Yes, we are aware of the Maori Party’s aversion to Parliamentary questions from Opposition MPs which aim to flush the PM and her government into the open on their programme of incorporating the “Treaty partnership” in their reform programme.
The Maori Party insists those questions are racist and has pressed the Speaker to rule them out of order.
It has also challenged the Speaker and Parliamentary protocol through expressions of dissent which culminated in one co-leader being ordered from the House for performing a defiant haka and the other walking out to show her support for her colleague.
This has won headlines around the world.
Not bad for an outfit which won 1.2 per cent of the party vote at the 2020 general election.
Māori Party co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi have also won publicity this week by declaring their intent to fight the Government’s proposed laws targeting gangs.
The Government announced earlier this week that it will introduce Firearm Protection Orders to bar “high risk” people from owning, using or accessing firearms in a move targeting gangs and organised crime.
It is also proposing legislation to enable the seizure of assets from people associated with organised crime.
“If it’s targeting gangs, it’s targeting Māori,” Waititi said.
There’s another way of looking at it: if it is targeting gangs, it is targeting criminals or people who are likely to become criminals. This interpretation – presumably – is not so helpful for a party which gets support by giving expression to an “us” and “them” racial divide.
But one matter which did not seem to gain much media attention – if any – was the question Ngarewa-Packer put to Police Minister Poto Williams on Tuesday.
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer: What is the Minister doing to address the fact that the police pull guns on Māori children 3.8 times more than any other ethnicity nationally, and 16 times more in Whanganui—100 percent being Māori?
Hon POTO WILLIAMS: I just want to reiterate that I applaud the work that the police are doing to understand how it is that we have got these disproportionate rates against Māori and Pacific. At the end of the day, we are talking about our whānau and our people. I support the police in looking at how they stop and speak to individuals, and their charging decisions, as part of the broader piece of work that they are doing in terms of institutional and other unconscious bias. This is work that is difficult, but the police are owning up to the fact that there have been decisions and conduct in the past that has not been helpful in this situation, and I support that they are looking at this work.
What’s that all about?
At Point of Order we were particularly troubled that the Minister did not rebut the figures in the question, which raised the disturbing image of police pulling guns on children – their race should be immaterial – more often than we had imagined.
It those figures are correct, we wrote to the Minister, they would buttress the Maori Party’s claim that gun-control measures were likely to have disproportionately bad consequences for Maori.
We asked: does the Minister have statistics on the matter, either to confirm the accuracy of the figures used in the question or to falsify them?
We have received no response.
We also wrote to the Police for relevant data.
In response, we were told to note that if we wished to make an Official Information Act request, we could go to: www.police.govt.nz/oiarequest
We thanked the Police media team for its help and advised them we intended posting an article long before an OIA request would be met. In the absence of information to the contrary, we would reproduce the Maori Party’s statistics.
We noted our view that those were disturbing numbers and asked:
“In what circumstances are the Police pulling guns on any children?”
In response to that email, we received a statement:
Attributable to Inspector Jason Ross, Acting Director: Frontline Capability
Frontline policing is undertaken in a dynamic, unpredictable and occasionally volatile environment, where Police are required to make quick decisions, often with incomplete and sometimes conflicting information, to ensure the safety of all involved.
This includes assessing the known issues and perceived risks, including aggressive and unlawful behaviour, and determining the appropriate tactical option(s) to reduce the risk of harm to all involved.
Police staff do their best to conduct themselves with professionalism and care, to ensure the safety of the community and their own safety.
We police with the consent of the public and Police recognise that use of force is a significant power granted to us.
The use of force is always a last resort.
Police are trained to use the Tactical Options Framework (TOF) to inform their decision-making about use of force.
The TOF guides police to use force that is necessary and proportionate, given all the circumstances known at the time.
During any incident, including those involving minors, our staff are trained to make an appropriate assessment using the TENR risk assessment tool, to determine the appropriate tactical response to the threats and risks being posed to the public and to themselves.
We are left believing the Maori Party are on to something with their concerns about the Police, guns, and children.
We wish them every success in winkling more information out of the Police and their Minister.
We also wish the Opposition well in their efforts to pin down the PM on what she means when she talks of a “Treaty partnership” and the ramifications for our constitutional and governance arrangements of incorporating this partnership (a highly contentious concept) into her government’s policies and programmes.