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ACT Goes Offside: Takes One For The Team

2 comments | 5:12 pm | top |
ACT has sold its soul to the devil the National Government, giving three decididing votes in favour of Chester Borrows' totalitarian Prohibition of Gang Insignia Bill on its third and final reading. The new law is in direct contradiction with ACT's founding principle, that of valuing and upholding individual's freedom of choice - obviously within reason. I understand the reasoning behind such a U-turn: ACT needs to swallow some of National's dead fish in order to buy their support for the likes of ACT's 3 Strikes bill, or Boscawen's ammendment to the newly repealed Section 59 of the Crimes Act. However for a party based on principle as opposed to common-sense or majority-opinion, it is unacceptable.

At the bill's first reading on 16 April 2008, Rodney Hide delivered a powerful speech against it, an excerpt of which is below,

I am so pleased that Mr Chester Borrows has relieved me of the obligation of voting for this shocking Wanganui District Council (Prohibition of Gang Insignia) Bill. I said that the ACT party would vote for the bill to go to a select committee. We could never vote for its third reading, but I thought the debate would be useful. But now Labour, in a fit of “election-itis”, is voting for the bill. So I have been to see Mr Borrows, who has kindly said I can vote against it, which I feel so much better about.

This bill is right up there with the “Let’s Get Rid of Spray Cans in Manukau Bill” for all the same reasons. It does not address anything like the problem we confront with gangs. It will not work. The promoter of the bill knows that it will not work. Members of Labour and New Zealand First, who are voting for the bill, know that it will not work. If they had any courage of their convictions that this bill will work, they would make it nationwide so that patches could not be worn from Kaitāia to Bluff. We have the absurdity that, supposedly, gang members can wear their patches everywhere in New Zealand, bar Wanganui, and that somehow that is good lawmaking...

The concern that we have about gangs is not about what they wear; it is about what they do. Our concern is when they intimidate us, threaten us, and beat us—and not just gangs or those wearing a patch do that. We have all manner of intimidation and threats to our property from all sorts of people. That is what we should be attending to in upholding our law. I see there is a by-law protecting us from gangs. Well, I will tell members about one horrible gang: it is a gang that has taken more property than any other gang in our history, that wears insignia, that threatens our rights, and that has taken away our right to free speech. That gang should be banned. That gang is the Labour Party. The good news is that at least under this bill the Wanganui District Council could ban the wearing of the Labour Party patch in its area. I would quite like to do that in Epsom, and so would the people of Epsom.

Let us have some sense, let us let Chester Borrows do his electioneering and George Hawkins do his electioneering, but in this Parliament let us please aspire to something greater for our nation than this rubbish. - Hansard, 16 April 08

At the bill's second reading (post 08 election), ACT's law & order spokesman David Garrett explained that Chester Borrows had brushed away all fears, and that considering the few ammendments (such as the lowering of the fine) that had been made, ACT was justified in making a U-turn on the bill...

ACT voted against this bill at its first reading last year. We did so not because we supported gangs but because of a concern that innocent New Zealanders could be caught up in its provisions. I must say that I think Ms Turei makes a very valid point, unfortunately. I do not mean that sarcastically against her, but the removal of patches per se may well cause confusion, and difficulties with scarves wrapped around hands and with the other kinds of tags that are used by these clowns. If only they were clowns. ACT was originally concerned that legitimate motorcycle enthusiasts, youth groups, and even church members could fall foul of this law, and so voted against it. Following the passage of the bill through the select committee process, Mr Borrows has sought our support for this bill, and has addressed many of our concerns. - Hansard, 4 March 09

For crying out loud, how unprincipled can you get? In this speech it is impossible to differentiate ACT from National. Firstly, the law is only applicable within the region of Wanganui. Secondly, the law specifies particular gangs that will be targetted: in order to get around the law, all you need to do is create a gang and give it a different name. You'll be sweet... until the Wanganui District Council passes a bylaw, adding your gang to the list of those who are prohibited from wearing their insignia in public. (refer, page 4 of the Bills Digest 1597). Thirdly, what has happened to freedom of expression and association in our free land New Zealand, that a law should be passed, criminalizing a minority group for merely displaying their solidarity in public? Notwithstanding, all five of ACT's MPs voted in favour of the bill at its second reading.

The Hansard of the third reading of the bill has not yet been released, however the journalists in the press gallery bring us up to speed...


[The bill] passed last night only after three Act MPs, including leader Rodney Hide, reversed their earlier opposition.

During the bill's first reading, Mr Hide called it "rubbish", saying he could never support it because it would breach people's fundamental right to wear what they wanted.

Last night, he said he changed his mind after Act MP David Garrett visited Wanganui this week and was assured by local police that it would be enforced and have an effect.

The votes of Mr Hide and Act conservatives Mr Garrett and John Boscawen enabled the Wanganui District Council (Prohibition of Gang Insignia) Bill to pass by 62 votes to 59. - NZ Herald, 7 May 09

"David Garrett was assured by local police that it would be enforced and have an effect."
<sarcasm>Hah, what were we so concerned about? everything will be ok if that's the case!</sarcasm>

As Samuel Dennis noted, it is admirable that ACT allowed it's members to vote according to their convictions, however it is nonetheless inexcusable that the 3 MPs who voted for the bill are voting against the convictions of the vast majority of their supporters who voted them in.

Although it is a necessary evil in Parliament that compromises must sometimes be made for the greater good, ACT on Campus along with a number of ACT members believe that supporting this bill was not an option. Nonetheless, we continue to stand by our party, acknowledging that this is only one relatively minor failing. ACT continutes to be a shining - if somewhat dulled of late, defender of liberty and stalwart for freedom of choice, standing head and shoulders and torso above the rest of Parliament.

Related post: ACTually Authoritarian, 10 March 09

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2 Comments:

OpenID sjdennis said...

I am astounded that anyone from ACT actually voted for this on the final reading.

Sure it is against ACT's principles, but it is also against basic common-sense. What on earth do they expect it to actually achieve? Make the gangs go in disguise so you don't know who they are? Won't that cause more crime?

Utter nonsense. Good to see Douglas, Roy and the Maori party retaining some common-sense though.

5:50 pm, May 07, 2009 
Anonymous Eufrat said...

This bill marks the start of a path down a exceedingly slippery slope, and it is rather disappointing to see ACT tossing aside their supposed "liberal" values, and defecating on their own voters from a great height.

It's just continues to show that politicians such as Mr. Hide are not interested in upholding the values he claims to cherish, and on which his supporters voted for him; but he, like so many others, is only interested in his own ends.

"Defender of liberty"? I don't think so. ACT, you are just a cheap, National party whore.

11:47 am, May 23, 2009 

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