Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Prison numbers Government's fault


This Government refuses to take responsibility for our prison population approaching 10,000 and its failures have necessitated a proposed $1 billion expenditure on increasing capacity.

The Prime Minister is claiming that crime numbers are dropping and it is an increase in the severity of crime (especially domestic violence) and tougher sentencing that is causing the problem. John Key blames recreational drugs as a major factor in crime and child poverty, this is clearly disingenuous on his part and deliberate spin to shift responsibility away from his Government. We now have levels of incarceration that place us just below Mexico and make us the 7th worst in the OECD.

The last eight years under a National led Government has seen many lost opportunities and the underfunding of systems and services that could have easily broken the cycles of crime and reduced prison numbers:
When the Government is crowing about a $1.8 budget surplus and is willing to spend $1 billion on new prison beds, I do question their economic credibility and vision. It costs around $100,000 per annum to incarcerate each prisoner and spending a small fraction of that to keep them out of prison must be cost effective. Most prisoners are not a danger to society and many of those who need to be contained to protect others may not have ended up that way with timely interventions. 

Our focus on punishment rather than rehabilitation for offenders who have mental health and addiction issues means the causes of their criminal activities aren't being addressed. When we release prisoners back into the community with limited treatment and support we are not making communities safer. 

I do not believe that New Zealand has a higher percentage of criminals than most other countries and in many ways our systems are needlessly creating criminals and increasing risks to our communities. There are enough examples overseas to show that different models are effective in reducing prison numbers and ensuring that reoffending is less likely to occur. The Netherlands is closing prisons and serious crime is dropping there, the fact that the opposite is happening here is because of poor management not bad luck. 



Friday, October 14, 2016

The Real Cost of Bill's Surplus


The Government revealed a $1.8 billion surplus and hinted at possible tax cuts. The surplus is the product of increased income and limiting spending. Bill English explained how the surplus will "increase options" for the Government but the reality is that it has mostly been achieved by restricting options for too many and delaying important expenditure. Rather than saving money in a useful way the arbitrary limits on spending in crucial areas will result in increasing future costs and unnecessary suffering, the examples are numerous:
So Bill has delivered a budget surplus and future tax cuts are being held like a shining carrot in front of voters ahead of the 2017 elections. Any tax cuts will be paid for through reduced services and the increased suffering. According to Judith Collins the poor are to blame for their circumstances and the rich deserve their privileges (her candid thoughts reveal her government's lack of empathy for our struggling communities). 


Friday, October 7, 2016

Marama's Gaza Protest Justified


Marama Davidson's participation in the Women's Boat to Gaza should be celebrated with some pride in New Zealand. Marama joined twelve other women (including Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire) in a peaceful action of solidarity to support the besieged people of Gaza.

Without protests such as this the plight of the Palestinian people in Gaza and the illegal activity of the Israeli Government can easily be ignored. The 2014 attacks on Gaza destroyed 100,000 Palestinians homes, killed over 2,000 (495 children) and left 900 survivors with permanent disabilities. An attempt by Turkey in 2010 to bring humanitarian support for those in Gaza resulted in an attack by Israeli forces that killed nine Turkish citizens.

Past New Zealand Prime Minister, Geoffrey Palmer, led a UN investigation into the Israeli blockade that found that it had resulted in "collective punishment" and was in "flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law".

Marama's participation in the Freedom Flotilla was a principled decision and a brave one considering the past reactions of the Israeli forces. Given that the blockade has now been in force for almost ten years it is clear that international diplomacy has failed and peaceful protest action is necessary to highlight the realities of the ongoing suffering.

When Marama was captured while still in international waters, and detained by Israeli authorities, I would have expected recognition from our Government for her bravery and immediate condemnation for her detention. The response has been the opposite. The Prime Minister described Marama's detention as "a less-than-perfect look" and Judith Collins described the protest as "a stunt" and suggested that Marama is paid to do a job in New Zealand. Their responses ignored the fact that a vote was put to the House in support of the Women's Boat to Gaza by Catherine Delahunty and it was passed with a clear majority.

This reaction from a Government that has welcomed tax avoiding foreign trusts, blatant money laundering and bribing a Saudi businessman is predictable. Human rights have never been high on John Key's agenda as Prime Minister and his answers to Metiria Turei's questions revealed that he had no intention of making a stand on the biggest human rights issues confronting the world today. New Zealand gained a lot of international respect in the past for human rights advocacy, but no longer. This Government barely pays lip service to human rights treaties we have signed and this is becoming noticeable internationally as we seek trade deals with morally corrupt regimes, do little to meet our climate change targets and ignore growing child poverty.

Thank you, Marama, for your bravery and making me even more proud to be a member of the Green Party.