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It’s official: ACT’s Jamie Whyte is several-sandwiches-and-a-salad short of a picnic

19 September 2014 3 comments

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mad ACT tea party

 

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There aren’t very many times I agree wholeheartedly with our Dear Leader – but on this occassion I believe he spoke for those 99% of New Zealanders for whom common sense is as natural as breathing air.

ACT – with it’s long line of loopy leaders and coterie of strange MPs – has a record for saying and doing things that can best be described as “unwise” (in a Judith Collins sense of the word) – or just down-right Full Moon Barking Mad to be bluntly honest.

Case in point;

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Election 2014 - Act policy a 'recipe for disaster' - Key

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Whyte’s comments were further reported;

Dr Whyte said he had no view on what weapons shopkeepers should arm themselves with but believed firearms were appropriate, “if they felt that there was sufficient threat”.

Full. Moon. Barking. Mad.

When Whyte offered his views on incest on the blog,  “The Ruminator“, ACT’s opponants (and there are plenty of them); the MSM, and blogosphere reacted with disbelief, derision and exasperation.

Personally, I took it as the musings of an “philosopher-intellectual” who had spent way too much time isolated in dusty University halls and had only recently returned to Planet Earth to mingle with us mere humans.  Kind of akin to a left-wing Labour candidate musing out loud about enforced re-nationalisation of all privatised state assets,  or their National counterpart musing out loud about banning all trade unions. Definitely  stuff not meant for public consumption and best kept to one-self.

Except it appears that the incest gaffe was not an isolated incident, and Jamie Whyte’s insane suggestion to allow store owners to “bear arms”  now  confirms his reputation as someone whose grip on reality is questionable.

It was left up to the Prime Minister, New Zealand Association of Convenience Stores chairman, Roger Bull, and others, to inject some sanity into this American Gothic nightmare scenario that an ostensibly  sober Jamie Whyte was casually promoting as a new way of life.

Key pointed out the obvious;

“The reason I think it’s a bad idea is that firstly you’d be putting weapons in the hands of people that are not trained.

Those weapons could be used [against] the very shopkeepers themselves. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

And Roger Bull said matter-of-factly;

“Our policy has always been if there’s a robbery, you comply with the instructions of the person and you do not try to do anything quick or sudden because you don’t know the mental state [of the offender].

You comply and get them out of the way as quick as possible.”

Let me illustrate the type of  wacky-doodle idea that Whyte is flirting with.

Soon after the September 11 attacks, more than one individual – exhibiting a decidedly  dubious capacity for logic – suggested on several internet fora, that passengers be allowed  to carry guns on flights, to protect against further terrorist attacks.

Yeah. Because gunfights on aircraft flying at high altitudes, is just such an amazingly good idea! Add to the scenario of gun-packing passengers,  growing incidences of  alcohol-fuelled high-altititude  high-jinks, and the threat of hijacking becomes the least of our worries.

Take the same concept of people feeling threatened by random, high-profile crimes from 10,000 metres, and relocate it to West Auckland, and the only difference is the absence of the likelihood of explosive decompression when bullets miss their intended targets.

There is a disturbing bizarre pattern to Whyte’s pattern of “thinking”. Whether it is simplistic notions of removing the Resource Management Act or Three Strikes for burglary, his “solutions” are predicated on a naive, almost  black and white world-view, that is reminiscent of an adolescent who has yet  to come to terms with the complexities of society. Generally, pre-adolescent teenagers, when faced with pressing social issues and problems, will  arrive at simplistic, knee-jerk “solutions” based on little more than their own limited life-experiences.

For a supposedly mature, well-educated, worldly individual to express similar naive beliefs suggests that Whyte’s own intellectual development has been ‘arrested’ at some point in his youth and has not progressed to understanding that the world around him is a vastly  complex, messy, inter-twined mass of human threads. Tug on one thread, and there is no telling where that pressure will be exerted.

It does not take a genius to figure out what is wrong with the picture of allowing store owners to keep firearms for “self defence”.

Aside from how such weapons would be stored – under the counter? Easily stolen or picked up by kids. Locked away – then not much use to a store owner facing a robbery situation.

Or a gunfight in a store with other customers present – who else would be injured or killed?

Whyte obviously has not thought the issue through to it’s ultimate, deadly conclusion.  And if he has, and if he is simply exploiting the tragedy of  murdered shop-keepers for political gain to win votes – what does that make him?

I would be hard-pressed to work out which is worse; a parliamentary aspirant with a stupid idea that would most likely end up killing more innocent people?

Or a parliamentary aspirant with an idea that is exploitative of other people’s grief , just to win votes?

Even the right-wing, lock’em-up-throw-away-the-key, Sensible Sentencing spokesperson, Ruth Money, opposed “a crazy increase of firearms behind every counter“.

When even the so-called “Sensible Sentencing” recognise a patently lunatic proposal, you just know it’s a step too far into Wacky-doodle Land

Perhaps Whyte should have stuck with legalising  incest. After all, what’s the worst that can result from incest? Idiot people with idiot ideas?

 

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References

NZ Herald:  Act policy a ‘recipe for disaster’ – Key

The Ruminator: Mr Ryght: An interview with ACT leader: Jamie Whyte

Previous related blogposts

ACT leader, Jamie Whyte, refutes cliched stereotype of solo-mothers?

Letter to the Editor: A great business opportunity, courtesy of ACT

And this is why we call them Right Wing Nut Jobs


 

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ACT

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 September 2014

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The lunatics are running the Asylum

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political pressure - how it works

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Nearly two years ago, Finance Minister Bill English expressed  a rather startling frank admission;  that prisons were a “moral and fiscal failure” (see: Prisons: ‘moral and fiscal failure’?)

As the ODT article reported,

Mr English said the plans had been in the pipeline for some years and were part of “this Government’s policy and public pressure for tougher sentences and a safer community”. But, he added, he hoped it would be the last prison the Government built because “they’re very, very expensive: $250,000 a bed [in capital costs] and $90,000 [per prisoner] to run it, and when we’re tight for money, it would be good if we could have … less young people coming into the … pipeline where they start with a minor offence and end up with a 10-year sentence.”

Mr English might have dispensed with the phrase “when we’re tight for money” because if, for large numbers of those convicted of committing lesser crimes, prisons do not work – over time, considerable evidence shows, they make communities less safe rather than more – it is arguably irrelevant whether we are tight for money or not.

Acknowledgment: IBID

It was an unusually candid admission, as right wing politicians often use the “law and order” mantra to (a) frighten people  and (b) promise to ‘crack down on crime’. National used this strategy in 2011,

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National hoarding staying strong on crime

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One of National’s “get tough on crime” policies was it’s so-called “Three Strikes” law – the  Sentencing and Parole Reform Act – passed two years ago  in May, 2011.

The system of ‘strikes’ would be applied for after each conviction, and escalate sentencing;

* Strike one: Judge decides sentence, gives a warning, offender eligible for parole.

* Strike two: Judge decides sentence. No parole.

* Strike three: Maximum jail term for that offence. No parole, except for manslaughter (minimum non-parole period of 20 years).

The list of crimes covered by the Three Strikes law is listed here: Sentencing and Parole Reform Act.

On 26 May,  then-Corrections Minister Judith Collins, rejected  criticisms that a conviction under the Three Strike offences could be for something minor,

“This bill deliberately puts in place an escalating regime of penalties, and I make no apology for that. An offender who is being sentenced at stage three has committed a third serious violent offence and has received two previous warnings about the consequences of re-offending in this way.”

Acknowledgment:  Controversy continues after three strikes bill passed

Despite Collins’ and other National/ACT MPs assurance, it appears that the Three Strikes law will soon swallow up Elijah Akeem Whaanga (21).

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Anger at 14-year strike 2 warning

Acknowledgment: Dominion Post –  Anger at 14-year strike 2 warning

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Only psycopathic, rightwing nutjobs were applauding this tragic waste of human life, and subsequent waste of tax-payers’ money,

Justice Minister Judith Collins said the case showed the law was working. Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar agreed, saying the sentence of two-and-a-half years’ jail with no parole was “fantastic”.

Acknowledgment:  IBID

Whaanga, according to the article (and reading between the lines) may be afflicted with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder – a nasty condition which affects the brain and mental developments of  unborn babies within the womb. It is caused by alcohol consumption by the pregnant mother.

The symptoms can include,

  • Learning disabilities,
  • poor academic achievement, math skills, abstraction,
  • difficulties with impulse control,
  • social perception,
  • problems with communication,
  • memory,
  • lack of attention,
  • judgment

See: Wikipedia – Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

Having worked with people with this condition, I can confirm that  mental impairment can be considerable, and no less a disability than other intellectual/mental disabilities. In many instances, a low IQ is clearly apparent.

If Whaanga has FASD, then putting him away for fourteen years would be tantamount to locking someone up with a mental disability who has difficulty managing and balancing concepts of right, wrong, responsibility, and consequences.

As Judge Adeane said,

“When you next steal a hat or a cellphone or a jacket or a skateboard you will be sent to the High Court and there you will be sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment without parole.”

It costs around $95,000 per year to keep a person in prison. To keep Whaanga in a cell for fourteen years will cost the taxpayer $1,300,000 .

If you think this is bad enough, imagine a hundred Whaanga’s at $1,300,000 per person. We’re talking over $130,000,000.

If that is not insanity from our elected representatives – please tell me what is?

For $130,000,000 the State could buy more effective social-support services, monitoring,and rehabilitation for people like Whaanga.

But that would take imagination and compassion.  Thus far, National ministers appear to demonstrate precious little of either trait.

Well, New Zealanders got their “tough on crime” government.

Now it’s time to pay for it.

I wonder how many schools will have to close to pay for Three Strikes?

Addendum

As more and more prisoners spend decades behind bars for their third strike offence, it will be a boom time for private prison contractors such as SERCO. Expect SERCO shares to rise every time a third strike offender is convicted and sentenced to their privately-run prison.

Memo To Sharebroker,

Sell: Mighty River Power shares.

Buy: SERCO shares.

Memo to National ministers,

Close:  ten more schools.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 May 2013.

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Acknowledgments

Newsdesk:  New Zealand passes 3-strikes law (26 May 2010)

NZ Herald: Controversy continues after three strikes bill passed (26 May 2010)

Otago Daily Times:  Prisons: ‘moral and fiscal failure’? (24 May 2011)

Dominion Post:  Anger at 14-year strike 2 warning (28 April 2013)

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Not so sensible justice

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internet_lynch_mobs_Cleverbot_said_Im_correct-s391x337-96144-535

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By now we should all be aware of the influence and power of the internet. It has allowed the world into our homes, workplaces, and lives, in an intimate way.

It can facilitate relationships; be a powerful tool for popular causes; assist the democratic process; and it can be a vital tool for rapid acquisition of information – a boon for bloggers like me.  On occassion it has allowed us to “meld” into a single, focused ‘mind’, to exert a  coherent action to affect the physical world.

It also has it’s much darker side. The internet can reflect the most base of human emotions; hatred, anger, paranoia, fanaticism, xenophobia,  a thirst for revenge, and other irrationalities.

Those who maintain that the internet is somehow less “real” than the physical world underestimate it’s influence in our lives.

I foresee the growth of a potential great evil, which will place incredible  pressures on our judicial system and perhaps even undermine it.

We have already witnessed individuals using the net to circumvent name suppression, or to foment mass-hysteria targetting  prominent individuals.

Soon after David Bain was found not guilty on five counts of murder in June 2009, at least one website sprang up vociferously maintaining his guilt, and several on-line fora were filled with strident commentary expressing all manner of irrational accusations.

It has been suggested that the concerted force of this stridency had a degree of  influence on Judith Collins throwing out Justice Binnie’s report and recommendations for compensation.

There was  the case of  far right-wing blogger, Cameron Slater, who in September 2010, wilfully broke name suppression of convicted New Zealanders, and in the process  identified the victim of a sex-abuse case. He justified his actions as being some kind of (mis-guided) campaign against name suppression. (See:  Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater guilty)

And recently there was the chap who published the names and images of those alleged to have attacked  cricketer,  Jesse Ryder.

Jordan Mason felt he could take it upon himself to “name and shame” the two men charged with assaulting Jesse Ryder – even though the pair have not yet been tried or convicted. (see: Jesse Ryder attack: Accused felt he had to ‘name and shame’ men)

Garth McVicar’s latest proposal is another step further along the road toward a dystopian near-future. One where  Cyber Mob ‘Justice’ holds undue influence on our judicial system,

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Trust to launch website to 'name and shame' judges

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ: Trust to launch website to ‘name and shame’ judges

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Garth McVicar’s populist vigilantee organisation, the so-called “Sensible Sentencing Trust” is planning a website that has one core function; to be an instrument of punitive reaction against judges who do not measure up to the Trust’s vision of retributive  ‘justice’.

This “Naming & Shaming” has one agenda only – to encourage and foment an influence on our judiciary that is separate from the law, and puts power into the hands of a small clique (McVicar and his cronies). It would exploit the lowest common denominator in our society – ignorance, fear, hatred, and a hunger for violent revenge – and exploit Mob Mentality to achieve it’s ends.

Who amongst us is  not disgusted by the vileness of  certain criminals and their horrific misdeeds. Our primal urge is to exact a fitting revenge – usually involving copious amounts of pain, and a much-shortened life-span. It’s an urge that lurks in the deepest recesses of our reptilian brains.

As a consequence of the socialising aspects of civilisation, we’ve left those urges (mostly) behind us. Though it can be useful when  governments plan  resource-wars against other nations.

The ‘net – as we also know – allows that veneer of civilisation to be stripped away and our primal instincts for punitive  revenge to surface and expressed in emotive terms. The cloak of anonymity can embolden the meekest.

Have a look at the political messageboard forum on TradeMe, and you’ll understand what I mean.

McVicar’s group understand the power of the ‘net to further their agenda for a more punitive society – and they are going hard out to achieve it.

On this issue, I stand with Justice Minister Judith Collins and Attorney-General Chris Finlayson;  who oppose this  ill-disguised step toward mob-”justice”.

Little wonder that the  New Zealand Bar Association condemned this lunatic idea,

We join with the Minister of Justice and the Attorney-General in condemning this proposal. The Bar Association regards the step as being ill-considered, totally unnecessary and likely to give rise to illegality as contempt of court.

What is being proposed amounts to little more than on-line talk back radio – likely to attract debate and comment of similar quality but with the added disadvantage (or advantage, depending upon one’s perspective) of being permanently available and accessible in the blogosphere.

Judges have an extremely difficult job. They are constantly required to make hard decisions under the mounting pressure of increasing case loads, exacerbated by diminishing resources. Their decisions are rightly the subject of appeal processes which are open and transparent. The daily work of a Judge in court is done publicly and is scrutinised by the news media. If the conduct of a judge is questioned, that conduct can be the subject of complaint to the Judicial Conduct Commissioner.

Acknowledgement: Scoop – NZBA President on Sensible Sentencing Trust Website Proposal

The author of this statement, Stephen Mills QC, added – and I emphasise the point,

In our society the freedom to criticise is a valued and protected right, but as with most rights there is concomitant responsibility. The responsibility here is that criticism of the judicial arm of our democracy must be responsible, accurate and measured. These characteristics are frequently absent on talk back radio and they are unlikely to be a feature of the invited public comment on this website, given its stated objective.

Making critical comments via email to a website affords the critic a degree of anonymity that is likely to encourage a lack of responsibility in what is said. This is likely to improperly and unfairly undermine public confidence in the administration of justice.

Acknowledgement: IBID

Understandably, the Bar Association has labelled McVicar’s dangerous idea as “irresponsible”  – because that it precisely what it is. The gradual  under-mining of the judiciary would become the inevitable  reality. Ultimately, no one could possibly benefit from this.

It is worthwhile to consider that there are sufficient numbers of disturbed individuals who could take the existence  of  such a website as a license for vigilanteeism. Even those with less nefarious intentions, acting with collective thought and “righteous”  belief, could place pressure on individual judges who would have little means to resist.

Remember the fuss made over the proposed  “Wellywood” sign on Wellington’s hills? This was the online response,

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wellywood

Source: Google

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Which lead to physical-world protest action,

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Poll shows majority opposed to Wellywood sign

Acknowledgement: Otago Daily Times – Poll shows majority opposed to Wellywood sign

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Now extrapolate into others areas of human activity.

Law enforcement and members of the judiciary are vulnerable.  As happened recently in the United States (though no evidence yet exists of  internet-vigilanteeism being a factor),

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Texas district attorney third law official killed in weeks

Acknowledgement: BBC – Texas district attorney third law official killed in weeks

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On 18 April, on Radio NZ’s Nine To Noon programme, Kathryn Ryan interviewed “Sensible Sentencing Trust” spokesperson, Garth McVicar. He told Kathryn,

“… So ultimately the way it’ll work is some of  the judges that are brought to our attention, and we do our due diligence and think, you know,  by our research that we believe they are consistently getting it consistently getting it wrong, they will be named on that  site, as will some of the previous history and some of the decisions they’ve made that we believe earn them the right to be on the site.”

Acknowledgement: Nine to Noon – “Judge the Judges” website to be launched

In other words – we have the potential for a witch-hunt for judges who, by McVicar’s “research that we believe they are consistently getting it consistently getting it wrong, [and] they will be named on that  site “.

Some obvious questions are,

  • Who decides the criteria of  McVicar’s stated “due diligence“?
  • Who will be tasked with bringing “judges… to our attention“?
  • Who decides what constitutes “consistently getting it wrong”?
  • Who decides what aspects of “previous history”  will “ earn them the right to be on the site“?
  • What right of appeal or response will judges be given? The right of appeal is the most basic of rights for a person accused of a “mis-deed”?
  • How will the information be presented?
  • How will judges be identified?
  • Who will be accountable if information is incorrect, or presented out of context?

This Web Vigilanteeism is an unpredented and dangerous road that McVicar and his mates are taking.

Later that same day, on Radio NZ’s Jim Mora’s panel-programme,  to a question from the Host as to how such a website could be moderated, Garth McVicar was at pains to reassure listeners,

“… I’m not sure if many of your listeners know Ruth Money but she’s no fool. And some of the people that are behind her and putting this together are no fools. So it will be well monitored. It won’t become a rant, for,  you know,  a rave site for people to rave on like some of the other sites I believe are. I don’t bother even  looking into them. This is going to maintain the credibility of the organisation… “

Radio NZ – The Panel with Irene Gardiner and Michael Deaker (Part 1)

Sorry – no. That’s not reassuring at all.  McVicar cannot control the end-use of any information that his group publishes on the web. Ruth Money (a SST administrator/spokesperson) may be “no fool” – but who knows about the state of mind of people rreading it?

And if a judge comes to harm – can the SST be held to account?

After all, they are demanding that judges be held to account.

Earlier in this piece, I wrote of the “growth of a potential great evil”.

My fear is that taken to it’s end-conclusion, ‘net-based “Justice” could begin to influence the judicial process more and more.  The day when citizens go on-line to ‘vote’ on the Guilt or Innocence of a person charged with a crime is a far-fetched fantasy.

I would like to keep it that way.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 April 2013.

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References

Otago Daily Times – Poll shows majority opposed to Wellywood sign (24 May 2011)

BBC – Texas district attorney third law official killed in weeks (1 April 2013)

Scoop – NZBA President on Sensible Sentencing Trust Website Proposal (18 April 2013)

Radio NZ – Trust to launch website to ‘name and shame’ judges (18 April 2013)

Radio NZ – Nine to Noon – “Judge the Judges” website to be launched (18 April 2013, audio)

Radio NZ – The Panel with Irene Gardiner and Michael Deaker (Part 1) (18 April 2013, audio)

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Has Garth McVicar finally lost the plot?!

20 January 2013 15 comments

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As reported in Fairfax, on 20 January – Garth McVicar, of the so-called “Sensible Sentencing Trust”, seems finally to have  “lost the plot” with this gobsmacking rant at a Parliament Select Committee hearing on marriage equality,

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Lobbyist links gay marriage to crime rise in NZ

Full story

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McVicar went on to state, in quite unequivocal terms,

Furthermore, the bill represents a further decay and erosion of the traditional family that society has been founded on.”

See: IBID

So if we understand McVicar correctly, there will be a  “decline” in  ” the traditional family ” if marriage equality is allowed to go ahead?

Aside from the sheer nonsensical and unproven nature of such a bizarre belief, it occurs to this blogger that ” the traditional family ” has been under stress for a long time – before marriage equality became an issue these last couple of years.

Take for example the story of 19 year old Robert Moulden.

Reported in the same issue of Fairfax media as the story above, Mr Moulden recently pleaded guilty in  Auckland’s District Court last year, to desecrating and vandalising Jewish graves,

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desecrated graves

See: Merciful Jews forgive Nazi grave vandal

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Mr Moulden, to his credit, took responsibility for his actions and pleaded guilty. In an act of human compassion and forgiveness, the Auckland Jewish community has rallied to support the young man to undertake further, higher education to turn his life around.

Mr Moulden’s background is all too common from young men and women who have become socially alienated,

His parents split up at an early age, he then goes from pillar to post . . . he goes to different schools, he’s shifted around, he has no stability, no base to call his own.”

See: IBID

Which indicates to me the depth of  Garth McVicar’s ignorance and bigotry.

Dysfunctional families have been with us for decades (centuries, even).  A cursory study of the backgrounds of those dysfunctional families of beaten, sexually abused, and  murdered children will reveal one salient fact; they all had heterosexual parents/guardians/partners.

If  Garth McVicar wants to be critical of the circumstances surrounding declining  ” traditional families “, he’s looking in the wrong place. Perhaps he should first look at three decades of neo-liberal reforms which has resulted in increased poverty; fewer jobs; a widening gap in incomes; and small towns losing their economic base as industries have closed down,

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Raetihi

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And if he’s got this so horribly wrong – what else is he stuffing up? Could it be that his “Sensible Sentencing Trust” is also built on a swampy mire of mis-information and ignorance?

McVicar has done the cause for marriage equality a great service. He’s demonstrated how shonkey and intellectually corrupt opposition to equality actually is.

Has it ever been different when a group in society struggles for justice? Emancipation for women? The universal right to vote? The Black civil rights movement in the United States? The struggle to end apartheid in South Africa?

So it goes on, to this very day. New struggles for equality – facing the same old bigotted arguments why some should not have equal rights.

Get back to your cave, Garth.

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Civilisation’s collapse – are we there yet?

In 1986, according to some, New Zealand faced the end of Civilisation As We Know It.

The Homosexual Law Reform Bill was before Parliament, and opposition to reform was loud and active, by (some) christians; (some) conservatives, and homophobes in general.  Society in New Zealand was in imminent danger of ‘collapse’, and the “Coalition of Concerned Citizens” mounted a petition against the Bill.

It was presented to the House on 24 September 1985,

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Politician Peter Tait and businessman Keith Hay, from the Coalition of Concerned Citizens, carry a petition against homosexual law reform into Parliament, New Zealand in September 1985.

Source

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Twenty six years later, and we’re still here. Civilisation survives! Hurrah!

Fast forward to the year 2007AD:   by an overwhelming majority, Parliament had just passed the “Crimes (Substitution s59) Amendment Act 2007” – the so-called “anti-smacking” Bill.

Section 59 of the Crimes Act provided a statutory defence for every parent of a child and every person in place of the parent of a child to use force by way of correction towards the child, if the force used was reasonable in the circumstances. The purpose of the Amendment Act is to amend the Crimes Act to make better provision for children to live in a safe and secure environment free from violence by abolishing the use of parental force for the purpose of correction.” Source

In effect, the amendment of Section 59-Defence denied parents and guardians of children the statutory defence of correction, if they physically abused their children. Contrary to popular mis-conception (and promoted by various conservative organisations,  politicians, and lazt media), the repeal of Section 59-Defence was not a blanket, 100% ban on the use of physical punishment on children.

As this Police press release explained, in June 2007,

New Section 59

Section 59 states:

“(1) Every parent of a child and every person in the place of a parent of the child is justified in using force if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances and is for the purpose of –

(a) preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person; or

(b) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in conduct that amounts to a criminal offence; or

(c) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in offensive or disruptive behaviour; or

(d) performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting.

(2) Nothing in subsection (1) or in any rule of common law justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction.

(3) Subsection (2) prevails over subsection (1).

(4) To avoid doubt, it is affirmed that the Police have the discretion not to prosecute complaints against a parent of a child or person in the place of a parent of a child in relation to an offence involving the use of force against a child, where the offence is considered to be so inconsequential that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.”  Ibid

Once again, conservative elements in society, along with (some) fundamentalist religious groups; right-wing “Think Tanks” and pressure-groups; and the ACT Party, predicted the demise of New Zealand society.

For example, in their submission to the Justice Select Committee, the Maxim Institute  stated,

In addition, Maxim Institute submits that the Bill will have far-reaching and
negative consequences (many unintended), including damage to the family unit, the
creation of unworkable law, undue interference in the parent/child relationship, an
undemocratic transfer of decision-making power to the police and the criminalising
of the vast majority of parents.Source

“…damage to the family unit…”

“…unworkable law…”

“…an undemocratic transfer of decision-making power to the police …”

“…criminalising of the vast majority of parents…”

Has it happened? Has society collapsed around our ears? This recent report in the “Dominion Post” may answer that question, and address the Maxim Institute’s concerns,

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Full Story

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So in four years, we’ve had the following results,

Police have laid charges against a person for smacking a child, making them the fifth to be prosecuted since the anti-smacking law came into effect four years ago…

…Police investigated 18 acts of “smacking” and 58 “minor acts of physical discipline” during the review period.

Eight people who were investigated for “minor acts” were charged with Assault Child (manually) and one woman was charged with Other Assault on Child (Under 14 Years).

These cases involved six fathers, two mothers and one grandmother slapping their relatives across the face or on the head.

One man received nine months supervision for slapping his son on the face three times with his open palm after his son told him he didn’t want to go to school.

The others were awaiting sentencing, had their charges dropped due to lack of evidence, were discharged without conviction or successfully defended the charge.Ibid

Hardly “an undemocratic transfer of decision-making power to the police” or “criminalising vast majority of parents”.

If we are witnessing “damage to the family unit”, one could point to high unemployment and easy availability of cheap liquor which would be morely to  be prime factors in dysfunctional families. After all, we’ve had dysfunctional families for much longer than the repeal of Section 59-Defence.

Strident critics of the repeal of Section 59-Defence point to the continuing numbers of child abuse in New Zealand as some kind of “evidence” that the Act does not work. They ignore the reality that laws are never designed to physically prevent criminal and anti-social behaviour – they are intended as sanctions – punishment – should one transgress. Otherwise, why have laws against murder, rape, burglaries, etc?

From 2008 to 2010, there were 163 murders; 8,471 sexual assaults; and 873 cases of abduction/kidnapping. Source.  Does this mean that laws against murder, sexual assaults, and abduction/kidnapping do not work and should be rescinded? (The Sensible Sentencing Trust might have something to say about such a proposal.)

As with the 1986 Homosexual Law Reform Act, civilisation has not collapsed after the repeal of Section 59-Defence. New Zealand society continues to function and – as our Prime Minister is fond of saying – is  “muddling along”.

Something to remember the next time New Zealand is faced with socially-progressive legislation.

Society does not break down into anarchy and chaos every time social reforms are undertaken. After all, women won the right to vote in New Zealand on 19 September 1893.

I haven’t noticed Civilisation collapsing.

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Additional Reading

9th review of police activity since enactment of the Crimes (Substituted
Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 – Police

Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill – Maxim Institute submission

Police Practice Guide For New Section 59

A Summary of Recorded and Resolved Offence Statistics – Police

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