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Media stories of the Week: Police Commissioner Mike Bush on dubious police practices

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Every so often, the mainstream news media do their job well, and little nuggets of insights are revealed…

Also on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘, Police Commissioner Mike Bush was interviewed by veteran journalist-broadcaster, Lisa Owen.

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commisioner mike bush - the nation - 28 november 2015

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Some of the responses she elicited from the country’s most senior policeman were revealing.

Issue 1: The troubling case of Dr Jarrod Gilbert

On Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘, this country woke to disturbing news that NZ Police hierarchy were censoring academic researchers and preventing the use of collated data if it did not meet with their “standards”.

As reported by Radio NZ;

Jarrod Gilbert, a sociologist at the University of Canterbury, said police had told him he could not get simple data on where incidents such as assaults happen because of his association with gangs.

He said that association should come as no surprise.

“I entered the field as an academic and did the two largest studies on gangs this country’s ever seen.

“So in effect I’m being banned from studying crime, because I hang out with criminals, it’s just insane.”

Dr Gilbert said that Police insisted that academics sign a contract binding them to produce reports that did not have “negative results”;

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Acknowledgement for above screen-shots: Jarrod Gilbert’s Blog

Most reasonable people would be aghast that a State agency – especially one with uniquely coercive powers such as the NZ Police – would think it acceptable behaviour to impose such restrictions on free academic research. Such controls are rarely seen outside of autocratic regimes such as dictatorships, one-party states, and governments operating under war-time conditions and/or a State of Emergency.

What might have been appropriate under Pinochet’s Chile; Gaddafi’s Libya, or the former East German Democratic Republic, has been playing out under our noses in good old, laid-back, “She’ll Be Right“, New Zealand.

As Dr Gilbert’s story went from Radio NZ to the rest of the msm (temporarily setting aside stories relating to Ritchie McCaw’s knighthood and latest hero-worship of our esteemed Dear Leader), and criticism of the Police’s authoritarian stance drew more criticism,  Deputy Chief Executive [of? for?] Strategy Mark Evans defended his organisation’s quasi-Stalinistic controls over the free-flow of information.

At 1.40pm on the same day Dr Gilbert went public, Deputy Chief Executive Strategy Mark Evans issued this statement;

Police places a high value in academic research which provides evidence to improve Police policy and practice. It is essential that our policing strategies and tactics are effective and focused. Having an evidence-based approach towards policing enables us to understand ‘what works’ best, and then put that into practice. Police has strong links with academic institutions and individual researchers who are involved in a range of research to encourage debate on various aspects of police work.

Police receives a large number of individual requests for academic research – 37 applications in 2014.  While Police already publishes large volumes of data, such research requests often involve access to confidential information, which can include personal identifiers. There can also be a substantial resourcing commitment involved in providing such information. 

To ensure appropriate decisions are made about such applications there is a robust process in place to ensure that they have benefits for Police, are of good standard, meet our privacy obligations and are feasible in relation to the demands on Police time and resources.   This process includes a Police vetting check on individuals involved in a research application.

The research agreement which academics are expected to sign with Police sets out our expectations, including that research is accurate, balanced and constructive.  Police reserves the right to discuss research findings with the academic if it misunderstands or misrepresents police data and information. Police also reserves the right to prevent further access to Police resources if a researcher commits any breach of the agreement.

Our priority is always to ensure that an appropriate balance is drawn between the privacy of individuals and academic freedom.  To date Police have not prevented access by any academic under this clause in the agreement.

While we will not discuss specific matters regarding Dr Gilbert, we can say that we have communicated to him that further consideration will be given to our decision regarding the security clearance (police vetting) check.

END

It is as if the Police have never heard of the Official Information Act 1982.

However, this was far from the “END” as Evans put at the conclusion of his statement.

Three days later, Commissioner Mike Bush was forced to accept that Police policy was out of step with a supposedly open, transparent, and democratic society. On ‘The Nation‘, interviewed by Lisa Owen at National Police Headquarters (?), Bush stated;

“So, what’s happened in the last week has caused us to really have a look at our policy. It was possibly fit for purpose at one stage. It’s not fit for purpose now. We work in a dynamic environment. So that’s being reviewed as we speak, both the policy and the decision that was made in respect of Dr Jarrod Gilbert, and I’m sure you’ll hear more about our review of that next week. But it’s also important to point out that the intent of that was to keep people’s information private, and that’s why we have some policies and rules.

[…]

Yeah, that’s why we will be changing the wording of that policy and what it’s about, because the frustrating thing is it’s the opposite that’s true in terms of where we’re at at the moment. We’re wanting to build great relationships with academia because we’re determined to be a very evidence-based police service.”

It took three days, but hopefully the Police hierarchy have realised that this is not former East Germany or Pinochet’s Chile, and they are not the Kiwi-equivalent of the Stasi.

What should concern all New Zealanders, regardless of political persuasion, is not that the Police made this outrageous policy blunder – but that they thought it was appropriate in the first place.

It is my contention that Police actions in this area are symptomatic of a wider malaise in our country. Attitudes held by National, and others in positions of  State power, believe that State Authority over-rides freedom of information; civil liberties; and that the public are beholden to politicians and their state agency employees.

On 10 March 2014 John Key stated in an interview on ‘The Nation‘;

“You’ve got to think, we’ve been way more transparent than any other Government that’s been around…”

When a Prime Minister has to try to convince us that his government is “transparent”, there is a problem.

We shouldn’t have to be convinced if it’s true.

Issue 2: Police Budget

Lisa Owen raised the issue of funding for the Police. She asked;

“Okay. Well, you’re monitoring these detainees, and that is an example of the more jobs that you are being asked to do without extra funding, because, if you look at the figures, you’ve had to suck up, I think it is, about 300 million in new costs in the past four years without real budget increases. So where are you trimming to make ends meet?”

Commissioner Bush replied;

“So, the first thing is we have had an increase in our budget by 41 million recently.”

As this blogger reported on  30 October;

On top of which, using the Reserve Bank inflation calculator, it is fairly simple to determine that the Police budget has not kept pace with inflation.

Research going back to 2008 shows that Vote Police has  dropped in dollar-terms (using 2008 Dollars as the base), and in 2015/16, the Police will be allocated $1.422 billion (in 2008 dollars) – compared to the $1.445 billion in 2008.

‘Vote Police’ – Budgets 2008-2015 – Total Annual and Permanent Appropriations

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* Using Reserve Bank NZ Inflation Adjuster from Budget Month/Year Q2 dollars into 2008 Q2 dollars. (http://www.rbnz.govt.nz/monetary_policy/inflation_calculator/)

The figures do not support the claims made by the Commissioner of any increase to the Police budget.

Which raises the question why Commissioner Bush would make a statement that, as the country’s “top cop”, he must know is factually incorrect?  Claiming that the Police budget has increased when actually the opposite has occurred sounds like he is covering for the current National government.

Which is a distinct possibility recently raised by another blogger, Curwen Rolinson;

There is very much a two-way relationship between the New Zealand Police and the New Zealand National Party. They each work together to cover each other’s backs and to make the other partner look good. They’ve got it down to such a fine art that they don’t even necessarily need to sotto-voce instruct one another to make this happen. When something happens that might embarrass the Police, certain parts of the Government will step in or look the other way to ensure it doesn’t untowardly scandalize them (or, heaven forbid, actually provide serious impetus for change). Equally, when the Police turn up something that might take some of the luster out of the Government’s sails, they’ll deliberately hide, lie and obfuscate in order to make sure the “right” outcomes come out for their pals. Not necessarily as an organization, mind – occasionally as isolated individuals or as small-scale units … but the effect is all the same.

Admitting that the Police budget has suffered ongoing cuts (after inflation is factored in) would definitely “take some of the luster out of the Government’s sails” – something embarrassing to a party that has made a fetish out of being “staying strong on crime“.

Commissioner Bush’s statement on the Police budget was revealing, but not quite as he intended.

Issue 3: ISIS/terrorism

On 24 February 2015, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee announced that National would be sending troops to Iraq to “train Iraqi soldiers” in their fight against ISIS.

Chipping in for his mate, Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully, said at the time;

“The New Zealand government has been very clear that in addition to deploying non-combat troops to help train Iraqi forces, we also need to take steps to combat ISIL at the diplomatic level and provide humanitarian support to those displaced by the fighting in the region.”

The deployment was roundly condemed by Labour, Greens, Maori Party, Peter Dunne, and NZ First, saying that National had no mandate to commit troops to Iraq, even for so-called “training” purposes.  Maori Party co-leader, Te Ururoa Flavell was prescient when he issued this warning in Parliament;

“So let us be under no illusion that by sending training troops and other personnel to the region we are not effectively raising our heads above the parapet. This decision increases the chances of Aotearoa being a target for rogue ISIS attacks.”

Nine months later, and ISIS has discovered New Zealand’s involvement in American adventurism in the Middle East. As TV3 News  reported;

Islamic State (IS) has vowed to destroy New Zealand in a chilling new propaganda video.

The New Zealand flag appears among 60 others in the slick video published by the group’s media arm.

In the video, New Zealand is named among its allies as part of the “coalition against Islamic State”.

New Zealand made the list because of humanitarian and military aid efforts abroad.

The screen-shot from the ISIS propaganda video clearly shows our flag, “Old Blue”, encircled in red;

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It seems that the similarity of our flag to Australia’s may not be much use to us now. So much for “camouflage”.

On ‘The Nation‘, Commissioner Bush attempted to make reassuring noises to quell any public disquiet on potential terrorist attacks;

“We are very practised and very ready and very well trained if something does occur in New Zealand, so we’re really ready to respond.”

Which is not very reassuring at all.

If a terrorist incident does occur in New Zealand – the first since one of our “allies” bombed an unarmed vessel in one of our harbours in 1985 – responsibility for any injuries or deaths can be sheeted home to one man, and one man alone: John Key.

The responsibility for putting our nation in harms way rests solely on his head.

Issue 4: Lies, Damned Lies, and Bogus Statistics

The story of bogus statistics broke in the Herald in July, last year;

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Police made burglaries vanish - greg o'conner - national - crime statistics

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It took journalist Eugene Bingham two years to uncover information requested under the Official Information Act;

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Two-year search for 'ghost crimes' truth - greg o'conner - national - crime statistics

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When the Herald finally received the information they had requested, a startling item of incriminating nature was discovered;

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Calls for 'ghost crimes' inquiry after police note revealed - commissioner bush

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A damning internal police document has emerged that appears to show senior officers discussed not releasing embarrassing details about the “ghost crimes” controversy in which 700 burglaries vanished from official crime statistics.

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The memo, known within police as a job sheet, states John Tims had been advised by then-deputy commissioner Bush and assistant commissioner Allan Boreham not to respond to the [OIA] request. Brady [see image above] wrote: “(Tims) had been advised to let the request sit and when and if (3rd Degree) followed up with a request the matter would be addressed then.

“The direction to me was to not respond to the Official Information Act request and file the file as it is.”

[…]

However, Brady, when contacted by the Herald on Sunday, stood firmly behind his job sheet. “The job sheet records my conversation with Superintendent Tims and that’s about as far as I’m going to go with it. I think the job sheet is self-explanatory.

“My job sheet is my job sheet. It’s the record of my conversation and I have no other comment to make about that document.”

Lisa Owen pointedly asked Commissioner Bush;

“One last thing I want to ask you about before I go, Commissioner. Last night I spoke to the ombudsman about a complaint that relates to you. It’s an allegation that you instructed staff to let an Official Information Act request sit to stall the release of information relating to doctored burglary stats. So I want to give you the opportunity to answer to that. Did you do that?”

Commissioner Bush replied;

“Absolutely not. For obvious reasons, I kept myself well away from everything that was going on in that space because I was the district commander at the time. So that’s absolutely not correct, and, yeah, I distance myself for obvious reasons.”

Ms Owen persisted;

Owen: Okay, well, I’m wondering why a police officer would record in his job sheet that you did do that, then. Is that person lying when they say that you did, and I’ve got the job sheet here if you needed to refresh your memory. The job sheet says , ‘The direction to me was not to respond to the Official Information Act request and file the file as it is.’ Have you seen it? I’ve got it.

Bush: I have seen it, yeah.

Owen: Yeah. So was that officer lying or…?

Bush: That officer is absolutely incorrect. That did not occur.

Owen: So why would that officer write that on a job sheet?

Bush: I have no idea, but I can say it’s absolutely incorrect.

Commissioner Bush’s facial expression and voice tone  is worth considering when he denies instructing an investigating police officer to withhold responding to an OIA request.

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I leave it to the viewer to make his/her own determination on the matter.

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References

Radio NZ: Morning Report – Jarrod Gilbert

Radio NZ: Police block gang expert’s data access

Dr Gilbert’s Blog: The Police research contract

New Zealand Police: Deputy Chief Executive Strategy

New Zealand Police: Police statement on academic research applications

TV3: The Nation – Interview with Prime Minister John Key

TV3: The Nation – Interview with Commissioner Mike Bush

TV3: The Nation – Interview with Commissioner Mike Bush (Transcript)

Treasury: Budget 2008

Treasury: Budget 2014

Treasury: Budget 2015

Radio NZ: Brownlee outlines Iraq deployment

Radio NZ: Iraq deployment condemned

Parliament: Ministerial Statements — Iraq—Deployment of Military Personnel

Fairfax media: NZ flag shown in Islamic State video on group’s enemies

TV3 News: NZ on list of Islamic State targets in new video

NZ Herald:  Police made burglaries vanish

NZ Herald:  Two-year search for ‘ghost crimes’ truth

Previous related blogposts

Weekend Revelations #3 – Greg O’Connor and criminal statistics

Other bloggers

The Daily Blog: Is There A “Special Relationship” Between The National Party And NZ Police?

The Standard: Jarrod Gilbert is tilting at windmills

The Standard: Jarrod Gilbert 1 – Windmills 0

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 November 2015.

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Citizens march against TPPA in Wellington: Did Police hide tasers at TPPA march?

22 November 2015 2 comments

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TPPA - stand up it's not over - with taser motiff

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NZ, Wellington, 14 November – As previously reported (16 November), police failed to provide any form of presence during the Wellington anti-TPPA protest march.

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“Policing” was effectively left up to March Marshalls who controlled traffic and supervised protesters as they made their way through Wellington’s CBD, to Parliament.

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As I also reported, a msm journalist present noted the lack of police presence, expressing his surprise and nervousness.

However, at  Parliament’s grounds, there was no lack of police presence. At least twentytwo policemen and women lined up in front of the old Parliament Building.

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The building was not only empty on a Saturday afternoon, but the entrance had been boarded up due to refurbishment activity.

It was apparent that police had positioned themselves on the Parliamentary forecourt waiting for protesters to arrive, and in the process had forgotten another of their primary duties; traffic management and escorting the protest march through Wellington’s narrow streets.

Fortunately, the March Marshalls achieved a good result in both areas.

But there was another curious aspect to the policemen and women on Parliament’s forecourts.

On a previous anti-TPPA march in Wellington, on 15 August, protesters were ‘greeted’ with police wearing tasers on their belts;

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taser - 21 august 2015 - tppa march - parliament - police - pockets (2)

15 August

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taser - 21 august 2015 - tppa march - parliament - police

15 August

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Last Saturday’s (14 November) police did not appear to be displaying tasers.

But – were they armed with tasers concealed in their pockets?

These images were taken on the day, and appear to show bulges in their pockets  that do not appear in the above images, or similar images taken three months ago;

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possible taser - 14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament - police (1)

14 November

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possible taser - 14 november 2015 - tppa march - parliament - police (2)

14 November

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14 November

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For a better comparison;

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Following the 15 August anti-TPPA march and the open display of tasers, there was some public disquiet at police carrying these weapons to a political protest.

On this occassion,  someone within the Police hierarchy may have made an unfortunate ‘call’ to have their officers carry concealed tasers.

There is no clear evidence to prove this assertion one way or another. The bulges may have been hankies stuffed deep into trouser pockets (quite a few hankies, judging by the bulges).

But if true, it may be appropriate for an urgent  “Please Explain” between the Minister’s and Commissioner’s offices.

 

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Previous related blogposts

Citizens march against TPPA in Wellington, send message to National govt: “Yeah, nah!”

Copyright (c) Notice

All images stamped ‘fmacskasy.wordpress.com’ are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

» Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
» Where purpose of use is commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
» At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
» Acknowledgement of source is requested.

 

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No more anarchy

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 November 2015.

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Categories: The Body Politic Tags: , ,

Big Bro’ is Watching You!

13 November 2015 4 comments

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This piece by Dita DeBoni on TVNZ’s website is worth re-posting in it’s entirety – just in case it ‘mysteriously vanishes’ into the ether. Not that I’m implying the New Zealand is now more-or-less a quasi-Police State…

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Dita DeBoni Privacy right is not a right when not 'right' - nicky hagerWhether it be information about our household digital television account, or my child’s ear infection medication, or a text message, say, sent by a Prime Minister to a highly prominent sportsman or blogger, “privacy” is often the reason trotted out for stonewalling.

Sometimes it’s legitimate. Goodness knows what might happen if a complete stranger paid my household bills for me, or felt inclined to impersonate me at the chemist.

And do we really need to know that the Prime Minister and prominent All Blacks are in cahoots over the new flag design?

Some might say yes, but I reckon I could have figured that out by the sheer number of photographs we’re subjected to day after day featuring them gazing adoringly into each other’s eyes.

It seems the main reason a journalist – or even a citizen – is denied ‘official’ information much of the time is either that releasing it is going to unleash a torrent of (metaphorical) excrement, or getting the information you’re after would be a pain in the posterior for the person being asked for it.
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The exception to this is if the police are asking.

It now seems as though certain institutions are more than happy to hand over incredibly personal financial and other information if the plod request it, even if they’ve skipped the part where they’re supposed to get the proper legal documentation to do so.

Some institutions actually wait for a formal, legitimate request before complying with police fishing expeditions.

Others, notably Westpac Bank, do not.

We know this because it emerged this week that Westpac handed over 10 months of data from three of author Nicky Hager’s accounts when police were investigating the hacking of Cameron Slater’s blog and social media accounts at the end of 2014, willingly complying with detectives who simply explained it was part of their investigation into ‘criminal offending’.

There is nothing whatsoever to suggest the criminal offending they were investigating was anything to do with Nicky Hager.

Hager began the investigation as a ‘suspect’ but became simply a ‘witness’; he is not accused of stealing anything.

He did what good journalists do on a daily basis – was given information on nefarious wrong-doing that he believed the public needed to know. Then he published it.
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He’s been treated extraordinarily for a witness in such a case – had his house raided for ten hours, had personal files uplifted, been wire-tapped, had his records requested from as many as 20 different companies and sources, and been vilified by the government.

But whether you like Nicky Hager or not, whether you agree with what he set out to do or not, there is something rotten about the way the police acted in the case – and something profoundly out of order about the way Westpac Bank rolled over and gave away Hager’s bank records and other personal information on the strength of an unsupported request by police, without even telling their client they were doing so – which is also something they are required to do.

It now emerges Nicky Hager has complained to the Privacy Commissioner about what’s happened and also wants a ‘full and frank’ disclosure from Westpac.

It will be more than anyone else has had. Westpac say they won’t comment on what they do with customer information because it’s an ‘internal policy’.

Again, you may think Nicky Hager deserved the treatment he’s had. You may not agree with him in general.

But remember that whatever treatment’s been handed out to him can be handed out to anyone with the ‘wrong’ connections, the ‘wrong’ information, and the ‘wrong’ intentions.

Privacy increasingly seems to be only your right if you are on the ‘right’ side.

 

In case anyone has missed the point, Dita DeBoni’s column is a direct warning to the citizens of this country.

When the security apparatus of the State – in this case the New Zealand Police – can access private and confidential details without a search warrant, then we have reached a truly frightening stage in our nation’s developing history.

The only place where police have had such unimpeded access to the private information of citizens has been – up until now – the province of military junta-controlled regimes; Soviet-style “people’s republics”; and various banana republic dictatorships. Think of Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Pinochet, Papa “Doc” Duvalier – it’s a very long list. (And I haven’t even gone through the entire 20th century!)

Though New Zealand is not *yet* a One Party state – which is only one national “crisis away, before a “state of emergency” is declared – we have taken a further step toward the nightmarish society envisioned by C.K. Stead in “Smith’s Dream/Sleeping Dogs“. (That nice man, Prime Minister Volkner, had such a horrid time caused by those nasty terrorists. Why couldn’t they just all get a proper job?)

It might well be that the release of Nicky Hager’s private information to the police was an inadvertent slip-up by an ill-informed Westpac employee.  Or it could be that there is now a nascent culture developing in New Zealand of fawning, unquestioning obeisance to Authority.

In a space of thirtythree years, we have gone from massive street protests and struggle against an increasingly authoritarian National government led by Robert Mudoon – to meekly accepting increasing State surveillance and seizure powers.

And in just seven years, we have gone from this;

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Showers latest target of Labour's nanny state

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– to this;

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Yes, in just under a decade, National has taken New Zealand from complaining about reduced shower flows and ecologically-sound lightbulbs (!!) being “Nanny Statish” – to mass surveillance of the population; increased powers for spy agencies and police; forcing telco’s to keep client information for the State; and warrantless search and seizures.

In my youth, I visited my parents’ homeland whilst it was still under communist rule, and within the ‘sphere of influence’ of the Kremlin.

I can say, with a fair degree of confidence tinged with sadness, that New Zealand has moved closer to being a South Pacific replica of a former Soviet ‘satellite’ state. Only the Gulags are yet to be built. (Our Australian cuzzies have them already at Christmas Island and elsewhere.)

I can think of no other way to see this country. We have spy agencies monitoring New Zealanders; spying on our Pacific neighbours and trading partners; and harassing journalists who are critical of this government’s actions. Phil Goff’s political career was almost destroyed by National’s abuse of the powers of the SIS.

What else do you call a country where police can gain access to a citizen’s private information – without arresting him – and with no warrant? The term, I believe, is Police State.

If National Party supporters are “relaxed” about this, then I have this piece of advice for them; remember that governments change. Sooner or later, Labour will be in office.

And the Labour Prime Minister, with perhaps a few scores to settle, will have all the powers of search, surveillance, warrantless seizures, that John Key has gradually amassed since 2008.

Laws like these;

Search and Surveillance Act 2012

Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013

Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Act 2013

Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill (aka Customs and Excise Amendment Act 2014)

There may even be a new Minister for the GCSB and SIS. Perhaps Phil Goff. Or David Cunliffe.

Then the shoe will be on the other foot (the Left one). At that point, National and it’s supporters may start to regret the encroachment of State power into our lives.

I believe light bulbs and shower nozzles will be the least of their worries.

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References

TVNZ: Dita DeBoni – Privacy right is not a right when not ‘right’

National Party: Showers latest target of Labour’s nanny state

NBR: Ferguson confirms ‘mass surveillance’, Key reiterates GCSB acting lawfully

NZ Herald: Warning as second part of spy bill passes

NBR: ‘Undemocratic’ Search and Surveillance Bill made law

Fairfax media: Spy bill passes into law amid wide criticism

Newstalk ZB: PM won’t confirm Pacific spying

Fairfax: Private data deserves greater respect than Westpac showed Nicky Hager

Techdirt: New Zealand Spy Agency Deleted Evidence About Its Illegal Spying On Kim Dotcom

Yahoo News: English didn’t know GCSB spied illegally

NZ Herald: GCSB report: 88 cases of possible illegal spying uncovered

Other Bloggers

Kiwipolitico: Confronting executive branch excess

Kiwipolitico: Some questions about the Stephenson case

No Right Turn: An unwarranted demand for information

No Right Turn: The banality of intrusion

The Daily Blog: Police plotted to arrest and spy on Nicky Hager – the most interesting parts of 1 year on from Dirty Politics

The Daily Blog: What mainstream haven’t mentioned about Westpac corporate narking on Nicky Hager

The Daily Blog: News release on behalf of Nicky Hager concerning privacy breach by Westpac

The Daily Blog: Why what the Police are doing to Nicky Hager is so extraordinary

The Standard: Technology and the law – and going after Hager

The Standard: Angry at Westpac

The Standard: Dirty Politics was in the public interest

The Standard: “A creeping authoritarianism from the current government”

Previous related blogposts

Parliamentary spies and games – some bad numbers

National Party president complains of covert filming – oh the rich irony!

It is 1984. It is ALWAYS 1984

National’s disdain for democracy and dissent

Those who love Big Brother

Welcome to new glorious People’s Republic of New Zealand

From the Horses mouth

Today’s irony was brought to you courtesy of former ACT MP and Govt Minister, Rodney Hide

Weekend Revelations #2 – Michelle Boag has a whinge

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 November 2015.

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Weekend Revelations #2 – Michelle Boag has a whinge

2 November 2015 3 comments

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National Party staying strong on crime

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From TVNZ’s Q+A, on 25 October 2015,

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Q+A - 25 october 2015 - police - michelle boag - simon dallow

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The Q+A panel were ostensibly discussing out-going Police Association President, Greg O’Connor’s persistent calls to arm the New Zealand police. At one point, former National Party president, Michelle Boag offered her views on policing-techniques in this country;

@5.10:

Michelle Boag: “…But, it’s, it’s a bit of a shame, that for most of us, certainly for me personally, the, the only direct engagement I end up with Police is when they stop me as they did yesterday morning when I was driving to golf at seven o’clock in the morning for a random breath test. Right, so that’s an instant confrontational thing. And, er, it just makes you think, ‘oh god, here they are, enforcing’ all the time-”

Simon Dallow: “So were you more annoyed or were you more pleased that society is being protected here?

Boag: “Er, well, I was annoyed because I haven’t had a drink for twenty years. And every time I get stopped on the way to golf early on a Saturday morning, I think, it’s a complete waste of your time. However, I know, if rather than saying my name and address, I say, ‘Listen, I don’t drink, you’re never going to catch me’, that I’ll probably get hauled up for, y’know, talking back to a policeman.

It should not be lost on most politically conscious folk that one of National’s strongest, most agressively promoted tenet is that of “Law and Order”. One of it’s seven main election billboards, for the 2011 election, was the image at the top of the page.

National’s political history is replete with passing laws empowering the police and spy organisations SIS and GCSB. (The GCSB was set up under National, under then-Prime Minister Robert Muldoon’s leadership.)

Since 2008, National has passed the following laws;

Search and Surveillance Act 2012

Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013

Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Act 2013

Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill

The GCSB’s mandate was changed two years ago to permit it to spy on New Zealanders.

This, despite protests from New Zealanders up and down the country, opposed to extending the powers of the State into our lives. One wonders if Michelle Boag attended any of the anti-GCSB protests that’s been held around the country?

This is not the first time that a National Party apparatchik has been caught up in the new, murky atmosphere of surveillance, that is now part of our lives. In 2013, then-National Party president Peter Goodfellow, complained of being under covert surveillance by a private investigator;

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national-party-boss-alleges-covert-filming

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I blogged on the issue here: National Party president complains of covert filming.

And who can forget the outrageously delicious irony of National’s coalition partner, Peter Dunne, having his emails pinched by Parliamentary Services and passed on to the Prime Minister’s Department.;

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emails-given-to-inquiry

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Then-Fairfax journalist, Andrea Vance, also had her Parliamentary  phone and swipe-card records passed on to the PM’s Department (which was “assisting” the Thorn Inquiry), as an investigation was held into the identity of the secret source who leaked Vance a confidential report into the GCSB.

The irony is that even as Peter Dunne was rearing up and braying in self-righteous indignation at the invasion of his privacy, two and a half weeks later, he voted with National in the Third and final reading of the Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Bill (now an Act) which passed it into law.

Now everyone in New Zealand could have their privacy invaded.

I blogged on the issue here: Parliamentary spies and games – some bad numbers

When governments pass laws extending the powers of the State’s security organisations, and increase surveillance capabilities of spy agencies, then it has created a fertile environment where privacy is no longer as sacrosanct  as it once was. Whether it be police stopping motorists at random to detect potential drunk drivers*;  a private investigator recording a conversation; or one government agency passing private emails on to another; or covert surveillance on potentially all New Zealanders,  a new norm has been created.

Michelle Boag may be indignant at being stopped on her way to her golf on a Saturday morning – but her right to unimpeded travel on our roads was extinguished a long time ago. The State now has the right to stop her as, when, and however, it’s security agencies ‘deem necessary’.

She may even have her phone and internet tapped, should she ever run foul of a future government.

All perfectly legal.

I love it when National’s quasi-fascistic law and order policies eventually catch up with it’s own supporters.

Thank you, Lady Karma.

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"We are from the government we are here to help. - Ruatoki, 15 October 2007

    “We are from the government, we are here to help.” – Ruatoki, 15 October 2007

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* Footnote:
It should be noted that this blogger has no problem with random breath-testing conducted by Police. Whilst this country is awash with cheap, easily-available booze; and whilst New Zealanders refuse to address our penchant for binge-drinking, random breath testing is one of the few means we have to protect ourselves and our families from liquored-up drivers. Michelle Boag needs to get over her preciousness and sense of entitlement in this regard. The next drink driver the police catch could be one  on her road, as she drives to her golfing rendezvous.

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References

TVNZ Q+A:  Panel on arming the Police

Wikipedia: Government Communications Security Bureau

Fairfax media: National Party boss alleges covert filming

Fairfax Media:  Emails given to inquiry

Parliament: Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Bill

Previous related blogposts

Parliamentary spies and games – some bad numbers

National Party president complains of covert filming – oh the rich irony!

It is 1984. It is ALWAYS 1984

National’s disdain for democracy and dissent

Those who love Big Brother

Welcome to new glorious People’s Republic of New Zealand

From the Horses mouth

Today’s irony was brought to you courtesy of former ACT MP and Govt Minister, Rodney Hide

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 Octobr 2015.

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Citizens face Police armed with tasers at Wellington TPPA protest march

21 August 2015 3 comments

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NZ, Wellington, 15  August – Anti-TPPA protesters, many of them young people in their teens and early 20s, faced off against police armed with tasers on the steps of Parliament.

Believed to be the first time that armed police have deployed tasers in a non-violent, non-threatening situation, at least five police officers were visibly carrying the potentially lethal devices on their belts;

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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At least five  weapons were clearly visible, with other policemen and woman wearing bulky jackets that may or may not have concealed more of the devices.

Though there was some minor jostling between one protester and a Parliamentary security guard, there was no violence or any other physical contact between police and members of the public.

The confrontation began when a lone protester made her way to the top of the Parliamentary steps, and seated herself, adopting a meditating position. For a short time, three police attempted to persuade her to move, though no force was used.

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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She was followed by others, who also jumped or skirted around the security fence separating the grassy area from the paved Parliamentary forecourt.

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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As their numbers swelled to approximately a hundred, extra police arrived quickly and with Parliamentary Security, formed a cordon across the steps leading up to Parliament.

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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March organisors and Marshalls attempted to quell the situation by asking people to move back from the steps, without much success.

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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Eventually,  jostling and shouting gave way to a calmer atmosphere as March organisors encouraged a constant stream of speakers to address the crowd. The tiny volatile minority, numbering perhaps half a dozen, joined others seated on the steps. One activist played his guitar and sang songs, though at one point he declined a request for “anything by Dave Dobbin“.

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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After about a hour, the crowd on the Parliamentary forecourt dispersed of their own volition. Police numbers also reduced, with officers leaving the scene.

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TPPA - trans pacific partnership agreement - protest march - wellington - 15 august 2015

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There was no apparent reason for tasers to be deployed on this occasion. The sight of these weapons incited many in the crowd to angry outbursts toward the police.

More than one person was overheard asking what possible use  four or five tasers would have been against a crowd numbering in the hundreds.

One person, who requested anonymity,  said to this blogger;

“Whoever authorised these guns to be brought out needs their head read. It’s a grim day when cops feel the need to show these things when they’re faced with ordinary New Zealanders engaged in lawful protest. It’s like something out of ‘Sleeping Dogs’.  Really, is this where we’ve ended up, armed cops facing off against women and kids? God help us.”

On this occasion, a tense situation was prevented from escalation not by show of force, but by the wit of organisors who distracted the ‘hot heads’ and encouraged dialogue and engagement.

The best strategy in this stand-off was patience.

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Previous related blogposts

Citizen A – 29 Nov 2012 – TPPA Special

TPPA: Business launches propaganda campaign

TPPA: Doomsday scenarios, Critics, and flights of fancy

Open message to the Middle Classes about the threat of the TPPA

Nationwide Rally Against the TPPA – Day of Action!

They marched against the TPPA and the threat to our sovereignty (part tahi)

They marched against the TPPA and the threat to our sovereignty (part rua)

The Mendacities of Mr Key #5: Has Tim Groser shown the P.M. to be a liar on the TPPA?

Nationwide Day of Protest Captures Public Attention on TPPA

Opposing the TPPA – the Heavens hold their deluge ’till the People speak

Citizens face Police armed with tasers at Wellington TPPA protest march

Support groups

Facebook: Oil Free Wellington

Facebook: It’s Our Future – Kiwis concerned about the TPPA

Website:  It’s Our Future

Facebook: Aotearoa is Not for Sale

Action Stations: A Secret Trade Deal So Terrifying That Parliament Isn’t Even Allowed To Know What It Says

Facebook: TPPA Action Group – Wellington

OraTaiao New Zealand Climate and Health Council

Copyright (c) Notice

All images stamped ‘fmacskasy.wordpress.com’ are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

» Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
» Where purpose of use is commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
» At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
» Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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TPPA-cartoon-trans pacific partnership

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 August 2015.

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Letter to the editor – hitting charities where it hurts, courtesy of the Nats

16 February 2015 1 comment

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking.

A cash-strapped government – having frittered billions away in two tax cuts for the rich – now seeks to penny-pinch voluntary organisations and charities to make up for the gaping deficits they have created?!

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Fee for police background checks slated by charities

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Sunday Star Times <editor@star-times.co.nz>
date: Mon, Feb 16, 2015
subject: Letter to the ed

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The Editor
Sunday Star Times

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This government is planning to implement a user-pays charge whereby charities; other voluntary organisations, and non-profit groups are required to pay for police vetting of volunteers and employed staff.

How long will it be before the $5 or $7 vetting fee becomes $10? $20? Then full recovery costs? If there is one thing we know about government charges, once they are introduced, they invariably increase as governments look to cut taxes, and raise user-pays charges for state services. Tertiary fees, fuel taxes, gst, prescription fees, court costs, are all examples of government shifting costs on to the individuals and public organisations.

One day, New Zealanders will wake up to the realisation that far from being “prudent fiscal managers”, National’s track record in managing the government books are ad hoc and worse still, penalise those who need help the most.

This is penny-pinching in the extreme, and shows how we are still paying for two ill-considered and unaffordable tax-cuts in 2009 and 2010.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[Address and phone number supplied]

 

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References

NZ Herald: Fee for police background checks slated by charities

Radio NZ:  Education and charity sector worry about cost of police checks (Audio - 12′ 24″ )

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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Kamikaze Kiwis and a deathwish on wheels *Update*

18 December 2013 4 comments

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Reduced speed tolerance will apply for December and January

Source

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This is a laudable plan from our Boys and Girls in Blue, and I’ve no problem with it. Holiday periods are generally a bad time on the roads where every manner of bad driving habits are manifested by drivers.

With increased numbers on our roads during the December/January period, such bad driving habits are multiplied, until a “critical mass” of stupidity is reached, or peoples’ luck just runs out.

It’s often not speed per se that is the dangerous driving habit of many drivers. Case in point…

On 23 November, after a three and a half month absence down south, I was returning home. On SH1, somewhere on the open road north of Christchurch and south of Marlborough, I encountered some driving practices that simply took my breath away.

All involved tail-gating on such a dangerous level that, at any moment, I expected a crash.

The first was a light-coloured Pajero, driven by a male and a female passenger, who first tail-gated me. At several points he was so close to me that I could barely see his headlights – they were below the line-of-sight of my vision, hidden by the spoilers of my own vehicle.

It wasn’t as if I was travelling at some silly slow speed on the open road; I was driving at, or just about 100kph.

After several minutes of the driver’s menacing behaviour, I pulled out my cellphone to call *555 and warn police that a madman was loose on our highways.

As I gave Police details of what I was witnessing, the Pajero overtook me; the driver gestured (no, not a friendly wave); and then proceeded to tailgate the next car – a reddish-orange, early model American sedan. After several minutes, the Pajero overtook the American car and sped off into the distance.

A little later in the day, I witnessed not just another instance of tail-gating – but an attempted over-taking manouver that very nearly ended in disaster.

Check out the photo below. Note how close he is to the red car in front of him. Note his position on the road – he is about to attempt an over-taking manouver.

Note the blind bend we are approaching.

And note the on-coming traffic!!

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grey bluebird

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Luckily, the driver of the Bluebird saw the on-coming vehicle as well and quickly swerved back into our own lane. Had he completed pulling out and attempted to over-take, it would have ended up with lethal consequences.

By the way, the same Bluebird had over-taken me a little earlier. As he passed me, I noticed a young child in the back seat.

As someone who often drives on the open road, I sometimes witness mind-boggling instances of tail-gating and dangerous over-taking.

I’ve never witnessed so many hair-raising incidences in one day and on one road.

Today (6 December), I finally emailed Assistant Commissioner on Road Policing, Dave Cliff, on this problem. I asked him if tail-gating was to be treated with the same attention and severity as speeding,

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from:     Frank Macskasy
to:          Dave Cliff <dave.cliff@police.govt.nz>
date:     Fri, Dec 6, 2013 at 1:40 PM
subject:     Road safety enforcement

Kia ora Mr Cliff,

I am aware that Police are reducing speed tolerances over the December and  January period, ostensibly to reduce the road toll during the Christmas/New Year holiday months.

Whilst I have no problem with this policy, I am enquiring what steps the Police will take regarding other dangerous driving practices.

Specifically, I am referring to the increasing prevalence of tail-gating.

On 23 November this year, whilst driving north on SH1 between Christchurch and Picton, I encountered several instances of dangerous tail-gating. One driver – rego [redacted], a Pajero – drove so close behind me that his headlights were almost below line-of-sight of the rear of my car.

The driver persisted in his menacing behaviour, forcing me  to phone *555 to lodge a complaint.

After the Pajero driver over-took me, the male driver proceeded to tail-gate an orange, early-model, American car (a Charger, I believe).

Travelling at 100kph on the open road, had I or the driver of the Charger been forced to brake suddenly, the results would have been predictably disastrous.

On the same day, and stretch of road, a grey Bluebird, rego  [redacted], was seen to be tailgating another car in front of me,  and made a hair-raising attempt to over-take as we approached a blind-bend. (See pic attached).

Even on urban motorways such as SH2 and SH1 in the Greater Wellington region, I witness dangerous and increasingly stupid instances of tail-gating.

One of the first things I learnt as a learner-drive in my teens was to keep one car distance per each 10kph driven speed.
Many of these instances I have described would be lucky to have had two (or maybe maximum three) car distances between them.

Will police be focusing on  this dangerous practice? And will you be highlighting this in any upcoming media conference?

I believe this matter deserves as much attention and action as your crack-down on speeding drivers.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy

[image above attached]

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It will be interesting to see what reply, if any, Assistant Commissioner Dave Cliff makes on this.

In my humble opinion, tail-gating and dangerous over-taking as dangerous – if not more so – than speeding. The potential for disaster increases as such stupid behaviour becomes more and more reckless.

If you encounter such unbridled stupidity on the roads, ring *555, and inform the Police immediatly. You could be saving a life.

*Update*

I received this response four days later,

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from:            HEALEY, Bryan <Bryan.Healey@police.govt.nz>
to:                  Frank Macskasy
date:             Tue, Dec 10, 2013 at 9:15 AM
subject:       Road safety Enforcement
mailed-by: police.govt.nz

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Frank…..I am in receipt of your email to Ass. Commissioner Dave Cliff.

My question to you is, do you want to make a formal complaint against the other drivers or work through the Community Road Watch Programme?

The formal venture is by way of court action, the CRW programme is none formal and brings the matter to the attention of the drivers manner of driving.

Please advise.

 

New Zealand Police Logo

Senior Sergeant Bryan Healey
Manager Customer Services: Police Infringement Bureau | Road Policing Support | New Zealand Police

P   +64 4 3810107 | Ext: 44907   

E   bryan.healey@police.govt.nz
Police Infringement Bureau, PO Box 9147, Wellington, 6141, New Zealand www.police.govt.nz

 

Road Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility

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I responded, thusly,

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from:     Frank Macskasy
to:     “HEALEY, Bryan” <Bryan.Healey@police.govt.nz>
date:     Tue, Dec 10, 2013 at 5:14 PM
subject:     Re: Road safety Enforcement
mailed-by:     gmail.com
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Kia ora Bryan,

I would be more inclined to pursue the option of the Community Road Watch Programme. It is less punitive and hopefully should serve to remind the drivers that tail-gating (especially as I encountered it) is unacceptable behaviour (and potentially dangerous).

As I wrote originally to Ass. Commissioner Dave Cliff, the practice of tail-gating seems to be becoming a more regular occurrence and I was interested whether or not Police intend to focus on this offense, as they will be on speeding over the December/January period?

In the meantime, pursuing this matter with the two drivers through the CRW Programme appears to be the best option.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy

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I realise I could have insisted on a prosecution – but in instances like these, education might be more effective than putting someone through an expensive Court system?

It was interesting to note that Snr Sgt Healey did not reply to my question;

“…the practice of tail-gating seems to be becoming a more regular occurrence and I was interested whether or not Police intend to focus on this offense, as they will be on speeding over the December/January period?

Let’s hope the wheels are slowly turning on this problem at Police HQ.

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Disclaimer: I’m no saint, and have had my share of parking infringement notices and speeding tickets. Especially in my wilder, youthful days.

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