Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Greens should not support tyranny

Last week, the government introduced an odious bill to allow it to apply "control orders" - effectively a bail regime - on suspected terrorists entering New Zealand, without the need for prosecution or evidence. But National refused to support it (because, naturally, it wasn't tyrannical enough), meaning the bill looked doomed. But now the Greens have ridden to the government's rescue, and agreed to support it in exchange for "concessions":

The Green Party has negotiated important civil liberties changes in the proposed Terrorism Suppression Bill which will now establish human rights and process safeguards.

“We’ve ensured that foreign convictions and deportations won’t be accepted without proper scrutiny and we’ve ended the use of secret evidence without an advocate,” said Golriz Ghahraman, Green Party spokesperson for Justice.

“We’ve been clear from the start about our key concerns. Our position in Government has allowed us to negotiate and get agreement from the Minister. We’re now comfortable voting for the Bill at first reading while we continue work to improve it as it progresses.

Essentially, Labour threatened to back down to National, and the Greens obediently rolled over and wagged their tail in order to stop the bill form being worse. But firstly, this isn't a matter of better or worse, but of right and wrong, and a law which allows punishment without prosecution, punishment on a civil standard of proof, or the use of secret "evidence", even with a "special advocate", is fundamentally wrong and unjust, and something the Greens should never support. It violates fundamental international human rights standards, and again, that is something the Greens should never support. Because the great lesson of the "war on terror" is that if you allow human rights to be eroded in the name of "security", you suddenly find them being eroded across the board. It is the Greens' job to stand against that erosion and make a principled argument for human rights. If arsehole parties pass bad legislation, then that's on them. But if the Greens compromise to enable that to happen, it makes it so much harder to repeal it later.

(At this stage I should point out that the Greens' "concession" of a special advocate is a) exactly the same system which was rejected by the UK supreme court in 2009 as fundamentally unjust, effectively overturning their control order regime as security agencies were unwilling to have their "evidence" scrutinised in public where people could laugh at it; and b) liable to be shortly overturned by the government's planned legislation to allow secret evidence in all trials, so not a "concession" at all. And again, if the Law Commission believe they are acceptable, then so much the worse for the Law Commission).

Secondly, we've been here before. Back in 2005, the Greens supported the Prisoners’ and Victims’ Claims Act for identical reasons, in exchange for "concessions". I supported that compromise at the time, and I was a fool to do so, because those concessions were all swiftly overturned the moment the government could get the numbers. The Greens should not allow themselves to be fooled again.