John MacDonald: Luxon's table thumping is just vote-catching noise

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Mon, 13 Jun 2022, 1:11pm
Christopher Luxon. (Photo / File)
Christopher Luxon. (Photo / File)

John MacDonald: Luxon's table thumping is just vote-catching noise

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Mon, 13 Jun 2022, 1:11pm

Two big things happened over the weekend. The Crusaders qualified for the Super Rugby Pacific Final and the National Party finally announced a policy.

But what a ham-fisted policy it is, and just goes to show that Christopher Luxon and Nicola Willis’ great “reset” has turned into just the usual barking at passing cars.

The party announced at the weekend that, if it becomes the Government at next year’s election, it will ban gang patches and insignia, stop gang members from gathering and charge people who put gang-related content online.

One of the most depressing aspects of all this is that most of it is nothing new, or original. Just a bunch of ideas nicked from Australia lumped-in with a regurgitation of a failed idea that a former National Party MP tried about 15 years ago.

Chester Borrows was the MP, and he got a law through Parliament that made gang patches illegal in Whanganui. He’s saying today it didn’t achieve anything because it was too difficult to enforce. And it would be exactly the same today.

Do you really believe the police would have time to go on patch patrol? Dream on.

What’s more, in 2011 the High Court ruled that the Whanganui council’s own by-law banning gang patches in public areas was unlawful, invalid and breached the Bill of Rights Act. That was after the Hells Angels asked for a Judicial Review of the by-law.

And then there’s Christopher Luxon’s absolutely ridiculous idea to ban gang members with criminal convictions from speaking to each other. Have you ever heard anything like it?

And as for making it illegal to put gang-related content online. That’s the only original idea and, I’m no expert on this, but if the National Party thinks it’s going to be able to enforce any law to do with online content then it’s dreaming.

Because New Zealand laws only apply in New Zealand, don’t they? We’ve seen that with court suppression orders being ignored online. This would be no different - the gangs would get around it easily by either having connections in other countries post their stuff online or using things like virtual private networks which are based overseas.

It’s just dumb and shows how out-of-touch National is with these things.

So, it’s heading down a dead-end street. And as one of its former MPs is saying today, the policy will get all the big headlines but it will have “negligible impact” on crime. That’s what Chester Borrows is saying - “negligible impact”.

The ACT Party is saying similar things, accusing National of just making policy on the fly. Which of course it is.

There was a gang expert from Queensland talking on Newstalk ZB this morning, and he was saying that, generally, a ban on gang patches would be a good thing because they’re very intimidating and we might feel a little bit safer. And it would work for motorbike gangs like the Comancheros - but it would be a different story with the likes of the Mongrel Mob.

Because as you know, and as I know, a person doesn’t have to be wearing a patch for us to know they’re in the Mob. You see them all over the place dressed head-to-toe in red.

And when you do see them, you know they’re either a member of the Mongrel Mob or they work at The Warehouse. And you can generally tell the difference.

Now I hate gangs. The whole scene totally depresses me. It terrifies me as well. The whole initiation process. The violence. The fact these people see no other way in life. It’s just awful.

But, as far as I’m concerned, there are two courses of action we could take. And neither of them are what Christopher Luxon is talking about.

The first option is to beat the gangs at their own game - and for the Government to legalise all drugs and set up its own production lines. So you’d have government departments making methamphetamine, growing weed…all of the stuff the gangs do. And they’d sell it for much cheaper prices. Undercut the gangs on price and drive them out of the market.

But that’s never going to happen is it? And who in their right mind would want to legalise P? No one. Certainly no political party wanting votes.

So the only other option, is for the likes of the National Party to go further back into its past - and channel its inner Rob Muldoon, who was Prime Minister for three terms from 1975 until 1984.

In his third term - from ‘81 to ‘84 - gang membership in New Zealand dropped. It’s the only time this has happened.

And that’s because Muldoon didn’t crack down on the gangs - like Luxon is talking about. Instead, he got in the tent with the gangs and asked them what would actually make a difference.

And out of that came the Group Employment Liaison Scheme, which helped gang members find meaningful work, and earn money for themselves. It got them on a different path and, as a result, gang membership dropped.

Remember this wasn’t a woke leftie government - this was the National Party that did this. And I think the National Party of today - in fact any party of today - could do something truly meaningful if they took an approach like the one Muldoon took back in the 80s.

Because, since then, it’s all been about trying to shut the gangs down - to suppress them. It hasn’t worked, and why Christopher Luxon and the National Party think it can work now, I’ll never know.

Well, I do know actually. It’s because they think it’s what we want to hear. Well, it’s not what I want to hear. I want to hear ideas that genuinely have a chance of working, not just vote-catching noise.