Shane Jones - Taken for a ride on a political hell on wheels

The Prime Minister was recently snapped reading a book written by Sir Ranulph Fiennes on Sir Ernest Shackleton. Both are towering figures in exploration and near-death experiences and, I would have thought, required political reading given the quicksilver character of the electoral mood.

This paperback has an interesting hype line; “To write about hell, it helps if you have been there.” This is a sentiment sure to resonate with Kiwi retailers as their solvency crumbles with each ram raid aggression. The Government seems powerless or too distracted to arrest this destructive current.

Preparing for the annual Labour Party conference, Jacinda Ardern should remind her caucus that the primary role of a government is to uphold and protect the life of its citizens. Can she honestly say that she has delivered on this?

Obviously not if you come into the orbit of Oranga Tamariki., given a child dies every five weeks in our community as a result of family violence. Considering the accent placed on child poverty when Labour was elected in 2017, this is a harrowing state of affairs.

Is there a deep flaw in the model of professional practice? Given the fatalities and maiming, perhaps we have arrived at the point where staff at Oranga Tamariki should face prosecution for manslaughter? The precedent is easily found in the 2019 case of three police officers in Hawera charged with negligence over the death of a vulnerable person in their custody. Such a daunting prospect may galvanise action.

Oranga Tamariki leadership, including the politicians, seem impervious to the gravity of their situation. A litany of failures according to the Ombudsman lies at the root of the death of five-year-old Malachi Subecz. This case sounds similar to the reasoning behind the charges laid against the Taranaki police officers.

Much is made of the Oranga Tamariki legislation, with lots of Treaty exhortations and iwi partnership stimulants but road to hell is paved with good intentions. Lose sight of that and you have the hideous outcome where the Hawke’s Bay couple were recently jailed for the hell they visited upon their child.

What will Labour Ministers say to their conference about law and order failures such as the torment of retailers? Powerless in the face of revelling ram raiders who trash with impunity. Police are forced to observe from a safe distance, unable to pursue and apprehend; a display of impotence guaranteed to deepen the feral smash-and-grab culture.

If Labour’s Māori caucus had its priorities right it would have the boss front up bearing an anti-crime red-hot poker. A pointed comeback to uphold basic safety and security. After all, the public is numb to the churn of offenders appearing in court only to carry on with their crimes. Like Oranga Tamariki victims, a massive number of these juvenile hoods are Māori.

The Instagram fame of TikTok ram raiders needs to be met with a flintlock. It is obvious that social interaction plays a critical role in juvenile behaviour. If they want fame, then name and shame. Marae-based justice may work after all.

It is unfathomable that repeat offenders continue incognito. The rash of ram raids makes us all victims. Too much of Labour’s decolonisation thinking defends the perpetrators as the victims.

Wretchedly, some of these offenders are very young and impressionable but the sooner they and their families learn the consequences, the better off the community will be. Many of these wannabes need to be handed over to watchkeepers and controlled, sans TikTok, until they develop respect for themselves and the community.

The National Party has reprised social investment as the blueprint for dealing with at-risk families. They would be better off talking to every school principal who would tell them which households are vulnerable. Sadly these dens of dysfunction respect only force.

Various agencies should be funnelled through a single portal. Such approaches are already in play but they need to be reinforced by sanctions. Rights without obligations spawn a Lord of the Flies culture.

Sadly, a code of responsibility is not high on the Labour Party agenda. Rather, our jaunty Justice Minister prefers to faff about over hate speech legislation. This is a device to sterilise public language and is certainly not conducive to free speech and democracy.

The ministerial segue into censoring language in New Zealand is a distraction; a political gemstone to be flashed at international events favoured by the Prime Minister. But law and order outcomes should be driven by domestic priorities.

Policing has changed and certain crimes are de-prioritised. Property crime hardly gets a mention. Who mandated this change? No wonder police are frustrated. A reset is in order.

Can we blame Covid for cohorts of juvenile offenders and, if so, what difference does it make? How many of their families actually want them to transition away from crime?

Rehabilitation is the conjoined twin of responsibility. Kiwis pride themselves as practical people and Wellington’s working parties need to deliver results on the ground.

The Bill of Rights is an important feature of our constitutional architecture but more fundamental is the bedrock that requires its citizens to embrace duties before entitlements.

Ministers need to read the room, embroiling us in a redundant exercise over political censorship will not make retailers, vulnerable children, or the community safe from drugs, violence and thievery.