Why Rodney should never say never

A Bill empowering the Wanganui District Council to make by-laws banning Black Power, the Mongrel Mob, Hell’s Angels and other gangs from designated places such as the central business district and parks was introduced into parliament a year ago.

It started off as a local bill, promoted by Chester Borrows, and last night it was enacted.

Fines of up to $2000 (peanuts for mob members) can be imposed for breaches.

That’s peanuts for mob members, maybe. But as a tough law and order bloke, Alf supported the measure.

Actually, he kind of favours stripping gang members of all their clobber and making the buggers go naked. It’s not easy trying to hide your guns, knives and so on up your bare backside.

Nudity would knock ’em down to size, moreover.

But Alf enjoys a good debate and was impressed by the eloquence of some of its opponents.

He was especially impressed by – Guess Who – when he got up to say during the first reading:

I am so pleased that Mr Chester Borrows has relieved me of the obligation of voting for this shocking Wanganui District Council (Prohibition of Gang Insignia) Bill. I said that the ACT party would vote for the bill to go to a select committee. We could never vote for its third reading, but I thought the debate would be useful. But now Labour, in a fit of “election-itis”, is voting for the bill. So I have been to see Mr Borrows, who has kindly said I can vote against it, which I feel so much better about.

This bill is right up there with the “Let’s Get Rid of Spray Cans in Manukau Bill” for all the same reasons. It does not address anything like the problem we confront with gangs. It will not work. The promoter of the bill knows that it will not work. Members of Labour and New Zealand First, who are voting for the bill, know that it will not work. If they had any courage of their convictions that this bill will work, they would make it nationwide so that patches could not be worn from Kaitāia to Bluff.

We have the absurdity that, supposedly, gang members can wear their patches everywhere in New Zealand, bar Wanganui, and that somehow that is good lawmaking.

I think the bill should be renamed the “Let’s Elect Chester to Be the MP for Wanganui Bill”, because that is its purpose. It is about a member standing up for his local constituents, but actually Parliament should be bigger than that.

Yep. That was Rodney Hide in full cry in the House a year ago.

He portrayed himself – essentially – as a principled libertarian.

Let us cut to the principles, and I want the National Party to think about principles. National members stood up and huffed and puffed about free speech for MPs, and spoke about that being a fundamental right. Yet suddenly one cannot wear something on one’s T-shirt.

That is a point I would like to take up with Ron Mark, who talked about people going off to fight for our freedom. Well, freedom is not what the majority says. Freedom is about the individual, and the measure of a free society is how we move to protect the minority from the majority.

If the majority thinks that people wearing glasses should be locked up, that is not freedom or democracy; if the majority thinks that people of a certain colour should be treated differently because they are a minority, that is not freedom. Freedom is actually about protecting the rights of each and every one of us. The law should be about that.

The concern that we have about gangs is not about what they wear; it is about what they do. Our concern is when they intimidate us, threaten us, and beat us—and not just gangs or those wearing a patch do that. We have all manner of intimidation and threats to our property from all sorts of people.

That is what we should be attending to in upholding our law.

So where was Rodney Hide last night?

Right here in Parliament, giving his support to the Bill’s passage into law.

It was passed by 62 votes to 59 only after three Act MPs – Hide, David Garrett and John Boscawen – reversed their earlier opposition.

Gang patches and other insignia will be banned in Wanganui after a law giving police the power to arrest, seize and fine wearers was passed in Parliament last night.

The measure is a New Zealand first, and other areas with gang problems were last night considering seeking their own versions of it.

Hide says he changed his mind after Act MP David Garrett visited Wanganui this week and was assured by local police that it would be enforced and have an effect.

He also said – as you will learn from the Otago Daily Times – that he knew his vote was crucial.

He remained a libertarian and believed in personal freedoms but that did not mean people could intimidate each other.

“The wearing of a patch on your jacket is intimidation of law-abiding citizens,” he decided.

“I am prepared to give the good people of Wanganui the opportunity to make a law so that they can choose how they want to live, and the police can enforce it, and they can live free from the intimidation and fear that they have been suffering.
“They have my vote.”

The ODT gives us a hint of what influenced his change of mind.

When ACT voted for the bill’s second reading Mr Hide told a TV show he wanted to promote goodwill with National, hoping the Government would support his party’s three strikes bill.

His colleagues, Sir Roger Douglas and Heather Roy, stuck to their libertarian guns and opposed it.

Good for them. Politicians who don’t swap principles in mid-debate are a rarity.

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