The Law and Order Referendum
and other related issues in New Zealand
The average crime victim is more likely to fall into one or more of these categories;
most people from (poor) backgrounds are good law abiding citizens
The sad fact is, that this is because criminals more often than not, are from poor and to some extent minority backgrounds also. This in no way excuses them, because most people from such backgrounds are good law abiding citizens. There are some minority groups that do tend to be victims, but not offenders, Asians and gays/lesbians being two examples that come to mind, not to mention women.... It's also worth noting that if you want to find the most rampant (and violent) homophobia, look in the dregs of society, amongst the criminal subcultures. Other even more vulnerable minorities, such as the mentally ill, are more often victims than offenders.
The reasons the victims tend to be poor is that criminals usually prey on those around them, so the poor tend to bear the brunt of the offending. The wealthy and upper middle classes are well insulated from crime for a number of reasons;
the poor tend to bear the brunt of the offending
The grating irony of all this, is that it is well meaning liberals who have the above listed advantages, and are well insulated against the effects of crime, who often make pronouncements on law and order that are NOT based on experience. People who have to live with crime on a regular basis (like the Lawtons did), are much more realistic and are better qualified to comment (see VOICE). They are not often listened to.
Strangely enough, when they are, it is by people like Richard Prebble - hardly natural allies! That is why we respect his and ACT's views on this issue. See the Politicisation of Law and Order below, and ACT MP Steve Franks' excellent piece in the Listener a while back.
In the ultimate assault on common sense, recently, Q.C. Peter Williams compared the new Mt Eden Remand prison ( click on the picture to see a larger image) to a poultry farm. It has to be asked where is his concern for all the law abiding poor, many of whom live in worse conditions (a pic is coming shortly). This is typical of the blinkered and callous disregard for the victims of crime. Their plight is completely ignored by those who damn well ought to know better. It is surprising that there has been so much restraint shown by victims of crime. Vigilante action or threats such as this from Karla Cardno's stepfather Mark Middleton are (so far) uncommon here. But if the victims of crime are not listened to more, and soon, who knows?
The Effects on Tourism
Tourism is one of New Zealand's leading growth industries, but is coming more under threat due to the increasing crime problem here, particularly violent crime. The plague of thefts from tourist's hire cars and campervans is bad enough, and something that tourists from better run countries such as Japan find hard to comprehend, coming as they do from a society where cars are generally left unlocked in even the largest cities.
This is offset to some extent by the generosity of huge numbers of law abiding New Zealanders, particularly when a bad case hits the media. Many tourists are also well aware that we are not the only country with major theft problems, similar problems exist in parts of Europe and the USA and many less developed nations as well. However it is still no excuse.
..we are fast losing our safe reputation...
However, by far the most damaging incidents are those involving violent attacks, particularly rapes. These are widely reported in overseas media, particularly in the victim's country of origin, and we are fast losing our safe reputation. Each one of these incidents costs us tens of millions in lost business, and all of the local jobs that go with that. The recent disgusting rape of a Japanese tourist in a hostel in Turangi is a typical example, but there have been too many others.
Often these incidents occur in the very places where more tourism jobs are most needed, the offenders are therefore destroying the hopes and aspirations of everyone around them, not to mention the harm suffered by the victim themselves.
Politicisation of the Law and Order Debate
No one party has a monopoly on useful ideas and solutions.
No one party has a monopoly on useful ideas and solutions. This is why there are links from this site to ACT party policy statements and policies (even though the webmaster is an Alliance voter!) This is an issue that ultimately transcends politics, and all parties have something to contribute. Political agendas have often got in the way of sound Law and Order initiatives, such as Brian Neeson's Degrees of Murder Bill.
What is needed is a commitment from all political parties to work together to solve this problem, rather than it being a political football as it has been up to now. Such a commitment was achieved with the Superannuation Accord, and this is an issue that is more pressing. People are dying out there.
Politicians from all parties have valuable contributions to make. Steve Franks from ACT and Wayne Mapp from National have kept this issue in the public eye. Phil Goff from Labour has also made useful contributions to the debate, and hopefully he will now be able to act on these effectively. Matt Robson from the Alliance has useful contributions to make on the prevention of crime and rehabilitation. If only they could all work together to reduce crime.
While the parties argue over which way is the best, and about the relative costs of each approach, the victims of crime continue to suffer. People cannot be expected to wear the cost of a purely rehabilitative approach while they continue to suffer intimidation and violence, and if this government tries it they will regret it come the next election!
On the other hand longer prison sentences alone do not address underlying causes of crime and violence. Both National/ACT's tough imprisonment policies and Labour/Alliance's rehabilitation and prevention policies need to be combined to make a two-pronged attack to lasting effect.
If this Government fail to act on this issue, they will pay dearly at the next election. Take the opportunity to give them a warning here at Vote.co.nz!