The Government will today introduce a bill to double sentences for those involved in organised crime, but says it has nothing to do with high-profile killings in South Auckland.
Yesterday in Parliament, Prime Minister Helen Clark challenged National leader John Key to support the bill during a heated exchange over the Government's record on law and order.
He cited the murder of Karl Kuchenbecker by Graeme Burton on parole, and the Panmure RSA murders by William Bell on parole.
Helen Clark said parole laws, bail and sentencing laws had been tightened under Labour.
Parole figures showed that prisoners now served 72 per cent of their prison sentence when under the National Government it had been 52 per cent.
Helen Clark said a formal letter had been sent to Mr Key's office seeking his support on the bill.
He was not aware of the letter but said in a speech after question time that National would support the bill because it was already National Party policy.
"Desperate, decaying Governments do desperate, decaying things when they are trying to cover up for failure on their part." He said the Cabinet had approved the bill on July 9 last year.
"The Government had taken a year to drag it out of Cabinet."
Labour was in damage control "and they are so desperate to look as if they have answers, they are trolling through the Cabinet papers to find stuff they thought they might possibly have done".
He also said that Manurewa retailer Navtej Singh, who was shot dead in his liquor store, "deserved protection from a Government that could have done more than just have reviews and interdepartmental working groups".
Justice Minister Phil Goff said that prison numbers were now 70 per cent higher than they were when Labour took office - evidence of tougher sentencing laws.
He attacked Mr Key's speech on Mr Singh, saying they had both spoken at the Sikh temple last weekend and thought there was a bipartisan concern over the crime.
He said Sikhs were appalled at National's response to the killing.
According to the Government, the bill that will be introduced today, the organised Crime (Penalties and Sentencing) Bill, has been gathering dust since August last year with Labour unable to muster a majority among its support parties.
Justice Minister Annette King told the Herald last night that the trigger for the Government's approach to National had not been the killing in Manurewa but National's change in position to support the Criminal Procedures Bill - the bill that scraps pre-trial depositions and allows P trials to be held in the District Court.
"It looks like a random killing by some scumbags that were together but no one suggested it was an organised crime gangland killing," she said.
Former Justice Minister Mark Burton proposed a bill in August last year that would double jail sentences for involvement in a criminal gang from five years to 10 years.
The bill would also make it possible for the police to get interception warrants for investigations into such criminal gang involvement.
The bill was one of the responses to the gang-related drive-by shooting of Jhia Te Tua in Wanganui in May 2007.
Ms King took over the portfolio in October but said last night she could get support only from the Progressives and United Future.