Law and order is back as a key political issue as gang warfare and ram raids in Auckland dominate the headlines.
National accusing the Labour government of being “soft” on crime has grabbed the initiative with its call for a crackdown on gangs and its proposal to give the police fresh powers to deal with them. As a consequence National has gained further ground as Labour slips in the polls to new lows.
Meanwhile Police Minister Poto Williams has looked more and more a weak link in the Labour Cabinet, facing calls by Opposition parties for her to be sacked. She could be top of the list on the soon-to-be-announced Cabinet reshuffle.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has responded by saying the government is “considering” more action to crack down on violent gang behaviour but has dismissed the idea of a ban on wearing gang patches in public.
Police Minister Poto Williams is becoming a liability for the Ardern government, one of several poorly performing ministers (think of David Clark, Kris Faafoi, Phil Twyford).
Williams displayed her quality as Police Minister once more in Parliament this week as she faced questions on law and order. Not surprisingly her performance (or lack of it) is beginning to attract media attention— although those in line for government handouts tend to steer clear of anything that smacks of a sacking.
Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Whangaparāoa) to the Minister of Police: Does she stand by her statement, “I reject the premise that gang tensions have increased under this Government’s watch”; if so, how does she reconcile that with reported police intelligence, which states parts of the country have experienced unprecedented levels of gang violence in the past year?
Hon POTO WILLIAMS (Minister of Police): I stand by the full context of all of my answers at question time. In answer to the member’s second question, gangs have been a feature of New Zealand society for well over half a century. What police intelligence shows us is that the arrival of the 501s in 2015 has fundamentally changed the nature of gangs, making them much more overt and sophisticated. This was responded to at the time by cutting police numbers. That’s why, since 2017, we have funded the largest increase in organised crime staff, deployed 1,400 more cops across the country, and introduced legislation to give police more tools to address gang violence.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Why do gangs have more guns under her watch?
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.
But some of Williams’ replies during the interview raised another issue: who does the Member for Christchurch East represent?
We emailed that question to her office last Wednesday. We have yet to receive a reply.
In the Newstalk ZB interview, Yardley put it to Williams that – along with the Police Commissioner – she was placing far too much stock on the woke radical pressure groups who purport to represent the public pulse on policing issues.
He mentioned lobby groups such as Just Speak, Action Station and People Against Prisons Aotearoa, describing them as
“… a bit like the cycling lobby, highly organised, highly adept at capturing councils, flooding them with submissions, and courting favour.”
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.
We have opened a book, among members of the Point of Order team, on how long it will be before the PM offers to sort out the land dispute at Wellington’s Shelly Bay and (to win the double) how much the settlement will cost taxpayers.
The $500 million Shelly Bay project, led by Cassels, is arguably Wellington’s most-controversial development in living memory due to allegations of the illegal sale of Māori land there, perceptions Wellington City Council bent to the will of Cassels, and concerns the seaside site and road to it can’t handle the intensification.
Mau Whenua was due to appear in the High Court in March in an action aimed at overturning the sale.