Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Judith Collins thinks Labour were too tough on crime

The past decade has seen a political auction on law and order, with the major political parties competing to pander to an increasingly vicious and bloodthirsty revenge lobby. This has seen sentences rise, bail reduced, and the human rights of prisoners attacked, all so parties could gain the valued moniker of "tough on crime". But those policies have a cost: soaring rates of incarceration means more prisons means more money wasted which could be spent on better things.

Yesterday in the House Corrections Minister Judith Collins was quizzed on this. Her response was startling:

Hon David Parker: Does the Minister take pride or shame in the fact that New Zealand has the second-highest rate of imprisonment in the developed world after the USA, and how will keeping prisoners in containers reduce reoffending rates?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Actually, it is a national disgrace for this country to have the second highest rate of incarceration after the United States. I have to say that it is a bit rich for that member to ever try to say anything about it, because when his party took power there were 5,000 prisoners in our prisons and now there are 8,500. That is the legacy that Phil Goff left us with.

You get that? During its time in office, Labour was too tough on crime. And all that screaming and howling from National and Collins that no matter what the government was doing it was not vicious or punitive enough, did not stick people in jail for long enough, allowed them to be released "too early", and was generally "too soft"? It apparently never happened. Meanwhile, at the same time the government is still trying to lay claim to the "tough on crime" mantle by revoking bail and instituting a draconian "three strikes" regime. But this of course has nothing to do with the staggering rise in projected incarceration rates.

The dishonesty is appalling (so are the contortions required to claim that you are tougher on crime than people you claim were too tough on crime). National had a "tough on crime" policy in opposition, and that policy has continued in government. It should own up to that.

But I forget: National doesn't have policies anymore - it has spin. And if dodging one question in the House means repudiating a decade of consistent policy, then that is what happens. After all, they can always de-repudiate it tomorrow - its not as if the goldfish in the gallery will notice.