Hansard and Journals
Crimes Amendment Bill, Local Government Amendment Bill, Sentencing Amendment Bill (No 3) — Third Readings
Crimes Amendment Bill
Local Government Amendment Bill
Sentencing Amendment Bill (No 3)
Hon NATHAN GUY (Associate Minister of Justice) on behalf of the Minister of Justice: I move, That the Crimes Amendment Bill, the Local Government Amendment Bill, and the Sentencing Amendment Bill (No 3) be now read a third time. These bills are an important step towards addressing the serious problem of organised crime. They increase the range and effectiveness of the tools available to police for investigating and disrupting organised criminal activity, and for prosecuting and penalising those involved. As these bills represent another of this Government’s initiative within its very busy first 100 days, I am especially proud to see them passing into law today.
Gangs and organised criminal groups are heavily involved in violent, drug-related, and property crime in New Zealand. They are also involved in more entrepreneurial types of offending. A significant proportion of the importation, manufacture, and supply of illicit drugs in this country can be attributed to organised criminal groups. At a local level, inter-gang violence and fortified premises intimidate communities right across New Zealand. Indeed, I experienced that as I was growing up in Horowhenua. Clamping down on gangs is part of the Government’s priority to improve public safety.
The Gangs and Organised Crime Bill has now, pursuant to Supplementary Order Paper 51, been divided into three bills amending the Crimes Act 1961, the Local Government Act 2002, and the Sentencing Act 2002.
The Crimes Amendment Bill provides the police with a broader and more effective range of tools for intercepting the criminal activities of organised criminal groups. The bill allows police to apply for an interception warrant to investigate participation in an organised criminal group, which is an offence under Section 98A of the Crimes Act. It doubles the maximum penalty for participation in an organised criminal group from 5 years’ imprisonment to 10 years’ imprisonment.
The bill clarifies the evidential requirements to prove that offence, with the aim of securing more successful prosecutions of those who participate in an organised criminal group. It expands police surveillance powers in respect of gang communications by lowering the general threshold for a specified offence for interception warrant purposes from 10 years’ imprisonment to 7 years’ imprisonment. This will enable police to better investigate a wider range of organised criminal activity.
The Crimes Act will also be amended through recommendations made by the Law and Order Committee. These include clarifying that people who contribute to the illegal activities of an organised criminal group from overseas will not escape prosecution under section 98A, and increasing the range of offences that, if undertaken or planned by a group, qualifies that group as criminal.
The Sentencing Amendment Bill (No 3) makes participation in organised criminal groups or other criminal association an aggravating factor at sentencing. I would like to especially thank members of the Law and Order Committee, led by Sandra Goudie, for their particular attention to this provision by removing the potentially onerous requirement on the prosecution to prove the motivation of an offender.
The Local Government Amendment Bill enables the police and territorial authorities to seek a removal order against gang structures that are intimidating in nature. The combined effort of these measures is to give police a wider array of tools to combat the problem we have with gangs and organised criminal activity in New Zealand. I commend this legislation to the House.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) : As we have said throughout this debate, the Labour Opposition will support the legislation. We believe that the provisions of the legislation will go some way to combating gangs and organised crime and limiting their activities in New Zealand. We do note, though, that if National had wanted to act far more swiftly, it could have actually picked up the Organised Crime (Penalties and Sentencing) Bill, which had gone through the Justice and Electoral Committee and sat on the Table of this House during the interregnum. The Government could have picked up that bill—it was a Labour Government bill—and dealt with those issues in a far more efficient way than sitting under urgency as we do today.
I raise a couple of points that we have raised throughout the debate. The first is that we support any measures to crack down on the insidious nature of gangs, because we know about the violence they put upon communities and the intimidation they put upon people, especially young people, and the infection and disease they spread in the form of pedalling drugs, preying on young people, using them as drones, and effectively destroying people’s lives for profit and personal gain. Of course we support this legislation. Equally, those not so visible gangs—whose members, as I said before, wear suits rather than patches, do not have tattoos, and live in some of the leafier suburbs around New Zealand—have to be focused on with the same amount of vim and vigour as the more visible elements like the Mongrel Mob, Black Power, and those white gangs throughout New Zealand—
David Garrett: Hell’s Angels.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Hell’s Angels, the Tribesmen, and others.
The issue I will focus on is this: although we support the legislation, and it will rattle through the House, and the Governor-General will put his signature on it, the rubber will then hit the road. Then it is up to agencies like the police to implement the legislation—to put it into practice and to use the powers that Parliament has given it. For those powers to be used effectively, and for this legislation to implemented appropriately, and for it to have the positive effect on our communities—and negative effect on the gangs—that this Parliament would want, there is a need for something called resources, monetary resources. I find it difficult: we have done customs legislation, and there is the war on P—and we have asked the Customs Service and the police to do more in those areas—but the resources have not followed.
Again, we have law and order legislation, as good and positive as it is, but the resources are not flowing. We are asking our police to put themselves in greater danger. We are asking our police to step up to the plate and do more, yet we know that there is a requirement from the Minister of Police and her Cabinet—in the John Key Government—to take $21 million out of the police budget. Yet the Minister has the audacity to stand up here and deny that that cut is happening. It is like denying that daylight follows dark, as it were. This is actually happening, and as evidence of that, 340 police cars have gone from the fleet. Parliament was told that front-line vehicles would not go—one would think police were sitting around in unmarked Holdens, and the police station car parks were awash with cars that had never done a patrol in their lives. This is simply not true. We know that highway patrol cars have gone, we know that front-line vehicles have gone. Youth Aid, which often deals with the consequences of where gangs have moved in and impacted on young people, is gone.
We now know that Canterbury has lost 32 cars, or 10 percent, of its vehicle fleet, and today there is a grand announcement that it has gained resources in the form of four bicycles—four bicycles. This is true. It came from a press statement put out and trumpeted by the Minister. So we have lost 32 police cars. In Kaiapoi the Youth Aid officer’s car is gone. In Rangiora the community police officer’s car is gone. Thirty other vehicles have gone from the Canterbury policing district, but it has gained four bicycles! Although we agree with visibility and having police out in the community, I just wonder about the gang members, as the policeman cycles up to the gang headquarters to knock on the door and say “Hang on, there’s some bad stuff going around here.” As the gang members rip out the back door of the gang headquarters and jump into their vehicles, I wonder how that policeman will cope as he cycles after them on his penny farthing, or something like that. I do not know. Although we may make light of it, it is a very serious issue.
Secondly, we now know that for the first time in history—and this is very serious and very dangerous—because of this Government’s requirement to cut money out of the police budget, firearms training to our police force will be rationed. There will be officers in our police force in the blue uniform, and in plain clothes, who now do not receive the mandatory ongoing training, because they are deemed to somehow not be front-line officers. If that logic is correct, then it could affect a Youth Aid officer knocking on the door of gang members or the parents of gang members who were being administered to by a Youth Aid officer. It could have affected the constable in the Len Snee tragedy in Napier, who was a Youth Aid officer. No notice was given and no warnings were sounded, because there was no evidence that there would be a problem in Napier. The first responder was a Youth Aid officer, and we know the consequences of that. Len Snee was gunned down and two other officers were critically wounded. It could have been even worse than the tragedy it was.
If staff knock on the door of a house, and gang members are there or organised crime activity is going on, and those in the house want to protect their patch or what they are doing, and there is no hint of violence, there is no hint of tragic circumstances, or no hint of firearms being presented, a tragedy could happen. The Minister of Justice will never guarantee that it cannot happen. If that firearms training and those resources are not provided, then who is impacted on, who dies? Well, it is likely to be a police officer, God forbid, and/or it is likely to be members of the community whom that police officer is sworn to protect, and who will, whether man or woman, do everything to protect the community. But if, for the first time in history, the police do not have the training, if they do not have the resources, and if they do not have the firearms capability to deal with that, even though the community expectation is that if they wear that uniform they can save members of the community and protect them, there is a gap between the rhetoric in this legislation and the community expectation and the political expectation that Government members have put on it.
Labour supports the legislation, but we have some real concerns about the protection of our police force in that its members will not be adequately resourced to protect themselves or the community that they serve when they implement the tools that have been given to them in respect of organised crime and gangs, because we know that gangs and organised criminals do not adhere to the protocols. They do not say that because the police are on bicycles they will only bike and do the crime on bikes. No, they do not. That might seem a bit spurious or silly, but it is a fact that they will use any means they can to circumvent the law.
The other point I make comes back to what has transpired at the tail end of this debate. We had a very eloquent speech from Mr Flavell on behalf of the Māori Party, and I say that with respect because, like Mr Garrett, I think he made some very, very solid points in that speech, talking about his own experience and his community experience. But then we got to the nub of it. The Māori Party seems to think that it is OK to meet with gang leaders, and spend $6,500 having lunch with them—and that is not $6,500 to lock them up; it is to meet with them—and that it is OK to have the kaumātua and the kuia in our communities deal with them, but it is not OK to support this legislation and give those communities and the police that reside in those communities the weaponry and the tools they need to deal with this.
What is the alibi for that stance, which I cannot understand? I think Mr Jones may be able to counsel me, but I think it is in respect of trying to say that these gang members are part of our people, our community, and our culture. Well, this issue is cross-cultural. When somebody gets raped or murdered or preyed upon by organised crime or gangs, it is not about culture; it is about insidious crime at its basic level. I do not care what culture people are. That should never be recognised. Members of gangs or organised criminals who have committed those crimes should never be put on an equal footing with people in our communities, politicians, or anybody else. They should be run out of town. But it should not be left to our communities to run these people out of town and deal with them; Parliament is set up to give our communities, through the police and other law enforcement agencies, the tools and weapons they need to do it for them.
I say to Mr Flavell that a great thing is happening in his community with his elders. It is a great thing, but those elders have the respect and the right to be backed by Parliament and he should change his vote. He should support this legislation, because one cannot be a lion in here and a lamb out there.
SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki - King Country) : I rise in support of the Gangs and Organised Crime Bill, which has now been divided into three separate bills, as the Minister said, to amend the Crimes Act 1961, the Sentencing Act 2002, and the Local Government Act 2002. I thank members on the Opposition benches for their passionate, heartfelt speeches against what can only be described as a group of thugs who wreak havoc on our society. Whatever we can do as a Parliament to bring these thugs to heel, so be it. That is the reason why I support this legislation.
But I was reminded of one simple thing when I listened to the passionate speeches from the Hon Shane Jones and the Hon Clayton Cosgrove and it is that they are honourable gentlemen, which means that for 9 years they were in Government; for 9 years we had a Labour Government. It was quite interesting to listen to them launch their attack on the Māori Party. Our colleagues in the Māori Party said that they talk tough, but they do not actually do anything; the rubber does not hit the road. Well, after 9 long years of a Labour Government we are, at this moment, right now, addressing this issue. I have to ask the question. I know that the Hon Shane Jones has a strong political career ahead of him, and I know that some time in the future, probably four or five Parliaments away, he will be back in Government, and that the Hansard record will still be there. It will be interesting to know what they may do in respect of law and order when their time comes again.
But in the debate in the House today we are dealing with this group of people, and, as the Minister said, it is not necessarily Māori who wear patches. They are worn by all sorts of people. Some of these people wear suits, but they are just as insidious. As one who represents the electorate of Taranaki - King Country, which has 17 small towns right across it with very low socio-economics—places like Kāwhia, Te Anga, Kinohaku, and Bennydale, where socio-economics are very, very low—one knows the havoc these individuals cause, the type of activity they get involved in, and the damage it does to the community. So anything we can do in Parliament that will assist our law officers, that will assist in the investigations, and that will assist in any way at all to bring these people to heel, we should do with the utmost vigour that we can apply to it.
The issue of resourcing is an interesting debate. There is a finite amount that we can put into any particular social issue at any one time. What I resent most of all about the constant reference to resourcing of the police, or any other type of resourcing, is that under 9 years of Labour we had the best economic times that we have experienced in a generation. What happened during that time? We squandered that opportunity on a scale that this country has never experienced. That is exactly what happened. So when it came to funding police cars, when it came to funding law and order, when it came to funding our courts—the whole arm—the third and very important leg of Government, what happened under 9 years of Labour? We saw decline. We never saw the growth that we should have seen. We did not see the opportunities that this great little country had. We saw them squandered. We saw industries that could be double the size they are now, taxed into non-existence.
We saw the Australians thrash us in the commercial world; they absolutely thrashed us. The mantra we constantly hear about Australia having minerals and digging them up is absolute nonsense. This country has more minerals per capita than Australia. We have more opportunity than Australia, because of our abundance in agriculture. We are better than our Australian counterparts in every single way, in terms of our opportunities in the commercial world going forward. I tell Mr Jones that that growth would fund police cars and fund the law and order and social standards that he would like to see. Those kinds of things are important to New Zealanders.
We are debating in the third reading of this legislation today the issues the Government confronts concerning the way to deal with this insidious group of individuals who come from all backgrounds, all walks of life, all social groups, and all cultural groups. They come into our society from overseas and from within New Zealand. The proposals put forward by the Law and Order Committee—a good committee with good cross-party support, most of the time—enhance the legislation, and I can see nothing but good coming from its passing and receiving the Royal assent in the near future. Thank you.
Hon SHANE JONES (Labour) : Tēnā tātou katoa. This has been a spirited discussion. The opportunity was afforded us during the Committee stage, as we considered the provisions of the Gangs and Organised Crime Bill, to range quite widely. That ignited various exchanges that actually brought honour to the Chamber. It was not a tepid set of exchanges, where well-rehearsed lines were trotted out. Of course, that pattern was not followed by Shane Ardern, the previous speaker. He lapsed into a set of very hackneyed phrases inversely related to the truth, and then would have had us believe that the gangs he had in mind are the people currently fossicking around the conservation estate on the West Coast, sniffing coal gas and wearing their high-visibility vests. Fortunately, at the very end of the speech, he recalled what he was told to do by Mr Tremain, the chief Government whip, which was to talk about the legislation before Parliament. It was a rare sensation for that particular member.
The bills focus on whether the machinery of the State is adequate to curb the criminality that we know exists within the gang environment. We always have to be mindful that for every additional power of investigation or seizure that we attach to the police, we have to be very confident that the bulwark of the judiciary is up to the task, because at the end of the day, after the police have carried out their investigations, they have to lay down the information in front of a judge. That judge has to have the confidence, and not so much the professionalism but the wisdom, to test in his or her own mind whether we are going too far in our zest to rid ourselves of this excessive criminality in so far as drugs are concerned. We know that certain levels of criminal behaviour will never ever be completely swiped away, whether it is driving on the wrong side of the road or being dangerous while drunk and carrying on like that. But there is a big duty on the judiciary.
I come back to some of the elements that were taken up during the Committee stage. I challenged Mr Flavell on the wisdom of regarding gang members as being “our people”. At a personal level, I find that expression almost offensive, because I think that when we belong to a people we are willing to embrace duties and obligations. I cannot detect any sign of that willingness within the gang culture that we are trying to break here. When I speak of the gang culture, I mean the shadowy forces that import drugs, spreading around their filthy lucre in a way that might avoid detection, as well as the deluded young teenagers wandering around with smelly, soiled bandanas. Both groups share a common problem: an unwillingness to take on board the burden of an obligation. We cannot manage a civil society nor have the quality of life that we in this House want to continue to promote in our communities unless families are confident that the people who live around them are obliged to observe a certain level or threshold of decency, honesty, fairness, and respect.
How do we, as a Parliament, using legislation like this, further entrench recognition of that obligation and our desire to embrace it? Naturally, those of us who have raised children and who are still raising children try to entrench it in the way in which we send our kids to school, teach them their table manners, and teach them the ritenga and tikanga of how one treats one’s brothers and sisters, one’s parents, one’s tūpuna, and one’s friends and neighbours. But this legislation is designed to deal with people who obviously either did not have that experience of upbringing, or had it but realised that it is far too cumbersome to maintain if what they want out of life is a quick buck at someone else’s expense.
It then falls back to us. Mr Flavell made the very good point that I, as a Māori MP, cannot repudiate that the jails are overflowing with our young men. Although we have a different approach in relation to how staunch we should be in terms of our antagonism towards gangs, his point is beyond cavil: we as a society are watching that tidemark grow higher and higher. It is a New Zealand problem, but it is a particularly Māori difficulty to deal with as a Māori MP. Obviously the focus has to be on what we are doing in our communities to ensure that we can help our children. These children may not be our blood relatives, but they will bloody us with their crimes if we are not able to cause them to change their ways.
That is probably one of the unspoken lessons of today: as impassioned as someone like me gets about the excessive levels of criminality, we must never overlook the rangatahi and the potential of the darling eyes belonging to the kōhungahunga—the young girls and the young boys—and their mothers. I would be the first to state—based on personal experience and, possibly, a provincial upbringing, moderated by a stint overseas and study—that I take a pretty hard line about these things, because I get very, very emotional when I look at the squandered potential in the young faces I am talking about.
There were a number of references during this morning’s set of speeches to questions about what communities can do. Members asked whether communities can be staunch and whether we, as parliamentarians, will be able to support the police to stand with communities. I salute the community leaders from Murupara who have taken a very, very strong stance after the death of two teenagers. I cannot begin to imagine the pain and anguish of the close family members as they watched the lives of those two young teenagers snuffed out, knowing that it was worthless. There was no virtue, there was no justification, and there was nothing that we could say that represented a progressive, modern, celebratory attitude towards life in terms of what we saw go down for those two boys. I give full marks to the kaumātua and the kuia.
We as parliamentarians have a slightly larger burden to bear than the kuia and the kaumātua on the marae, which is what I was saying to Mr Flavell earlier. We have a privilege while we are here as MPs that is occasionally undervalued. When we speak in this House we are able to point out which societal norms ought to be upheld, and we have the chance to state on behalf of the communities that we come from that we recoil from the type of lifestyle, conduct, hatred, hostility, and animus that is associated with the gang way of life. E Te Ururoa, mehemea e whai tuarā ana wērā kaumātua, wērā kuia ki te whakaparahako i ngā kēnge, horekau wā rātou pū, māripi, taiaha engari ko te aroha o te ngākau me te kaha o te ārero, he aha oti te take te mahi pēnaka ai koutou i roto i tēnei Whare?
[Te Ururoa, if those elders and elderly womenfolk had the fortitude to stand up to those gangs without guns, knives, or taiaha, but with the love of the heart and the might of eloquence, why are you collectively not taking that stance in this House?]
If it was good enough for those people, without arms or weapons but with only the strength of character and hearts and the strength of verbal skill, to step up to the plate and stare down those gangs, then it is good enough for our colleagues from the Māori Party to abandon their ambiguous stance in relation to gangs and to stop the indulgence and the indifference. Kia ora tātou.
KEVIN HAGUE (Green) : I will take just a short call to explain in brief why the Green Party will continue to oppose the Crimes Amendment Bill, the Local Government Amendment Bill, and the Sentencing Amendment Bill (No 3). The Green Party has no love at all for the criminal activities of gangs. These are organisations that rob young people of their souls and of their futures, let alone the victims of their many crimes.
Since at least the 1960s, pretty well every Government has come into power with a promise of being tough on gangs. The approach has been: “Let us get harder and harder, and let us increase the powers of the State against gangs and wind them up further and further.” That approach has completely failed to deal with the problem, not only in New Zealand but also in those countries that have adopted the same approach.
David Garrett: Wrong!
KEVIN HAGUE: I am aware that David Garrett from the ACT Party is likely to speak next, and I believe that he sincerely believes that this legislation will provide the police and other authorities with powers that will assist in curbing the problems associated with criminal gangs. But I am aware that other parties, National and Labour in particular, will be voting for this legislation and I do not believe that the members of those parties believe it will help. Instead, those parties are playing to the gallery. These measures are entirely tokenistic, and those parties are supporting the legislation out of a belief that the public seeks simplistic answers to these complex problems. Rather than suppressing these problems, I believe that the main impacts of the legislation will be to feed the sense of alienation and grievance upon which criminal gangs thrive. Just as the war on terror breeds more terrorists, this legislation will strengthen the hand of the gangs.
What would we do? The Green Party supports the types of solutions that my colleague Te Ururoa Flavell spoke about in the House today. Complex problems almost always require complex answers, and the answers here are for this House and for this Government to support the actions of communities, strengthen the hand of communities in dealing with these problems, and, at the same time, take serious and effective action on those social and economic circumstances that drive young people into the hands of the gangs in the first place.
Finally, I want to pick up on a comment of Clayton Cosgrove in this third reading debate. He suggested that this suite of bills will deal with not just so-called Māori gangs. I do not believe for one moment that Clayton Cosgrove was speaking without his tongue very firmly in his cheek. I do not believe that this House will see these powers used against, for example, those organised criminals behind several of the finance company collapses that we have seen, or any of those other white-collar criminal conspiracies that would meet the definition here. This suite of bills is intended for a particular kind of gang, and that is the only kind of gang that we will see them used against. This legislation is reprehensible because it is window dressing, it is more tokenism, and it is more talk of being tough on crime, without a willingness to address the factors that fuel crime. The Green Party will continue to oppose this legislation.
DAVID GARRETT (ACT) : As the last speaker predicted, not surprisingly, I rise to speak on behalf of the ACT Party in support of the three bills that have come out of the Gangs and Organised Crime Bill. I will start by respectfully differing slightly from my colleague Shane Ardern, who used the word “thugs”, which I also used in earlier speeches in the House on the original bill. That is an accurate word, but a better word would be “outlaws”. These people are outlaws, in the literal sense of that word. They shun the law, they shun ordinary people, and they make a gesture to ordinary people that was used by my generation and has now altered to an American version.
I was talking to a judge of my acquaintance on a plane the other day. He told me about the evidence in a trial he had conducted of bugged conversations in which the gang members concerned laughed on the phone about how they were not going to work like the dupes out there in society, and about how they would all be millionaires by the end of the year. They have contempt for everyone up there, in here, and outside this building. Gang members are outlaws. They are not our people, whether they be brown, white, or whatever colour they may be, and to make the claim that they are is simply silly and naive.
This legislation brings in a number of measures that are long overdue. The previous Government had 9 years in which to do something about the gang problem in this country, and Mr Hague was correct when he said that for 20 years, or probably 30 years, Governments have talked about being tough on gangs but have never done very much about that. This National-led Government has not even had 12 months in office, and it has done plenty. We have given Wanganui the power to say “No more” to the gangs who terrorise people there by their simple appearance. Again, I say to anyone who is silly and naive enough—and there are some in our party, I have to say—to say gang members are only wearing their clothing, and we should wait until they commit a crime, that he or she should go to Wanganui and review the footage I have seen of a vicious beating that occurred at the local Work and Income office. That beating occurred just because two scum who were wearing different patches happened to encounter each other, and under their ridiculous and deadly code that is what they were obliged to do. Clothing can and does directly lead to violence.
ACT’s “three strikes” policy, as part of the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill, will lock away those who do the greatest harm to society. These people are proud of their actions and proud to be members of the gangs with whom many of them associate. As I said in my speech earlier today, in California the gang problem is very, very much reduced. Anyone who is listening to this debate will recall reading about drive-by shootings in South Los Angeles. We are more likely to read about a drive-by shooting in Palmerston North now, and the reason is that the gang leaders, under the “three strikes” law in California, are all in jail. That is why violent crime there has dropped by 62 percent since 1994.
In an ideal world we would outlaw the gangs. I mentioned in my first reading speech that non-association laws have been passed and enforced in Germany against Fascist parties, and in Ireland against the IRA. But apparently doing that will not work here, because it is against people’s human rights. Forget the victims! It is more important to some members in this House to protect the rights of those whom we could only charitably and theoretically refer to as being human. I will say again, more carefully, what I said outside the House: the human rights that matter to me and to the members of our party are those of victims and potential victims. Those people’s human rights are more important than the right of scum to strut about, whether they be wearing a Mongrel Mob patch, or a laundered patch if they are Hell’s Angels.
In the meantime, if we cannot outlaw the gangs, what we can do is to increase the jail time for these thugs, these outlaws, and keep the victims and potential victims amongst us safer for longer. This legislation doubles the maximum sentence for a conviction for involvement in organised criminal activity, from 5 years to 10 years, and that is long overdue. Why did someone not think of doing that earlier? Well, people did, but it is only now, with a new Government, that it is happening.
Those who say that locking up criminals for longer periods is not the answer should try to tell that to the family of Fitzgerald Risati, the Samoan choirboy I referred to in my second reading speech—and, yes, that is what he was; he was a choirboy—who was killed by Charlie Karaka because he looked like the guy who had stolen his gang patch earlier in the day. Being dumb, in itself, is not a crime, but we are dealing with stupid, dangerous people with idiotic, dangerous customs that often result in senseless outcomes, like the killing of Fitz Risati. Charlie Karaka’s gang, like all the others, has a code that if a member loses the gang patch, that member must find and punish, and if necessary, kill, the guy who took it. It does not matter whether the gang member gets it wrong, as happened in that case. That is why an innocent man, who was out celebrating his 24th birthday, was killed in cold blood.
To think there are some people here who say that the answer is to reason with these people! Gang members are as easy to reason with as the gangs that disguise themselves in nice clothes and hide in nice neighbourhoods, as Mr Cosgrove referred to, peddling P to their customers. The Hell’s Angels are still outlaws, only they look and smell nicer than some other gangs. They still need to be dealt with, not reasoned with.
Some members in this House think that the answer is to fly gang leaders at taxpayers’ expense to a hui, to ask them to please be nicer and stop hurting people, to congratulate them on keeping their heads down a bit, and also to ask them whether they are receiving all of their entitlements from the social welfare system. I say to Dr Sharples that if that approach worked, then Rob Muldoon would have solved the gang problem 25 years ago. What we got from that approach were fences that we could put up for $5,000 today, but that we paid $100,000 for. That is what happened as a result of Rob Muldoon saying we should talk to the Mongrel Mob and Black Power, reason with them, and give them jobs. Mr Muldoon did not solve the problem; instead, it has escalated into a crisis only marginally less significant than the economic one that that gentleman left us with in 1984.
Dr Sharples, whom I respect, and other members must realise that for the P sellers, hurting people is their livelihood. They are not going to just stop doing that. Group hugs will not make them less antisocial; giving them work schemes will not make them less antisocial. Gangs are not legitimate organisations. ACT knows this. The people of New Zealand know this. We are proud to support any legislation that further reinforces that reality.
Finally, I will say again how impressed I was with the eloquent speech made by my colleague to my left, Te Ururoa Flavell. The Māori Party, unless its members have changed their minds in the last hour or so, will vote against the bill. I do not want to go too far into the reasons for that, but it seems to me that the Māori Party members are torn, for cultural reasons, as to just what to do. From the little that I know about Māori culture—and it is a little—I have some understanding of their dilemma. But the Greens have no such excuse. When I came to this place I learnt that the term for them was “Watermelon Greens”—green on the outside, red on the inside. The situation is actually worse than that. The Greens are criminal sympathisers; that is what they are. They have voted against every single law and order bill in this Parliament—every single one. Mr Locke tried to claim the other day that the Greens had opposed a couple of laws because they are opposed to imprisonment as a response to offending. Superficially that is fair enough, and it is not an uncommon view. The problem is that those particular bills did not carry an offence provision providing for imprisonment. So I say “Shame on the Green Party! Shame on the criminal sympathisers!”. ACT is happy to support these bills.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) : Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. Kia ora anō tātou katoa. In order to put my comments in some sort of context I just wanted to advise the House that today is an extremely important day for Aotearoa. For those who do not know, on this day in 1835 He Wakaputanga o Te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni—the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand—was signed. The declaration bears the signature of 52 rangatira and is commonly perceived as the document that demonstrated British recognition of an independent Māori nation. Indeed, that declaration in 1835 has become the symbol for many Māori of an assertion of autonomous rights or mana motuhake.
Within the context of such a profound event, I am pleased to bring to the House a very recent example of mana motuhake as it relates to the legislation from the Gangs and Organised Crime Bill. Late last evening I was sent the resolutions agreed to by consensus at a hui held at Te Rangatahi Marae in Murupara exactly 1 week ago. The hui was held by a community that had had enough of living in fear of the brutal violence and murders that had been going on there. They wanted it to stop. Their key message is that they seek to unite to fight the violence, not the gangs, believing that actually it is the gangs that can stop this violence.
The first recommendation endorses the decision of all iwi at that hui—namely, Ngāti Whare, Tūhoe, Ngāti Haku Patuheuheu, Tūwharetoa, Te Whakatōhea, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, and Ngāti Awa—individually and collectively to publicly endorse the rāhui to ban gang violence in the entire rohe. The other motion read that all who are members of the iwi amongst the Tribesmen and Mongrel Mob will take every step possible to ensure that gang members comply with that rāhui, declare an immediate truce, a ceasefire, and sign up to a peace pact in the presence of the iwi concerned on Rangatahi Marae within the next fortnight.
I raised the concept of the rāhui throughout the Committee stage of the Gangs and Organised Crime Bill, as I think it is an excellent example of communities being empowered to determine their own solutions. I talked about the practical application of this rāhui as it was expressed at a local tangihanga where a number of kuia stood out and placed themselves in the extremely distressing position of preventing their own kin, their own whānau members, from attending a tangi, as a result of a gang confrontation. There is probably nothing more profound in Te Ao Māori than being removed from the process of allowing whānau to grieve at the side of their loved ones and to pay their final respects. That is cutting; it is really hard for that to happen.
We are talking about initiatives with extreme and severe consequences for Māori communities. These are bold and courageous moves and I fully commend those iwi for their initiative in this respect. So how does what is happening in Murupara deal with the types of amendments and proposals being entrenched in law today? I want to say for the record that the Māori Party is proud of our reputation for confronting violence and understanding how best to address these issues of huge moral significance for the development of our communities. I say to Mr Jones that there is no moral ambiguity at all when it comes to issues of lawlessness and injustice, but there is moral ambiguity in the very notion of targeting one group of the population over and above all others, and targeting a range of enforcement tools and penalties to respond to that group.
Our concern has always been about the retributive nature of this legislation, and its narrow focus on gangs, and not the wider context of organised crime, such as corporate fraud and international criminal networks. The Māori Party has continually advocated that there are more effective restorative ways to deal with gangs and their offending than by enforcement, suppression, and imprisonment.
Mr Cosgrove made constant references to meetings with gangs—funny, that! The meeting with my colleague Dr Sharples that was referred to actually builds on approaches that other Governments have introduced from both sides of the House. So let us be clear: everybody has had a turn.
One of the more effective approaches was that taken in 1981. The committee on gangs acknowledged the social causes of gangs with a Community Education Initiative Scheme established in 1981, and the Group Employment Liaison Scheme the following year. The schemes sought to reduce youth gang recruitment through responding positively to the needs of underachieving students who had difficulty moving from school to employment. It also provided children and young people with constructive recreational and sporting activities outside of school. The main goal of the Group Employment Liaison Scheme programme was to encourage disadvantaged groups, including gangs, into various Government-funded schemes.
In 1987, the Committee of Inquiry into Violent Offending concluded that many of the schemes “had positive results in reducing the offending and anti-social behaviour of those who participated in them”. As for the rest of the hostile rhetoric espoused by Mr Cosgrove this morning, that supporting social justice efforts is akin to throwing up the white flag in defeat, perhaps he might benefit from talking with some of his colleagues about their involvement in working with gangs. He might, for instance, talk with Mr Parekura Horomia about the initiative supported under his leadership of the community-led employment group; or to Mr Chauvel, perhaps, about his recent discussions with gang members in Farmer Crescent.
There is nothing wrong with talking with communities and learning from the local people about solutions that work on the ground. This is the heartfelt call from the Māori Party. Rather than simply locking up gangs and throwing away the key, we need to respond on the basis of a long-term goal, rather than of the emotions of short-term hysterics. If we are to invest in the long-term health and well-being of our nation, we need to acknowledge, I say to Mr Cosgrove, that we cannot just kick gangs out of town and lock the city gates. Gang members come from families. They have children, their children have children, and they go to schools. They go down to the shopping centre. So we must have creative courage to think of intergenerational solutions.
We know that different strategies with regard to gangs produce very different results. In essence, there are two schools of thought. One is elimination through enforcement—for example, the Los Angeles approach. The second one is ensuring public safety through gang and community engagement—namely, the New York approach. In Los Angeles, the strategy of suppression and punishment has led to a huge increase in the number of gangs and gang crimes. The policy has resulted in thousands of young people killed in gang conflicts. Billions have been spent on policing and surveillance, and the databases and the long prison terms. Spending on gangs has far outpaced spending on preventive programmes or community development.
What is the great outcome of such a massive enforcement programme? Zip—very little. Los Angeles is home to six times the number of gangs, and at least double the members, while across the United States, in New York City, a strategy of community development, educational attainment, opportunities, and urban renewal has led to a decrease in gangs to a point where the total gang population is estimated to be around 500 people. Investment in job training, mentoring after-school activities, and recreational programmes has made significant dents in gang violence. We are calling for investment in communities to restore balance to the debate, not just to overload the prison cells with yet another punitive approach. We are calling for an even-handed approach to policing and justice, a balance between enforcement and restoration.
Despite the talk in principle, the practice as enforced in this legislation has been the overwhelmingly prioritisation of enforcement. We are too hasty to call for the rule book to slam down laws and enforcement, to punish and to sentence without understanding that the solution might be as simple as a work scheme, or in supporting communities to determine their own approaches, such as that put forward by Murupara.
The Māori Party recognises that one of the keys to dignity and respect and the reduction of reoffending has to do with the right to work. We want to encourage that. Instead of locking away the problem, the Māori Party calls for this House to face its fears—to provide opportunities for communities and individuals to address confrontational behaviour, and to focus on solutions. It would be really helpful, sometimes, if some of the people who talk about gangs and our gang problem could go and talk with those people, go and walk the streets with those people who have to tangi for their mate. Then they would know about some of the issues and have a little bit more of a closer connection.
SANDRA GOUDIE (National—Coromandel) : I am proud to speak to the gangs and organised crime legislation, particularly as the bills go through their last stage before they are enacted. I acknowledge and thank the members of the Law and Order Committee. They worked to progress this bill in a timely manner, and I thank them for their contribution and the work they did in this regard.
The Gangs and Organised Crime Bill—which has now been divided into three bills—is a small bill, but it packs a mighty punch. People throughout the country spoke loud and clear about the need for change and the need to address law and order issues. But, at the same time, we are addressing many of those other issues referred to by the previous speaker, Te Ururoa Flavell. He is quite right—it is a two-pronged approach. This legislation is just one of the steps we are taking to give the police the tools to deal with the current criminal issues in relation to gangs.
National listened, and this legislation is one of the many changes we have made to keep people safe in their homes and on the streets. This legislation is gang-buster legislation, and whether the gangs wear leather jackets, bandanas, or white collars—and I want to emphasis the white-collar aspect; I will make reference to that again shortly—it will deal with gangs across the spectrum.
So what does the legislation do? It is about interception warrants for police, lower thresholds for a specified offence for interception warrants, reduced evidential burden to prove participation in an organised criminal group, increased penalties, removal orders, and criminal association as an aggravating factor at sentencing. These are the tools that are the arsenal of this gang-buster bill. Police need those tools. They need that support.
If we look back in history, we see that we had the bookies in the 1940s and 1950s, we had cannabis in the 1960s and the 1970s, and we also had heroin in the 1970s and the 1980s. Now we have methamphetamine, otherwise known as P. As the face of criminal offending has changed, so too has the face of gangs. Gangs now exist to make money and exert power over others, and that is with several thousand patched gang members and many more associates. Opposing gangs will even get together to further their primary interest—that is, their business interests—for making money and exerting that dominance over others, using violence, fear, and intimidation.
Gangs have shown that they are not above committing murder. Members of the House can tell us firsthand of incidents where gangs have shown that murder is an activity that they are not above indulging in. Gangs can be as innovative and crafty as anyone else. They keep up to speed with technological changes and use those changes to best effect.
There is a growing blurring of the lines between what we all know as gangs—gangs whose members wear hoodies, with leathers, tattoos, bandanas, and the like—and a much a sleeker, well-dressed, business-savvy professional who is fully comfortable in a white collar. Gangs have accountants. They have lawyers. In some cases they even have media advisers. Gangs will partner with legitimate business such as finance, transport, private security, entertainment, real estate, and the like, all the while running their real business of violence, extortion, drug dealing and money-laundering. If people get in the way, they will deal to them, as has been said quite clearly in this House.
Gangs now operate with a new level of sophistication and involvement in communities in order to give the appearance that they are harmless and to show that they are groups with a strong community spirit. Well, other members might like to get lulled into thinking that, but the next minute the gangs will be dealing out the back door to one of their kids. Then what do members say to that? There is nothing they would like more than being able to get our kids hooked on P. That is totally devastating to our communities. We all know how bad that it is, and it could not get any worse. So we have no tolerance of that in terms of what we can do to provide police with the tools to deal to it.
I ask members to consider a gang called the Killer Beez. It has its own hip-hop record label called Colourway Records. What does it do? It makes music videos—recruitment advertisements for gangs, thinly disguised as music videos, that are played on mainstream TV. Do we like that? Do we think that is a good thing? Do we think that is great? They have websites. They use Facebook, and they have branded franchises. This is what gangs today have. They have become a little more sophisticated than what we knew of the gangs in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. They are much more technologically aware than they used to be.
Gangs indulge in violence and intimidation, and in creating their own brand of misery with methamphetamine while they are stuffing their back pockets and their bank balances, and building up their assets. Well, we are going to deal to them through their assets. We will take their assets and their money every time we catch them and convict them for criminal offending. We will use that money to make sure we deal to other gangs for dealing in that same area of criminal activity. That is covered in the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act, which was also a great step in the right direction.
Let us hit them where it hurts, and that is in the pocket. Let us give the police the tools to pick them up. That is what this legislation will do. It will give police the tools to delve further into gangs, and into people associated with gangs, so that they cannot escape that oversight. We have only to look to see how easy it is for gangs to lure our young people. I think that this is where the other actions we have taken, in other portfolios across the whole of the Government, are addressing the concerns raised by the previous speaker, Te Ururoa Flavell.
This legislation, along with many other changes, deals with gangs, as announced by the Prime Minister, John Key, and championed by Judith Collins, the Minister of Police and the Minister of Corrections. We will take gangs’ assets, we will take their money, and we will bust their trade. We could not do anything better than that. This legislation is gang-buster legislation. We will hit them where it hurts—in the pocket.
I am delighted that this legislation about gangs and organised crime is another step in the right direction for dealing to gangs, their associates, and the criminal activity they indulge in, which threatens our communities and our young people and makes life a misery for many, many families. I am delighted to be able to progress this legislation.
CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour) : I am very happy to rise and speak on the Crimes Amendment Bill, the Local Government Amendment Bill, and the Sentencing Amendment Bill (No 3). One thing that has come to light is that, across this House, I do not think that any party would disagree that some of the most insidious crime in our society is perpetuated by gangs and organised crime. I think that is one thing we can all agree on. There are some things that have been raised by other members across the House that I will address. Something we share is wanting to see the crimes committed by those gangs and by organised crime diminish, but I guess our views about how that can happen differ across the House, as do our views on whether this legislation will be effective in helping to do that.
We just heard from Sandra Goudie, who addressed something that was said by Māori Party members. She said that the Government is addressing the issues identified by the Māori Party. I think some of the issues that Māori Party members raised concerned the actual causes of crimes and the reasons why people get involved in gangs in the first place. I do not believe that the National Government is addressing that, and I think that is very serious. It is something that the Government continues to ignore. It is all about punitive measures; it is all about the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. Although we support this legislation, we do not support the narrow focus that the National Government continues to take. At the end of the day there will be victims of the crimes that are committed, but the perpetrators of the crimes will not be stopped from perpetrating them if the Government does not put something in place at the top of the cliff. That is one of the issues that has been raised, and I believe that it is a serious issue, which the National Government needs to address.
Earlier on Mr Garrett basically said that the punitive measures to punish criminals are the most important thing in regard to gaining justice for the victims, and that that is the most important issue. But that is not the most important issue. The most important issue is actually making sure that crimes are not committed in the first place, so that we do not have those victims. Unfortunately, that is something that the ACT Party continues to overlook.
We also had Mr Ardern earlier asking at the beginning of his speech what the previous Labour Government had done for 9 long years. That member knows that the previous Labour Government had legislation similar to this legislation before the Law and Order Committee when this National Government came to power. Had the National Government genuinely wanted to expedite this measure at a faster pace, perhaps even within the period of its 100 days of action, all that the Minister of Justice needed to do was to support Labour’s legislation, and possibly, if the Government had wanted to, amend it. But instead of doing that, for the sake of political point-scoring the Government canned that altogether and started again, so that it could take ownership over all this legislation. At the end of the day, Labour is supportive of the legislation. We already had it in a select committee; it was something that we were already addressing. So for Mr Ardern to say that the previous Labour Government did nothing over the 9 years that it was in Government is absolute rubbish, actually.
One thing we have been discussing that has come up across the course of this very robust debate on this legislation is the types of gangs that we are looking at. The gangs that I am very interested in—because I think that we need to differentiate between some of the gangs and the organised crime that is taking place—are the youth gangs out there. The Labour Government was very good at compiling evidence about things that it wanted to put into place before it decided on the legislation it might put through. A report that I recently looked at was commissioned by the Labour Government and put out by the Ministry of Social Development. It looked at youth gangs. It was a research report called From Wannabes to Youth Offenders: Youth Gangs in Counties Manukau. If we are to understand this issue and put forward legislation that actually works, it is important that we have the evidence base to work from. I find it interesting because there has been much debate over whether those gang members are “our people”, and the horrendous scenarios and situations that those gang members are putting people through. I find what is happening with our youth gangs interesting.
Shane Jones mentioned earlier—and this is one of the reasons why I think it is very important that the House supports this legislation—that one of the purposes of the legislation and one of the things it does is prevent the normalisation of gang culture and gang membership. If we are going to deal with some of the issues that have arisen with our youth who have been getting involved with youth gangs, then we have to prevent the normalisation of gangs by saying that that is not acceptable. When we look at the report that was put out by the Ministry of Social Development, we see that it puts youth gangs into different categories. The wannabes are those who want to be associated with a gang, and who are not really committing much crime, but it is a kind of identity for them to be part of that gang. The “territorial gangs” are those who protect their patch. Often we call them the ABC gangs. I said earlier that sometimes if they live on, for example, Smith Drive, then they would be called something like the Smith Drive Boys. We call them the ABC gangs. Then there are the ones who are entering into the more serious areas, and those are called the “criminal youth gangs”. The issue with the “wannabes” and “territorials” gangs is that most of their members will end up leaving those gangs unscathed, without a criminal record, and with it being a passing phase in their lives. But we can compare being part of a gang to marijuana being a gateway drug, resulting in an avenue to try a harder substance. I think that those gangs are gateway gangs; that is the issue.
Young people start off in a wannabe gang, but some go on to much more criminally minded gangs, or perhaps to the criminal youth gangs. The research shows us that there is an affiliation between the youth gangs and some of the more established gangs. The research shows that the Killer Beez, who are seen as a criminal youth gang, are connected to the Tribesmen; the Black Power Youth are connected to Black Power; the Juvanyle Crip Boys are connected to Black Power; and the Bloods are connected to Black Power, the Mongrel Mob, and the King Cobras. The issue is, as I said before, that we need to prevent the normalisation of gang membership and gang culture. This legislation, to a large extent, does some of that.
Labour supports the legislation; it is something that we were trying to put through ourselves. But this Government decided that the legislation was more about political point-scoring by taking ownership of the legislation and putting out there that it had nothing to do with Labour, and that Labour did nothing for law and order over the previous 9 years. That is the perception that the National Government wants to put out there. It wants to put the perception out there that this side of the House does not care about victims and does not care about law and order. I find that very hard to swallow, because it is very difficult for members on this side to listen to members opposite and hear them say that we have no social conscience whatsoever, that we do not care about law and order, and that we do not care about victims. I say, from this side of the House, that the one thing we all share across this House is that we care about law and order, we care about victims of crime, and we all want to do something to make sure that we can lessen the effects of what is happening, cut down on crimes being committed, and protect ordinary, everyday New Zealanders out there from having some of those crimes committed against them. That is largely what I wanted to talk about.
Labour supports this legislation, but I think it is important that it is noted that Labour was doing something in respect of this matter. It was the National Government that decided to point-score instead of doing anything else. I want to acknowledge that one of the main reasons it is important that we support this bill is that it prevents the normalisation of gang culture and gang membership. As Shane Jones said, it is important for our rangatahi. We know, as Māori and Pacific people, that those getting involved in the youth gangs are Māori and Pacific youth. We want to protect them. We want them to realise that this is not the type of activity that they should be involved in. We want to take the power away from the gangs to recruit those young people, and that is why we support this bill.
JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) : I commend Carmel Sepuloni, the previous speaker, for her comments regarding the commitment not to see the perpetuation of gang culture and not to see gang culture become normalised in our society. Perhaps she has a stronger conviction than her leader, who last year said: “We are targeting not gangs per se but their criminal activities. Anyone in New Zealand has the right to come together in a group and call or label themselves whatever they will—that is not the issue.” I think that the acquiescence that comment suggests is one of the reasons why New Zealanders on 8 November last year decided they wanted to have a National Government. It is not a matter of walking softly amongst these issues; it is a matter of having some very strong convictions about it. We understand that the previous Government was going to do a stocktake on the level of organised criminal activity, but we need to understand that stocktakes do not address the issue where it counts.
We need to understand that in New Zealand we have a war on P—not just a war on P but a war on the perpetuators of that drugged infusion into the minds and lives of New Zealanders, and particularly of young New Zealanders. The Police Association says that the gang environment in New Zealand has changed. Let me read a comment that the Police Association made in its submission to the Law and Order Committee: “The New Zealand gang environment is now much more complex and serious. The ‘old’ face of gangs still exists, especially in provincial and rural areas … But the old gangs are also now engaged in true organised crime. They are dealing higher value drugs such as methamphetamine, and coordinated supply and distribution syndicates have replaced many of the old inter-gang rivalries.” There is a certain amount of cooperation amongst gangs in our society regarding the drug trade, as gangs select, prepare and distribute patches—not those on their backs but geographical areas in our cities that belong to certain groups.
The submission goes on: “Modern gangs are organised with one aim—to make money. Cash flows and illegally-funded lifestyles are now at levels gang members in the 1980s could not even have dreamed of: the methamphetamine trade is currently estimated to be worth up to $1.5 billion a year in New Zealand, of which Association members estimate at least 75% is controlled by gangs. To put that in perspective, that is double the annual value of New Zealand’s entire wine exports.” Wine is a trade in which we are world leaders. What a tragedy that New Zealand is a world leader in the trading of methamphetamine.
The political positions we have heard in the House today are varied. The Green Party reviewed the series of amendments to various Acts and called them window dressing. The Māori Party looked for other solutions. Labour suggested a stocktake on the level of organised crime, although we do appreciate that party’s support for this legislation. We are at war. It is an insidious war; it is clandestine. It destroys the lives of people on the front line, like Sergeant Don Wilkinson. He was a casualty of that war.
National has drawn the line by using legislation to put more power in the hands of police, local authorities, and the judiciary. The solution that we propose is to face up to the issues, and to have the political will and leadership to address those issues strongly in our society. We cannot propose soft options when the people we are dealing with have no respect or regard for any authority, and when they will not engage in reasonableness because their intent is to take our money and to destroy our society. If someone gets in the road of their intentions, as the Hon Shane Jones so well articulated, they will kill that person. This is what we face in our nation.
It is important to realise that many of our communities are terribly inflicted with the plague of criminality that comes through gangs and drugs. One community in Porirua has stated that it has had a serious gang problem since the early 1970s, when the Mongrel Mob and their associates moved into their community and began recruiting support from amongst the youth of the area. How many heartbroken mothers and fathers in our nation have seen their young people, full of potential, ability, dreams, and intelligence, get drawn in by the lure of inclusion and identity, and by the prospect of working through some echelon and coming into some easy money? How many have seen their young people drawn into those gangs? The community in Porirua said that “The gang has established fortified headquarters, which have long been the focal point of rapes, murders, and a vast array of other serious criminal offending. The gang’s central philosophy is a commitment to antisocial and criminal behaviour.” These are not my comments; they are the comments of New Zealanders who have experienced the presence of a gang, with its criminal activity, in their community. They went on to say that the gang “is involved in most of the drug dealing in our community, and it exists as an imminent and ever-present threat to those who live in our city. The significant financial returns gained from crime and drug dealing make it an attractive option for disaffected youth in our community.”
Although we understand the benefit of having law like this legislation in place, it does not address the cause of the problem. But it will make belonging to a gang that is based on criminal activity not only a breach of the law but also increasingly difficult and unattractive, in order to dilute the power of gangs in our communities. The solution that society is looking for is accountability. We want to see responsibility come into people’s choices, so we see today that there will be an increased penalty for associating in a group of people with the intent of committing criminal activity. The sentence time will rise from 5 years to 10 years.
We know there are major issues in New Zealand. We know that over the decades there has been the enculturation of the presence of gangs in New Zealand, but we should never accept that gangs are part of the Kiwi way of life. We must never lose our ground and be intimidated simply by their presence. We know that the issue for many gang members is a lack of education, which leads to failure and causes gang options to become more attractive. We need to address that issue, and to be multi-faceted in all of our attempts to build a healthy and good society. We know that young people search for identity, and that if they are rejected by others they will quickly cling to those who give them some form of affirmation. There is much that needs to be addressed in the parenting of our young people in New Zealand. We know that many members of gangs are victims themselves, who get involved in the perpetuation of further victimisation. Although all these issues are understandable, the outcomes are never acceptable, nor should they be excusable.
As I come to a close, I say that I believe that the National Government has grasped the nettle in having the political courage and leadership to address the hard issues in our society. I commend this legislation to the House.
CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) : The rhetoric is easy, and I can do “hard on crime” just as well as any other member in the House. Gangs are insidious. They prey on people, and they intimidate, bully, and break the law. That is the rhetoric, and I agree with it—I do. I do not have any time for gangs or gang members. But when listening to members opposite, one would think that once the Gangs and Organised Crime Bill is passed, we will all march arm in arm to a happier future and gangs will disappear overnight. The fortifications will go, the gang members will all be locked up, and everything will be wonderful. If it was that easy, it would have happened by now.
Although Government members said that we had 9 years of a Labour Government where nothing happened, I point out that we had 9 years of a National Government before that, 4 years of a Labour Government before that, and 9 years of a National Government before that. If we go back and read what Rob Muldoon said about gangs in the 1970s, we probably would not find that much difference in the rhetoric that came out of the National Party then as comes out of it today. The rhetoric is the easy bit; the solutions are the hard bit. We on the Labour side of the House support this bill, because it gives the police some more powers. But we are realistic. We know that it does not mean gangs will just disappear overnight or that somehow all gang-related crime will vanish, because it will not. Sandra Goudie called it the “Gang-buster Bill”. It is not. It is another set of tools in the arsenal for the police, but it is not a magic bullet or an instant solution.
I will pick up a couple of the comments that Te Ururoa Flavell made. I agreed with quite a lot of what he said in the Committee stage and in his third reading speech. However, there were a few things that I did not agree with him on. I did not agree with him when he said that the gangs were part of the solution to stopping violence. I absolutely disagree with that. The gangs are often the problem. They are not the solution.
Mr Flavell talked about Farmer Crescent in Pōmare, and I am disappointed that Māori Party members have had little to say about the actions of their National Government colleagues there. The Government is not evicting the gang members from their State houses in Pōmare; it is evicting the women and children. That will do nothing to stem the gang-related problems in that community. All that will do is punish the innocent victims. I am surprised that Te Ururoa Flavell raised that matter in this House given the Māori Party’s shameful silence on the actions of the National Government against that community, which will do nothing to stem gang-related problems in that community. All it is doing is picking on the victims. I think that if Māori Party members want to raise that matter in this House, they should at least have the courage of their convictions to stand up and say that they condemn the actions of the National Government.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Eric Roy): The member cannot imply that a member or a party in the House lacks courage.
CHRIS HIPKINS: Thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker.
Coming back to the points I raised earlier in this debate, the Labour Party said at the last election that we would have a commission of inquiry into gangs and sophisticated crime, and I absolutely agree with that. As I have already said, whatever we do, the solutions are not easy. It is the rhetoric that is easy. In order to come up with solutions that work, we need to look at the evidence of what works not only here but also around the world. We need to get people to talk about it. We have one of the highest incarceration rates in the developed world, and this bill increases the number of people who will be locked up and the amount of time they will be locked up for. That may make us all feel better, but we are doing more of the same and that means we will be getting more of the same. We need to take a look at the evidence of what works if we are really serious about cracking down on gang-related crime. We need to go right back to the beginning. We need to go right back to day one, because those gang members were not born wanting to be that way. They were not born gang members and they were not born wanting to be criminals. I ask members what happened along the way that has made them what they are now.
I tell members that if they go to Rimutaka Prison, they will see that 30-plus percent of people there have some sort of gang-related affiliation. I can tell members the common characteristics of people in the Rimutaka Prison. First of all, most of them cannot read and write.
Paul Quinn: That’s why we have a literacy programme going!
CHRIS HIPKINS: They cannot read and write, and I will tell the member what else: most of them come from low socioeconomic areas. The gap between the rich and the poor in New Zealand is continuing to grow—it grew under Labour and it continues to grow under National. If we want to choke off the supply of gang members and gang recruits, then we have to do something about poverty in this country. The fact is that gangs prey on the poor and the desperate, and that is where they get their new members from.
If we want to be really tough about gangs, we need to go back to day one, to when those kids are first born. We need to ask what it is that compels them to get into gangs in the first place. Gang members who are already in the gangs are picking on the easy targets: the poor kids, the kids who cannot read and write, and—yes, tragically—the kids who themselves have been victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. They are the ones who are more likely to end up in gangs, so let us go after that situation as the root cause of the problem. This legislation adds some useful things for the police. It gives them some useful new powers, but it will not solve gang-related crime. If we are really serious about gang-related crime, we need to go back to the cause.
For this legislation to be effective, it needs to be adequately resourced. As my colleague Clayton Cosgrove said, it is all very well to give police extra powers, but when the Government is cutting 340 police cars out of the police force and cutting firearms training, I ask how the police will have the resources or the skills, in the case of firearms training, to adequately deal with these types of issues. The sum of $21 million has been cut from the police budget under National’s “tough-on-crime Budget”. It can pass all the laws it likes, but if it does not give the police the resources to implement them then those laws are pretty meaningless.
It is a contrast to the National Party’s pre-election rhetoric, which was tough on crime. National said it was going to put extra police on the beat and it was going to make sure they were properly resourced, yet in its very first Budget it stripped $21 million out of the police budget. To highlight what that means, in Christchurch, where more than 30 cars have been cut out of the police’s vehicle fleet, the National Government gave the police there four bicycles to replace those 30 cars. In Christchurch, Mr Brownlee’s home town, his Government has taken away 30 police cars and given the police four bicycles. So when the police go round to the gang fortifications to insist that gang members take them down, they will go there on their bicycles. As the gang members get in their cars and speed away, the police will pedal as fast as they possibly can to try to catch the gang members in Mr Brownlee’s home town of Christchurch. I think that is absolutely disgraceful. If the Government is serious about getting tough on crime, it should make sure the police have the resources they need to enforce the laws that it is passing.
Dr CAM CALDER (National) : John Key’s National-led Government is principled, pragmatic, and inclusive. During last year’s election campaign we made promises about what we would do should we be privileged to form the Government. We have that privilege and we are keeping our promises.
- Debate interrupted.
- Sitting suspended from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.