NACT’s Law & Order Policies: Dog Whistle Or Proto-Fascism?

Written By: - Date published: 9:10 am, June 26th, 2023 - 22 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, crime, democracy under attack, human rights, law and "order", national/act government, prisons, Propaganda, same old national - Tags: , , ,

National’s Leader Chris Luxon in his speech at his party’s annual conference announced that they would reintroduce the Three Strikes policy if elected. National’s only coalition partner, ACT, was already fully on-board with this, of course. This should raise serious concerns among many New Zealanders who value the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.

The Three Strikes Law was introduced by National’s Judith ‘Crusher’ Collins and passed into law in 2010 by National and ACT. Earlier attempts by Labour to repeal this dog of a law were blocked by NZ First. Finally, in 2022, the law was successfully repealed.

There were major issues with the Three Strikes Law:
• there was little evidence that the law had reduced serious offending
• it restricted the judiciary’s ability to consider the individual circumstances and context of the offending when determining sentences
• Māori are overrepresented in the group of offenders who have received a strike
• the High Court, Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court had found sentences imposed under the regime contravened the Bill of Rights Act
• the Courts can already impose sentences equivalent to those under the three strikes law, when it is considered appropriate

Indeed, what precipitated the repeal was the manifestly unjust conviction of Daniel Fitzgerald. However, here we are again, faced with the waking of a sleeping dog that should have been put out of his misery forever. And, as usual, National provides very few details, including budget implications or and evidence to support the policy.

Some might argue that the proposal to restore the Three Strikes Law is merely rhetorical strategy and another of NACT’s loud & clear dog whistles to appeal to certain voters who are dissatisfied with current policies on crime and justice or who are concerned about their safety and security. Indeed, there are some valid grounds for this but reality and perception are not always in close agreement when it comes to matters of crime and fear of crime. The opposition parties and the NZ media, with a few notable exceptions, are doing an excellent job of beating the same drum and stoking up negative emotions to a point at which real data, facts, and information that do not confirm the perception are ridiculed, denied, ignored, or rejected aka confirmation bias.

Some media reports try to address these concerns or fears by providing some facts or statistics that show that crime rates are not as high or as serious as they may seem, or that there are other more effective and humane ways to deal with crime and justice issues, such as prevention, rehabilitation, restorative justice, et cetera. You can look them up for yourself, if you are interested and have not already read some of them. To their credit, National also proposes changes to rehabilitation for prisoners, but this is minimal, more towards the end of an imprisonment sentence, and likely to be quite ineffective on its own.

However, there are very serious negative implications of NACT’s policy proposal, which is that it undermines the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers that are essential for a healthy democracy. By imposing a rigid and arbitrary rule on judges’ discretion, the proposal interferes with the judicial process and erodes the public’s trust and confidence in the Courts. It also challenges Parliament’s responsibility to uphold human rights for all New Zealanders, not just for the offenders or the victims of crime, and respect judicial decisions. In my opinion, these are signs of proto-fascism.

I see a few signs of proto-fascism in NACT’s policies. For example:
• scapegoats ethnic or religious minorities, such as gangs and offenders who request cultural reports
• glorifies violence, such as military academies aka boot camps for young offenders and tougher sentences for criminals
• promotes the leadership principle aka natural born leaders, such as claiming to be serious about protecting the public and ending Labour’s soft-on-crime experiment, not to mention ACT’s Ministry for Regulation
• undermines the public’s faith in the Courts, such as imposing a new limit on judges’ discretion and removing the prisoner reduction target

New Zealanders who care about democracy and justice should not be swayed by empty slogans or false promises aimed at reactive rather than proactive decisions & conclusions (and voting!), but should critically examine the claims and assumptions behind NACT’s proposals and their potential consequences for our society at large. My suggestion is not to give your two votes to any party and candidate that supports proto-fascism – why would you take this enormous risk?

22 comments on “NACT’s Law & Order Policies: Dog Whistle Or Proto-Fascism? ”

  1. Phillip ure 1

    Both..?

  2. tsmithfield 2

    OK. I will bite.

    I don't think the justice policies from either side are going to work to make enduring community change, and life changes for offenders. Probably the main advantage of National's policy is that criminals will be out of the community for longer. Hence, no crime in the community from them while they are locked up.

    In my opinion, prison should be a place that people come out from in a better state than what they went in, and that the opportunity should be taken to make significant improvement to their lives while inside.

    So, my view on what might work is a prison system with three tiers:

    1. People who are too dangerous to ever be let out, and are assessed as having very low probability of changing are locked away in secure facilities essentially forever to protect communities from inevitable harm if they are released. I think this is essentially what happens now with truly bad nasty people.
    2. Prisoners who have little motivation at the moment to change, but have the potential to do so given the right mindset are locked away until they see the light. Once they see the light they can be moved up to the next stage.
    3. Prisoners who are motivated to change are kept in a separate facility where they are assessed for educational needs, provided with counselling and psychological interventions, and provided with occupational training in areas that interest them. When they are released, jobs are found for them, and they are given mentors in the community to help keep them on track. If they prove to be trouble makers in prison, or a bad influence on other prisoners, they can be moved back to stage 2 until they decide they want to change.

    The outcome of this process should be that those coming back into the community actually have made meaningful change, and are supported in the community so that those changes stick. And prisoners don't come back into the community unless they have successfully gone through the change process.

    • SPC 2.1

      Probably the main advantage of National's policy is that criminals will be out of the community for longer. Hence, no crime in the community from them while they are locked up.

      It is well known that ethnic diversity related to inequality is a driver of the crime rate.

      But National has no policy to address this poverty/homelessness.

      If National is prepared to place more people in prison – that has an economic cost. – but it apparently is no idea of the cost of imprisonment (see General Debate today – TV start time).

      Greater numbers in prison has a cost if it means less resources are available to provide rehabilitation.

      At the moment sentencing trends are moving towards home detention – that does at least reduce costs and allow a focus on rehabilitation.

      • tsmithfield 2.1.1

        Like I said, I don't think either party's policies are going to work in any meaningful way. That is why I think fundamental change is needed to the way we do things. Otherwise, we just keep going around in inter-generational circles forever.

    • SPC 2.2

      On the rest of it.

      Sure, we could all design a better system than we have now – if we had the resources.

      It's not just cost, it's the lack of trained staff.

      The parole mechanism, related to home detention work release is the simplest and requires the least cost/trained staff. It's an incentive to be work capable and to have a job to be out of prison.

    • LawfulN 2.3

      That doesn't effectively address gangs, where the problem is the organisation rather than the individual members. Gangs, and organised crime in general, are hydrae – imprison one member and they will just recruit more, often from vulnerable areas of society. In fact, the bleeding hearts who complain about anti-gang efforts targeting Māori ignore the fact that the gangs themselves target Māori and ruin Māori lives.

      Gangs should be treated in a milder version of the way we treat designated terrorist entities – where the organisation itself and active support for it are illegal.

      • SPC 2.3.1

        Gang efforts would be best applied on a two track approach.

        The old PEP, Taskforce Green type programmes are ideal for areas with high gang membership and unemployment. And in our post pandemic, motel housing and truancy age.

        https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/89046197/a-community-at-risk-of-being-forgotten

        One option would be to start the other track focus on those with international crime links (cut the 501 cord as it were).

        • LawfulN 2.3.1.1

          From that article:

          And actually all these people, with rare exception, when one gets to know them, are actually good people who we need in our society for their sake and for our sake.

          These people are feral, depraved, and beyond help. It's not really their fault, but there is nothing realistic we can do about it other than manage them in ways that limit the damage they cause to others.

          The malign influence of Christianity on our society means we waste resources on the irredeemable because our culture holds that everyone is redeemable. The sooner we get over this, the better.

          • SPC 2.3.1.1.1

            People can seem feral when in group mob aspect. Bar closing time, and even on a smaller scale in A and E.

          • Patricia Bremner 2.3.1.1.2

            Well, what do we do with the big time crooks who are bringing in the problem? Meth. When caught they hire the best lawyers.

            This Government has worked with International Law enforcement to bring down the big players in an ever more difficult drug import scene. There appears to be a large group pf criminal Chinese involved, yet it is the Maori users who have been nabbed up 'till now. Good to see Mr. Six and co nabbed.

            Same with ever increasing sophisticated fraud, and business's stealing from workers and taxpayers. All this and "greed" Yet the poor and gangs get pointed at. Just two faced absolute hypocrisy.

            But let's tell people we will make them safe by locking up ram raiders and gangs. Lopsided law which ignores the causes because it is easier to blame the bottom end.

  3. SPC 3

    This is not just about law and order, ACT want the end of the Waitangi Tribunal, the Human Rights Commission and negation of the signing of UNDRIP.

    Apart from boot camps, National want to appoint "agents" (sounds like fear of God faith based providers) to manage people under 25 on the JSB who can take away their access to he dole and to have pre-employment periods to vet people for worker solidarity characteristics.

    The only country in the OECD without CGT (35/36), wealth tax (5/36) and estate tax (25/36) and NACT's policy direction is based on the USA regime – one with high levels of imprisonment, homelessness and drug addiction.

    • tWiggle 3.1

      …drug addiction, and, as in NZ, racism.

      'Black youth comprise 14% of the national youth population, but "43% of boys and 34% of girls in juvenile facilities are Black. And even excluding youth held in Indian country facilities, American Indians make up 3% of girls and 1.5% of boys in juvenile facilities, despite comprising less than 1% of all youth nationally."

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States

  4. LawfulN 4

    …reality and perception are not always in close agreement when it comes to matters of crime and fear of crime.

    They are now. Even in my sleepy, middle-of-the-road neighbourhood the local dairy has been hit a couple of times and a number of other shops I regularly or semi-regularly pass or am a customer of have been subject to violent robberies, often in the middle of the day. A wake for a gang member was held in the street over from mine, meaning that hundreds of Mongrel Mob members blocked the street and intimidated locals. Lord knows what it's like for people who live in Ōpōtiki.

    If there's any joy for Labour it's that National are equally clueless and useless on crime. Any real change they promise either won't work or they won't follow through on it.

    Crime is a bit like housing. People will wring their hands, but nobody will take the risk to do anything about it.

  5. Thinker 5

    I'm probably to the right of people who would want to give endless chances and rehabilitation.

    But it is truly a dilemma with me.

    By and large, life is more complicated than the simplistic idea that criminals are all stereotypical career-criminals who weigh up the risk-reward probabilities and that making harsher punishment will even up that balance.

    I think there are some people who graduate to petty crime based on it being fairly profitable compared to the effort and training required. However, I believe there's far more who:

    • Have been let down by everyone in their life, sometimes from the second they were born, and who simply have no hope and no faith that society will give them an even break;
    • Now have several generations of no familiar role models to show them about the world of work.
    • Can't read or write properly
    • Have little or no understanding of rationing or planning ahead.
    • Have circumstances such that prison is a healthier, dryer place to live, where their hunger is satisfied. As opposed to the rest of us, who view prison as somewhere to stay away from.

    What's Boot Camp going to give them that they haven't already had in spades?

    We all experience things based on our past experiences, I believe. Examples:

    • Prince Andrew, who is being offered accommodation that many of us would be rapt to be offered (especially at the offer price), can't believe the injustice that he's being hit with. Why, because he's used to having more and we're all used to having less.
    • The old rule about queuing theory is that a queue of 5 minutes will annoy someone who expected to get through the queue in 4 minutes and please someone who expected to take 6 minutes.
    • NZ children, made to go to bed early as a punishment, might see it as an injustice, while kids from third-world countries would just love a comfortable bed with proper sheets and a long night off from their daily toil.

    So, as said, while I don't believe in crime without punishment I do believe that many offenders won't see or experience these Boot Camps in the way that middle and upper New Zealand would experience them and it's wrong to assume that they will. We talk about Dog-whistle politics and that's all I can say about these camps. They appeal to a mindset of people getting their just desserts but the people who experience them have experienced their 'just desserts' and their 'unjust desserts' from the day they were born and they're angry that society hasn't been there to protect them. They won't absorb the Boot Camp experience in the same way as mainstream NZ and, if anything, will be more likely to be even more angry at and alienated from mainstream society.

    Taking someone whose life has been filled with hate and diminishing self-esteem from the day they were born and exposing them to a military-style regime designed to break their spirit and rebuild them in a better way is not only Dickensian and unlikely to have a huge success rate but is not the right way to go, in my opinion, unless your true aim is to vote-catch mainstream society.

    • tsmithfield 5.1

      I hate the term "boot camp" and wish it would be called something else.

      But this sort of concept could work if it involves taking troubled youth out of a dysfunctional and harmful context so there can be focussed effort on identifying and correcting problem areas in their lives. For instance, establishing missing building blocks in their education, or dealing with addiction issues.

      But, the critical thing necessary for this sort of intervention to work is extensive community support for them when they return. For instance, ongoing family counselling, mentorship etc. If that sort of support isn't available, then youth will quickly relapse back to their previous ways, and all the effort will have been wasted.

    • tWiggle 5.2

      Hit the meth dealers, and put a lot of resource into addiction services and building resilient communities. Meth destroys families and rural towns, encouraging violent crime and robberies as people struggle to finance a habit costing thousands pet month.

      According to this 2021 NZ parliamentary report on meth use, around 10 kg of meth a week is used. At $400/g, that is about $200mi sucked out of the pockets of addicts per year. With the downstream effect on family living standards, etc. And that was an estimated 45,000 addicted people in 2021.

      • tsmithfield 5.2.1

        Yes. And that is part of the community intervention needed to make the other part work. It is pointless putting concentrated effort into individuals via a "boot camp" or whatever it is called if there isn't a better community for them to return to.

  6. Ad 6

    The New Zealand version of fascism is found in our organised criminal gangs, not in retread National policies. It is Black Power, Mogrel Mob, Comancheros, Killer Bees and the like who enforce the uniforms, who specialise in transnational crime, who undermine the state and our communities from within.

    National are onto a total winner with Three Strike policies applied to gangs, with good reason. In 2016 there were about 4,000 patched gang members. By June 2021 there were 8,061. By November 2022 it was 8,357. It's 8,875 at last count this year. They will shortly take over the total number of Police we have. Think about that for a moment.

    They have a culture designed to intimidate. They terrorise communities. They deal drugs. They rape and murder. They deal and use firearms. There's no disputing any of it.

    If National+Act proposed that gangs lose a few legal rights in order to decrease their power in this country, very few would worry about it and a lot would agree it's a great idea.

    • Hunter Thompson II 6.1

      It's not a complete answer to the crime problem, but confiscation of assets owned by drug barons and other major crims is being used more these days. The law was changed last year so gang associates holding property could be targeted. At least the taxpayer is getting some payback; media reports state that over 5 years the police seized criminal assets worth half a billion dollars.

      As for ramraids, I have no solution other than real heavy sentences, so that sort of offending goes out of fashion. Otherwise, your local retailer will look like an army surplus store.

  7. My first thought when I saw this was the politician's syllogism:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politician%27s_syllogism

    Interestingly Seymour's department to reduce Government looks very like Hacker's Department of Administrative Affairs.

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