Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: Official reports open up NZ to 'banana republic' allegations

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Tame Iti makes his way from his marae to speak to media in Ruatoki in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. Photo / NZ Herald
Tame Iti makes his way from his marae to speak to media in Ruatoki in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. Photo / NZ Herald

Several official reports out this week raise questions about the integrity of public life in New Zealand. The latest is the report on the raids in the Ureweras and elsewhere in 2007, which has resulted in embarrassment for a number of people and institutions.

The most thorough coverage of the report's release is in Mike Watson's Urewera police actions 'unlawful, unreasonable'. But the partisan reaction to the report is more interesting, and much of that can be found in Kate Chapman's Key felt he was 'totally safe' on Ruatoki trip.

Police Minister Anne Tolley has stressed that the report gives the Police a pass on many of their actions and decisions, and she has pointed out that the raids did relate to 'serious crimes' and, in fact, led to convictions. Prime Minister John Key has also been downplaying the report, and the chances of compensation for those wronged by the Police. See also, David Farrar's account - IPCA report on Operation 8.

What about Labour, the party that was actually in Government at the time and presided over the raids? Its response isn't much louder than National's, focusing on a call for the Government to implement the report's recommendations and for the Police to change their manual.

Tame Iti has said that he still holds Helen Clark responsible for the outcome of the raids.

The Greens have been more damning, suggesting that 'racial discrimination played a part in the raids'. David Farrar responds to this with the blogpost, Greens see racism everywhere. Greens spokesperson David Clendon also says that the report shows 'a need for an urgent and dramatic overhaul of police culture'.

The Maori Party, unsurprisingly, is angry about the report. Te Ururoa Flavell is particularly unsatisfied with the Government's response: 'It's a weird day in a democracy when a report into Operation Eight identifies police actions that were contrary to law, unjustified and unreasonable, and the grand remedy is to amend the police manual'. Flavell says the problem isn't just the Police, but the whole justice system, which needs a comprehensive review - see Newswire's Maori Party: IPCA recommendations too weak.

At the more radical end of the spectrum, the Mana Party is even more outraged, and is calling for 'heads to roll' - see Isaac Davison's Police got off over raids - Maori MPs. Hone Harawira says that police commissioner Peter Marshall should go, and that former Labour Police Minister Annette King should resign from Parliament. Deputy leader Annette Sykes is suggesting the establishment of a 'compensation commission'.

The issue of compensation - along with calls for further apologies - have become the focus of the debate. This is best outlined in the Herald's Urewera raids report: Commissioner apologises. The Police stance is that it should in fact be the convicted activists apologising: 'Marshall has apologised for mistakes made during the Urewera raids but says those arrested and convicted should also consider saying sorry for the stress it caused to the community'. He has said that 'If it hadn't been for Tame Iti and his band of colleagues ... we would not have gone there'. The Police Association vice-president Luke Shadbolt has also gone on the offensive: 'What we have never heard ... is any explanation from those who were apparently practising guerrilla tactics with firearms and molotov cocktails at their military-style training camps, as to what they were training for'.

There will be many who deem the Police's apologies inadequate. For example, today's Herald editorial says, 'Commissioner Peter Marshall's casual apology, qualified and defensive, does not sound sufficient' - see: Raids report offers lessons for the future. The Dominion Post is also scathing of the policy in its editorial, Travesty of justice not unnoticed, but it too wants an explanation from the political activists: 'Now that the IPCA has finally reported its findings, only one question remains: Just what were they up to in the Ureweras?'

Instead of an explanation or apology, one of those convicted is front-footing by calling for a semi-separate state for Tuhoe. Emily Bailey says that 'indigenous reservations' could be established in New Zealand, which she likens to those in Canada and the United States, not the bantustans of apartheid South Africa - see Leighton Keith's Activist calls for creation of Maori reserves. And for a satirical take on the police report, see Ben Uffindell's Civilian blogpost, Urewera report unable to reconcile idea that police can break law.

The other major report 'out' this week was that by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, who has officially 'cleared' the GCSB of acting unlawfully. The most interesting commentary on this comes from Matthew Hooton who says the report should be thrown in the bin, and that it's findings are an 'outrageous piece of spin from a judicial officer' - see: Labour, Greens right on GCSB report. In contrast, Hooton gives praise to the Independent Police Conduct Authority for it's Urewera report.

The main problem of the 'independent' GCSB report is that it hasn't actually been released to the public and questions remain about the adequacy of the person carrying out the evaluation - see Katie Bradford-Crozier's GCSB conflict of interest for Inspector General. For this reason, blogger No Right Turn has strongly criticised the report in his post, Unsurprising, and Grant Robertson continues to call for an independent inquiry while challenging the logic of the Inspector General - see: "Arguably" Bulls**t.

Scott Yorke uses this logic in a request for advice about a crime he's considering - see: Some advice, please. And John Minto nicely contextualises the report in his short history of the whole saga - see: The GCSB - where life imitates comedy. But for a more approving take on report, see David Farrar's Inspector-General finds GCSB did not break the law.

A theme of suppressed reports is emerging at the moment, which has led the Waikato Times to declare that 'The Government is fast exposing a distasteful authoritarian streak, by keeping official reports and advice under wraps - hiding them from the country's elected representatives in Parliament' - see Reports kept under wraps. On The Standard there is an intelligent discussion of whether we still have the rule of law in New Zealand - see Michael Valley's The rule of law.

Much of this relates to Andrew Geddis' recently publicised concerns about the Government's abrogation of the Constitution, which he's reprised in a number of newspaper columns - see: We owe it to ourselves to be outraged. Also voicing outrage is the Herald with Disability bill demonstrates contempt for due process, Brian Rudman with Law protecting Government, not disabled, and Gordon Campbell with On the government's trampling on the rights of family carers.

So with the Government allegedly trampling over the rights of citizens, what role have other institutions played in upholding the integrity of the system? Chris Trotter has very usefully evaluated the role of the parliamentary opposition and press gallery, and found those institutions wanting - see: Poisoned Legacy: Why is the News Media and the Left so bad at defending our freedoms?.

Other recent important or interesting items include the following:

Jim Bolger was prime minister of arguably one of the most radically rightwing governments ever seen in New Zealand. Yet in recent years his politics appear to have shifted substantially, and he can be heard railing against inequality, unfair trade, the excesses of capitalism, the monarchy, and so forth. He was at it again recently at the US-NZ Partnership Forum, much to the disapproval of Audrey Young - see: Wrong audience for Bolger tirade. For another in-depth discussion about his changing views, you can listen to Chris Laidlaw's fascinating 48-minute Radio NZ interview with Jim Bolger.

Another controversial view was put forward at the Washington event - 20-year-old Kiwa Huata told the assembled elite that free trade deals raised some difficult questions and it was 'bullshit' to describe opponents as 'wreakers' - see Tracy Watkins' Dissenter raises trade deal questions. See also, Watkins' It's all good, just don't mention the nukes, for details of New Zealand's closer relationship with the US. And for an evaluation of which politicians have been the best foreign negotiators, see Ken Ross' Key not making US-NZ ties.

New Zealand's role in international affairs - and conflicts - is being discussed in a number of forums at the moment. Bob Jones says New Zealand shouldn't be wasting our money on a military - see: NZ should abolish its armed forces. Various academics are discussing where and when New Zealand should intervene in conflicts - see Radio NZ's NZ advised to contribute more to UN missions. The answer, according to one socialist, is 'never', and that New Zealand is doing the work of the US in our backyard - see John Braddock's New Zealand to increase military presence in South Pacific. And The Civilian's Ben Uffindell reports satirically on Murray McCully's latest meeting with the US Secretary of State - see John Kerry asks New Zealand to 'stay put, don't touch anything'.

The partial privatisation of Mighty River Power hasn't gone so well according to John Armstrong in Tepid float frustrating for National's plans. Vernon Small also looks at what else National could privatise - see: A dearth of election-year sweeties.

Solid Energy's financial woes are plain to see, but not that long ago it had plans to boost the economy by up to $100bn, increasing GDP by 40%, and create 7000 more jobs - see Don Elder's grandiose Solid Energy plans. The political debate now is about whether or not the National Government had to turn down a request for financing this dream - see Adam Bennett and Claire Trevett's Key's $1b request claim in doubt.

Are religious groups going to use charter schools to teach creationism? The PPTA has released a list of those wanting to set up such schools, and the desire of at least one group to do this- see Talia Shadwell's PPTA outs charter school hopefuls. No Right Turn condemns this in his post, Charter schools = quack schools, but David Farrar argues strongly that it's a beat-up - see: PPTA outs a group that hasn't even applied.

The question of state and church is also being discussed in terms of tax-free charities - see, for example, the Daily Blog's Tax the hell out of religion. Geordie Hooft adds some additional facts to the debate in Charity label is misleading.

Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta has recently raised some important issues about mothers and babies in Parliament. But was it all a cynical stunt? See David Farrar's More on babies in Parliament and the Dominion Post's Left holding the baby in parliament.

Highly restrictive smoking laws have claimed a life, according to Eric Crampton - see: If it saves only one life... oops..

The future of New Zealand politics - and the past - lies in the centre of the political spectrum. But according to UMR pollster, Stephen Mills It's not easy in the centre. He insightfully outlines the situation and the problems. Of particular interest is the polling data that shows 40% of New Zealanders see themselves in the middle.

Finally, Twitter and social media have a lot to answer for - see Chris Keall's Sleepgate: Finlayson's side of the story, Clare Curran's I made a mistake, Joshua Drummond's The Brighter Future: Is it really that bright?, and Kate Shuttleworth's Conservative Party leader blames hacker for offensive tweet.

- NZ Herald

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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