeps on giving. It's almost as though he wants National to remain in Opposition for the rest of forever (I'd quite like that too, actually.) The fining beggars thing is particularly amusing. Has anyone told him beggars don't have much in the way of disposable income… which is why they're beggars? (If your life is so wretched that you're reduced to begging, having someone issue you with a fine would probably be a laugh riot.) It's like trying to encourage a morbidly obese person to lose weight by giving them cake.

    • Incognito 6.1

      It’s like trying to encourage a morbidly obese person to lose weight by giving them cake.

      It’s like to encourage a morbidly greedy person to become generous, compassionate, and altruistic by making it easier to enrich himself or herself even more at the expense of the already poor. The obese person can always refuse the cake – it’s all about personal responsibility and making the right choices.

    • gsays 6.2

      The finings beggars bit had me wondering if this was satire.

    • Chris 6.3

      "Bridges is the gift that keeps on giving. It's almost as though he wants National to remain in Opposition for the rest of forever (I'd quite like that too, actually.)"

      The trouble is that there's a heck of a lot of NZers who are quite happy with a "lock 'em up and through away the key" approach to crime. That's why keeping these numbskulls out of government is so difficult.

  7. esoteric pineapples 7

    Every prisoner has the right to vote. One person, one vote. That's called democracy

    • Incognito 7.1

      Self-serving, self-entitled, and self-righteous people stealing the basic Human Rights from those who are already down on their luck is what some call Democracy.

      • gsays 7.1.1

        Self-serving, self-entitled, and self-righteous people stealing the basic Human Rights from those who are already down on their luck is what some call Democracy.

        Especially when one enjoys the enticement and encouragement of lobbyists.

  8. Karol121 8

    Mr Bridges appears to be taking the meaning of adversarialism for the sake of an argument to dizzying new heights.

    • Dukeofurl 8.1

      His published views arent really his own , they have been outsourced to some emotional young social media jockeys Topham + Guerin

      • Karol121 8.1.1

        Thanks dukeofurl.

        Yes. I note that what you have conveyed to me seems to have also been suggested by many others, this forum and elsewhere.

        Many political animals of the Simon Bridges variety do tend give the appearance that they are tossing around some material that might have been purchased as an "off the shelf package" for presentation, as opposed to actually having sat down and both discussed and reviewed it in-depth.

        A reasonable person would at least attempt to thoroughly understand the ramifications of any particular policy change or proposal put to him or her by one or another of these political consultancy firms before going public with it, surely?

        But really, I now wonder how reasonable Simon Bridges actually is.

        Maybe National are just doing things on the cheap, holding out the hope that they will be able to fire a few shots off prior to becoming (in their view) government of the day next year and where, if they are, most of this research and advisory (including pragmatic advice) will be footed by the taxpayer, instead of it coming out of party funds/coffers.

  9. barry 9

    I hope that Little goes and starts an adult conversation about crime and punishment for the next election.

    I note that Bridges is also calling for victim impact statements to be read uncensored, and the TV reports interviewed someone who had bits cut out of his. I wonder if the reporters read the uncensored statements before allowing their names to be associated with it. I think it was censored for a reason.

    • michelle 9.1

      Why didn't national do this with impact victim statements when they were in power they had 9 years. Our Victim impact statements got heavily redacted when they were in power and some of our whanau weren't allowed to speak and we weren't allowed to say the word 'utu' either. So much for justice They are full of it and i see some victims have brought into it, sad really its almost like the national party are taking advantage of vulnerable people. (the victims)

  10. the other pat 10

    no voting rights for convicts who…..rape….murder…..assault…pedophiles…hate crimes………they remove more important human rights from their victims…..too bloody bad for them….consider it part of their punishment…. you EARN the right to vote…..and good on Andrew looking at the matter….not all prisoners need to have this taken away.

    • McFlock 10.1

      The concept of "earning a right" is self-contradictory.

      • the other pat 10.1.1

        righto you have earned the "lets be bloody minded" medal both of you……if you faill to perceive the spirit it was intended well clever you….b- for me in english….FFS

    • …. you EARN the right to vote…

      Really? From memory, it was just dished out when I turned 18, what with universal adult suffrage an' all. Are you proposing that we "earn" it by surviving to the age of 18? But if so, haven't prison inmates also "earned" it?

  11. observer 11

    This is a genuine tweet from the Leader of the Opposition. If it's not from Bridges himself, then his social media team needs to be reined in. If it is Bridges, then … oh dear.

    https://twitter.com/simonjbridges/status/1199234853314547713

  12. Jenny How to get there 12

    If we don't let them engage with society while they are on the inside, how can we expect them to reengage with society when they get out?

    From the beginning this was a petty and vindictive policy, by the Nats.

    • Chris 12.1

      Interesting to see a general acceptance that's it's okay to remove voting rights from those sentenced to three years or more. Surely the same reasons for allowing prisoners to vote would apply regardless of the length of sentence. Despite its limits isn't the concept of a 'civil death' outdated in a human rights / bill of rights environment?

      • michelle 12.1.1

        Theres some sick people in NZ now Chris and they aint in hospital cause there is no cure for arsewholeism

  13. mac1 13

    I took a look at the link to the Tauranga situation. The Council has voted to rescind its penalties for the homeless and the beggars. Bridges wants them to pursue the policy more vigorously.

    The link has a poll on the question. At the moment 13% favour rescission of the penalty provisions and 87% want the status quo to remain as it's working fine.

    (Even though Bridges says it's not.)

    The voting numbers indicate why Bridges is touting the tough law and order stand.

    This is more dog whistling wedge politics designed to split off enough NZF voters to drive them below the 5% thresh-hold.

    • michelle 13.1

      what do you expect in redneck towel – ronger they wont even bother to say the name right

      • mac1 13.1.1

        Well, michelle, in Tauranga the Council voted 6:5 to progress a recommendation to drop the by-law provisions.

        Instead this was said.

        "The first term councillor says the Ministries of Social Development and Health along with the police are best placed to interact with ‘challenging individuals.’

        “It is unacceptable to ask council staff to navigate complex behavioral issues potentially involving mental health, violence, addiction, criminal history, past trauma, and disconnection from friends and family.”

        He urged Simon Bridges to acquaint himself with ‘Rawl’s Veil of Ignorance.’

        The theory contends that not knowing one's ultimate position in society would lead to the creation of a just, fair, egalitarian society.

        Decision-makers would not make decisions which benefit a certain group at the expense of another, because the decision-maker could theoretically end up part of a disadvantaged group."

        https://www.sunlive.co.nz/news/227592-take-beggars-to-court-mp.htm

  14. michelle 15

    what do you expect in redneck towel – ronger they wont even bother to say the name right

  15. DS 16

    Amusingly, the Nats in 2010 actually gave the vote to Clayton Weatherston. The 2010 Act only applies to those sentenced after 2010 – Weatherston was jailed in 2009. Under the previous legislation, Weatherston could not vote, because he was serving a sentence of more than three years.

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