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Should we be worried?

1 October 2021

The New Zealand parliament has just passed some worrying new counter-terrorism laws.

These laws worry me, not because I'm planning any kind of terrorist activities but because I have seen similar laws grossly abused by government agencies in the past. One only has to ask Kim Dotcom, Niki Hager, the 80+ people "unlawfully" spied on by the GCSB and all those who were held at gunpoint during the Urewera raids about that sort of thing.

Once again we have a situation where, although the goals are laudable, the implementation remains deeply flawed and that leaves each and every one of us exposed to the same sort of incompetence, arrogance and abuses of power we've seen far too many times before.

The biggest problem is that when this power is abused or used inappropriately there is never anyone held accountable and no censure is ever handed out to those who make the bad decisions.

I was watching one of the 1pm news conferences the government has been holding in regards to the Covid situation this week and was hugely chilled when the press asked a question about alleged unlawful actions by the police and Minister Hipkiss responded (at about the 23:12 mark in this video) by saying:

"Ultimately, a question around whether the police themselves are following the rules is a matter for the police and if they're not then that is also a matter for the police"

This "let the police police the police" attitude is what has allowed countless instances of abuse of power to take place in the past and for a government to create new anti-terror powers without adequate checks and balances is unacceptable.

I notice that the Christchurch Mosque attack was cited as one of the reasons why these extraordinary new powers were required by police -- yet wasn't it the police's failure to properly enforce existing laws that allowed the attack to take place in the first instance? As I understand it, police failed to properly carry out the vetting process that is required whenever someone applies for a firearms license in this case and that if the checks had been properly performed no license would have been granted.

These are the problems that occur when, despite the minister's confidence in an obviously flawed system, the fox is placed in charge of the hen-house.

Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not anti-police and 99.9% of the time they do a really good job (and I have the traffic tickets to prove that). What I am worried about is that there are still far too many instances where they (and other agencies) have abused the absolute powers granted to them by the state, without censure.

Even when a higher authority (such as the courts) rule that the police, GCSB, SIS or other agency has broken the law that grants them such massive powers, nobody is ever punished for their wrongdoings. The reality is that a law that is not enforced by way of penalty is not a law at all but simply an advisory.

I'm sorry but as a citizen in what is supposed to be a "free country" I find these latest law changes to be yet another incremental move towards granting the state more totalitarian control over its people.

Perhaps the best way to achieve the goals that were used to justify these new laws would be to properly enforce the ones we already have and for those who carry this awesome power be subject to harsh penalty if they mis-use that power.

Sadly, I fear that this will never happen because the publicly stated goals are not always the *only* goals behind a piece of legislation being passed.

Or have I got this all wrong?

Are you happy with the recent changes that give the state even more power to break your door down if/when they choose to do so?

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