You shouldn’t be able to steal cake and eat it too – but maybe the Treaty says otherwise

"But you haven't given enough weight to my Treaty rights?"

“But you haven’t given enough weight to my Treaty rights?”

Someone by name of Narelle Henson can’t yet celebrate. Nor can Alf’s mates, who share her opposition to the notion that jailbirds should be able to vote in general elections.

Narelle Henson expressed her views in an article in the Waikato Times under the heading You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

She was unsympathetic with the case brought by Arthur Taylor, a bloke she reckoned had broken the law 150 times who was appealing to the law for the opportunity to choose the lawmakers.

Taylor and six other inmates hope to stop the general election, on the grounds the banning of their voting went against the Bill of Rights and the Treaty of Waitangi.

Narelle thinks this is preposterous.

It’s like a comedy. Why on earth does he care who makes laws? If his past is anything to go by he won’t be a huge fan of keeping the laws his chosen politicians make anyway.

That, really, is the core problem he has, poor bloke. An argument about rights always sounds so soulless when one refuses to uphold the responsibilities that go with them. Arthur wants cake when he has already eaten it.

The very simple way for him to have the right to vote would be to stay out of jail, she pointed out.

Then he could vote to his heart’s content. No-one would get in the way of his “fundamental freedoms”, by virtue of the fact he wasn’t getting in the way of theirs. After all, that is what committing a crime boils down to; stealing rights from our fellow citizens.

We steal their right to life when we murder, we steal their right to own property when we take things not lawfully ours, we steal their right to the truth when we commit fraud. Having stolen the rights of his fellow citizens, Arthur wants more. That’s just greedy.

If Narelle had turned up in the Eketahuna Club last night, Alf’s mates would have given her a big hurrah and shouted her drinks for the rest of the night.

As it happens, Taylor lost his case in the High Court yesterday, although he found a judge with great sympathy for his pleadings.

On Wednesday prison litigant Arthur Taylor told the High Court at Auckland a 2010 law preventing all prisoners from voting was inconsistent with the Bill of Rights.

Previously only prisoners serving more than three years were banned from voting.

Taylor and the other inmate applicants asked for an interim order preserving prisoners’ right to vote at the upcoming election on September 20.

In her judgment on Friday, Justice Rebecca Ellis said she couldn’t grant Taylor the right to vote, but noted there was “considerable and considered support” for his position.

She set out criticisms of the bill at length – including criticism at the time from the Attorney-General that it was contrary to the Bill of Rights – to make it clear Taylor was not “some vexatious voice in the wilderness on this issue”.

But the law was clear, she acknowledged. It couldn’t have an alternate meaning that was consistent with the Bill of Rights, the Treaty of Waitangi or relevant international obligations.

“However constitutionally objectionable [the law] might be, parliament has (for now) spoken.

“The court is unable to intervene.”

But Taylor is a stubborn bugger and wants to urgently appeal the decision to uphold the law banning prisoners from voting.

Narelle and Alf’s mates should not therefore rule out the prospect that he and his fellow jailbirds will finish up with a decision in their favour.

They can be expected to make much for of the most powerful weapon in their litigious arsenal – the Treaty of Waitangi.

The prisoners told the High Court the law breaches their rights and affects Maori representation in Parliament because Maori make up 51 percent of the prison population.

The inmates’ lawyer, Richard Francois, said removing more than 5000 Maori voters from the electoral roll went against the Treaty of Waitangi.

Readers will note that removing thousands of non-Maori voters from the electoral law did not seem to have come into considerations.

This emphasises that Maori are our indigenous people and therefore are entitled to special treatment.

We all have rights. But some have more rights than others.

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