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Unbridled power

Written By: - Date published: 8:38 am, November 7th, 2009 - 11 comments
Categories: law and "order", national/act government - Tags:

The government and the Police are spinning all the new security measures as a national security matter and a crack-down ONLY on the leaders of organised crime, watching how the worst villains spend their ill-gotten gains and preventing them from corrupting police and politicians (snort) etc.

  • Police minister Judith Crusher Collins: “Gang bosses have grown very rich. Their ill-gotten gains include farms, houses, cars, boats, motorcycles and other assets. Organised crime is a business. We want to put it out of business.”
  • Police Commissioner Broad: “Organised crime and all of the tentacles and ways of operating they have is actually a threat to our national security.”
  • Police Association President Greg O’Connor got in on the act, invoking the danger of gangs infiltrating the NZ Police Force, and “there’s already corrupt accountants and lawyers it’s entrenched organised crime.”

So it’s all about the big bad guys and not us ordinary schmucks, so the ordinary folk have nothing to fear right?

Wrong. It’s a good old fashioned authoritarian power grab:

  • You’re guilty until proven innocent
  • You will spend your money how we say
  • You are being watched.

Here’s the evidence:

Presumption of innocence dumped. The Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act – gives police the power to seize your stuff even if they merely BELIEVE you bought it with proceeds of crime; to get your stuff back you have to go to Court and prove you’re innocent. This is simply staggering; ‘presumption of innocence a fundamental democratic right enshrined in written constitutions across the globe, and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, where article 11, states: Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which they have had all the guarantees necessary for their defence.

Control of your money. The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act (passed in October) enables police to trace money through financial systems, and calls for your bank to keep an eye on how you’re spending your money and report on you if they think your spending is iffy.

Big Brother. The Search and Surveillance Bill collects all the little privacy invasion measures in other bits of NZ law into one neat handy bundle to help all sorts of government agencies to snoop on you and what you’re saying to your mates, your employer, your doctor, your lawyer, whomever.

Still feel safe? On what basis? That true-blue Kiwi authorities will be responsible with their wide-ranging powers and won’t do anything naughty? Think again:

In December last year, the DomPost revealed that NZ Police teams set up to identify TERRORISM threats and risks to national security were using anti-terrorism powers to spy on protest and community groups, including Greenpeace, animal rights and climate change campaigners, and Iraq war protesters.

Michael Laws’ Whanganui gang patch law has already been used to have a go at a man wearing a baseball cap bearing the logo of an American university. In the same town, the mayor wants to pass a byelaw to deal with boy-racer cruising, but it could easily be used to fine people for driving around the block looking for a parking spot.

In 1999, then Transport Minister Maurice Williamson promised NZers that the new photo driver licence would not become a national identification card by stealth. Do you, or do you not now need to carry your driver licence everywhere?

Consider two examples from the USA, the cradle of democracy. When the USA Patriot Act was passed in 2001 George Bush and his mates declared with patriotic hand on stony heart that the new law would be used only for the war on terror. US citizens could trust the authorities, they promised. Back in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan passed laws that he promised were specifically targeted against big drug lords such as Pablo Escobar who were so insulated by their underlings and laundered cash that the regular constitutional laws couldn’t nab the villains. Does all this sound familiar? How did these laws work in practice?

USA Patriot Act. The law is being used against people who aren’t terrorists or even terrorist suspects at all. Make a guess … out of the 763 ‘sneak and peek’ warrants issued, how many were in fact related to terrorism? Three.

Reagan’s anti-racketeering law the RICO Act is now used against street level crime, making big bad crime lords out of just about any two toe-rags on the street corner yacking about a crime. The law was unconstitutional at the time of being passed, but now every DA in US now uses it as a major part of their toolbox.

It’s an age-old story. When politicians pass coercive laws, they justify it by promising that it is tightly targeted at particular situations or at only to deal to certain types of individual or targeted at groups that most reasonable members of society loathe.

Are the legislators ever willing to dial this sort of thing back? Nope. It has to be nipped in the bud.

11 comments on “Unbridled power”

  1. RedLogix 1

    So the Nat voting contractor I mentioned this to yesterday was snortingly dismissive… until I asked him if he didn’t mind IRD remotely trawling through his computer without either a warrant or his knowledge.

    Went very quiet.

    • IRD should be the least of the public’s worries. at least they have some ethics compared to a few other govt agencies soon to get sweeping surveillance powers

      • RedLogix 1.1.1

        True, but I’m thinking that most people won’t react to this because it only seems to affect the rights of ‘crims, terrorists and protestors’.

        It has to be put in the context of their lives. I agree that IRD is not likely to out on such trolling missions… but the mere fact that this legislation potentially makes such a thing possible is the line of attack I would make.

        Compare this with the risible outrage over the proposed regulations on shower head flows (only applicable to large dwellings using standard electric cylinders)… an issue gains traction when people perceive that it might affect them.

  2. prism 2

    Haven’t IRD driven people to suicide? Police given continually greater powers with every transgression side-stepped by politicians like stepping carefully over doggie-do is a worry. The old saw is always new “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely”. They already conduct stop, identify and search raids on motorists at will, they hid the nefarious attentions of a police group preying on young women. I believe that the Serious Fraud Office has much or all of its functions given over to the police. There is terrific opportunity for corruption here. Police can be bribed by big criminals, they are only human after all with all our faults, which are often revealed. They have the right and need to take arms and other devices against citizens, they should be supported in their job, and be feared but also have standards of ethics and behaviour that convey respect and not powers that expand continually.

    • they’re no saints, that’s for sure, and i’m not suggesting granting them more powers is right either.
      just saying there are much worse out there.

  3. BLiP 3

    There is also a striking lack of accountability in the legislation. Even if it were to be proved that the actions of the state were unwarranted and caused harm, there is no come back for the citizen. And, further, should it transpire that offences other than the ones targeted come to light as part of these Big Brother tactics, illegal search is no defence.

    Labour as as bad as National Ltd® when it comes to the erosion of civil liberties. We are now more at threat of unwanted attention and harm from the government than we ever were from gangs.

    First they came for Peter Cleven . . .

  4. Labour as as bad as National Ltd® when it comes to the erosion of civil liberties

    oh how i wish it weren’t so, but i’d have to agree with you on that one BLiP.

  5. randal 5

    the funny thing is no matter how much new gear the paranoids get to snoop into our lives they never seem to get the bad guys.
    why is that?

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