The last few days has been a pretty good example of National’s spray and walk away approach to politics.
According to National this government is responsible for an increase in gang numbers.
How you may ask? Is this a policy decision? Did Labour really campaign on increasing numbers? Did they actually draft a bill, the Lets Stuff up New Zealand by increasing Gang Membership Bill, and introduce this into Parliament?
Well no. What Labour has been doing is steadily increasing police numbers and increasing the penalties for possession and supply of synthetic cannabinoids.
But National still complained.
After a decade of falling police numbers the increase is actually pretty significant. And with very low unemployment recruitment is more difficult you would think this was a pretty significant achievement.
And it is particularly galling given that National’s policy was for 1125 new police officers by 2022. National is complaining that Labour is achieving more than National promised.
Simon then showed that he was a super duper prosecuting super hero by picking a fight with the Mongrel Mob Gang. O how the clicks in social media must have added up.
Here is what his statement said in response to an invitation to meet Mongrel Mob leadership:
You will no doubt have seen my comments recently about gangs, including the Mongrel Mob over the last few days. Gangs have been emboldened in recent times and I am deeply concerned by the swelling in gang numbers.
I believe people are capable of changing and of redemption, rehabilitation and reintegration. I also believe there will be individual gang members who do good for their whanau and community.
However, I’ve also, as a Crown prosecutor and MP, seen first hand the misery caused by gangs, particularly in their crime and peddling of drugs and violence, not least to women. These are the overriding drivers of gangs.
This is why next year National will release a plan to crack down on gangs.
Thank you for your letter and invitation but until you and your gang hand over your guns and stop all involvement in drugs and violence I have no interest in meeting with you.
I know this is a big call but even Rob Muldoon showed more grace when it came to dealing with the gangs.
And Bridges responded to criticism that he was engaging in lazy and dangerous politicking by engaging in even more lazy and dangerous politicking.
So are gang numbers spiralling out of control and is it all Labour’s fault?
Australia’s appalling treatment of Kiwi born residents who have spent decades living there suddenly found that they no longer had boundless plains to share is part of the problem. Sending them back so they can then grow their networks is having an effect. And the methamphetamine trade has meant that for some time the gangs have experienced considerable growth.
Radio New Zealand reviewed the situation and reported in this way:
University of Canterbury criminal justice director Jarrod Gilbert said the upward trend in gang numbers actually predates Australian deportations as well as this government.
Dr Gilbert said in 2011, the arrival of the Rebels in New Zealand made gangs more appealing to younger members, which led to more recruitment.
“It’s not an easy story to tell, but we ought not be suckered by cheap political rhetoric either,” he said.
“Opposition parties always talk about the gangs in these ways, it started before the 1972 election when Norman Kirk promised to take the bikes off the bikies and it has happened ever since.
“So we shouldn’t be surprised by this, but no, we can’t see that this trend is something that happened under the Labour government, in fact it started many years before that.”
Sure gangs present a problem. The methamphetamine trade is rife and is a scourge. Addicts need treatment but dealers and manufacturers need the full force of the law thrown at them.
But cheap political point scoring using slogans that are essentially fibs is not going to advance the discussion on how we deal with quite complex issues. Maybe that is the intent.