Could someone do us a favour and arrange for the nettlesome Kim Workman to be banged up in one of our jails for a while – preferably a very long while.
The bugger popped up on Morning Report this morning, doing a serious mischief to Alf’s digestion by promoting prisoners’ rights with some highly unpalatable ideas about voting in general elections.
Among other things, he wants to invoke the Treaty of Waitangi – apparently to secure more votes for lefties.
Radio NZ reported his antics here, saying:
A law and order lobby group hopes the High Court will hear a claim that denying Maori inmates the right to vote is a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The Rethinking Crime and Punishment group is supporting the claim of inmate Arthur Taylor, who wants to take the argument to the High Court.
It says a 2010 law denying prisoners the right to vote was found by the Attorney-General to be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights, but its impact on the Treaty wasn’t considered.
The group’s director, Kim Workman, said Maori were extended all the rights and privileges of British subjects, which could make voting a Treaty right.
He said Maori were six times more likely than non-Maori to end up in prison, and therefore six times more likely to be deprived of the right to vote.
According to Workman, the High Court has to decide whether it has jurisdiction over the legislation.
Good luck with that.
We learn a bit more about this carry-on from the Rethinking Crime and Punishment blog, according to a media statement from the molly-coddling mob put out the other day.
Here we will find a discussion of ‘Prison lawyer’ Arthur Taylor’s claim to the High Court that the legislation denying prisoners the right to vote is not only a breach of the Bill of Rights, but of Article Three of the Treaty of Waitangi.
This suggests the fellow who came up with the idea of dragging the Treaty into considerations may well be a felon.
Let’s see what sort of a discussion this has triggered.
Kim Workman points out that at the time the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010, the Attorney General had already advised Parliament that the legislation was unjustifiably inconsistent with the electoral rights affirmed by s 12 of the Bill of Rights Act. There was however, no consideration of its impact on Article Three of the Treaty of Waitangi, which extends to Maori all the rights and privileges of British Subjects.
So which rights and privileges are our incarcerated indigenous brothers and sisters being denied that are not being denied to non-Maori inmates?
Workman goes on:
“By denying prisoners the right to vote, Maori prisoners are not only also denied the right to vote, but are disproportionately disadvantaged. Maori are six times more likely than non-Maori to end up in prison, and therefore six times more likely to be deprived of the right to vote.”
Umm – no.
Every inmate has denied him or herself the right to vote by being a bad bugger and breaking the law.
So what does Workman argue next?
“Maori are imprisoned at a rate of around 700 per 100,000, just under the general imprisonment rate in the USA. When imprisonment rates of an ethnic group reach that level, then the law operates to shift inequality into the political process, causing the disproportionate denial of the right to vote to Maori, and to a lesser extent Pacific peoples.
“The outcome is that at the next general election about 4,300 Maori will be denied the right to vote. Given that we have a Maori Electoral Roll, seven Maori electoraties, and two parties with direct appeal to Maori voters, this restriction could impact on the election results. In the Taitokerau Maori seat, which covers Northland and West Auckland, there will be a close call between Internet- Mana’s Hone Harawira and the Labour Party’s Kelvin Davis. Around 22% of Maori in prison identify as coming from Ngapuhi and Te Taitokerau, and a one-quarter of all Maori live in the Auckland region.
“It is possible that the government’s decision to deny Maori prisoners voting rights, could swing the result in either direction. If that happens, it could lead to legal proceedings about the lawfulness of the result, given that a significant number of Maori voters have been denied a treaty right.
“We can but hope that the High Court finds a way of making a determination in this matter; hopefully before the election.”
So why they are busting their asses to have things done in a hurry.
Clearly, because they want lots more votes for lefties.
All this disproportionate disadvantage pap is a different matter.
One thing we happen to know besides the comparatively high incarceration rates of indigenous persons is that fewer indigenous persons bother to vote than non-indigenous persons.
Jack Vowles, an academic sort of bloke, wrote a lofty tome peppered with tables of data in which he said:
For a long time Maori electorates have had much lower turnout than general
electorates: Figure 6 indicates that in 2011 all else equal Maori electorate turnout was
12 points lower than general electorate turnout, even after having controlled for other
social structural variables, age, and electorate competitiveness. An alternative
variable representing primary identity as Maori did not have such large effects: low
Maori turnout is mainly a feature of the Maori electorates
The calibre of the candidates on offer might have something to do with it.
There may be lots of other reasons.
But in the upshot, we must ask if all this legal stuff about voters’ rights and the Treaty is being done to enable Maori prisoners to do something they are disinclined to do on the outside – vote – or is it being done as a tiresome exercise to make some point of principle.
And what is that point of principle?
That our indigenous persons are entitled to the same rights as non-indiegnous persons?
Or do they want special rights?
Prisoners entitled to vote at general elections including referendums are provided the opportunity to vote.
The Corrections Department spells out the eligibility criteria:
Prisoners entitled to vote must be registered as electors.
Prisoners on remand (not sentenced) are entitled to vote.
Prisoners sentenced before 16 December 2010 to imprisonment are entitled to vote unless they are:
* not a New Zealand citizen
* not a permanent resident
* serving a sentence of life imprisonment
* serving a sentence of preventive detention
* serving a sentence of imprisonment of three (3) years or more
* detained in a hospital under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 or in a secure facility under the Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care and Rehabilitation) Act 2003.
Prisoners sentenced to imprisonment on or after 16 December 2010 are not entitled to vote.
Can you spot a colour bar of some sort in there?
No. The Grumbles can’t, either.
But maybe we should be looking beyond these shores for guidance, because Taylor claims Article Three of the Treaty of Waitangi extends to Maori all the rights and privileges of British subjects.
Let’s check out these rights and privileges.
Convicted prisoners in the UK are banned from voting on the basis that they have forfeited that right by breaking the law and going to jail.
Successive governments have wanted to maintain that position although the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said a blanket ban on prisoners voting was disproportionate.
Not so long ago the BBC reported:
The Supreme Court has dismissed appeals from two prisoners over the right to vote under European Union rules.
Convicted murderers Peter Chester and George McGeoch had argued that EU law gave them a right to vote – even though they cannot under British law.
Prime Minister David Cameron told the Commons that the ruling was “a great victory for common sense”.
Alf does enjoy victories for common sense.