For successive days in Parliament this week National’s Mark Mitchell has been asking Police Minister Poto Williams whether gang violence has increased or decreased under her watch—and whether gang membership has risen in that time.
Adopting a technique favoured by her leader, Williams is apt to say “I reject the premise of that question”.
It’s a neat way of answering without providing the information that has been requested.
Here’s how Hansard recorded the exchange on this point:
Hon Mark Mitchell: Has gang violence increased or decreased under her watch?
Hon POTO WILLIAMS: There is no doubt that violence and gang tensions are a feature of our community and we have to do everything we can to ensure that we deal with that, and we do that by ensuring the police have the resources that they need—a record $450 million increase into their budget. Which I might remind that member, under their Government they froze police funding, which meant there was a drop in police numbers. We are committed to 1,800 further police and we are committed to also further legislative support to ensure that our police can keep our communities as safe as possible.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Point of order?
SPEAKER: I think I can anticipate it, but have a go.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Can I ask the question again, Mr Speaker?
Hon Mark Mitchell: Thank you. Has gang violence increased or decreased under her watch?
Hon POTO WILLIAMS: I reject the premise of that question, because in order to keep our communities safe, we must ensure that our police are resourced to do so. Now, I’d like to remind that member yet again—yet again—that, under National, police numbers dropped because they froze funding. You cannot do more with less, Mr Mitchell. You must make sure your police are resourced to do the job that is in front of them, and that’s what we are doing.
Hon Mark Mitchell: What exactly is the premise that the Minister is rejecting?
Hon POTO WILLIAMS: I reject the premise that gang tensions have increased under this Government’s watch, because we have Operation Tauwhiro, which resulted in a thousand arrests; every week, the organised crime groups are seizing millions of dollars’ worth of cash and assets; they’re making dozens and dozens of arrests. We are supporting the police to do a significant job. Can I remind that member he used to be a police officer and he spends every day in this House disrespecting and diminishing the work of New Zealand police, and I stand by the police every single day against your record.
So, you might wonder, are the police succeeding in controlling the gangs and their more nefarious activities?
Certainly we learned that Williams is steering a record investment her Government has made into increasing police numbers: 1,800, to be exact, 700 of which will be targeted towards organised crime. Already 300 have been recruited and the government is on track to having the dedicated 700 members of that organised crime group by June next year.
And there is the national gang list—an intelligence tool designed to give police a high level understanding of the gang environment. Williams says it was never designed to be an accurate statistical count of gang membership in New Zealand.
But Mitchell—and the public—was left no wiser on whether in fact the gangs have lifted membership by 40% since 2017—and what attracts recruits in such numbers.
And for those New Zealanders wondering what the “premise to the question” which Williams rejected so strenuously could be, perhaps it is the almost daily examples of gang violence being reported on NZ streets?
4 thoughts on “How Poto Williams rejected a premise and denied Nats the data sought about gang membership”
That minister? is completely out of her depth. Can her boss not see that or is that her own incompetence makes her blind to the lack of ability among her ministers?
You have to provide jobs for the boys, and girls, Terry, and the list to draw them from is thin. If competence was a criterion then it’d be a very small Cabinet. But why isn’t she required to actually answer the question?
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Desperately defending a Labour government incapable of managing their individual portfolios. Williams fiddles whist the country burns.