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Thursday, September 28, 2006

PRISON BLOG 22


The Command Principle

When was the last time anyone in NZ resigned their office on a matter of principle, or refused an order because it was illegal, unconstitutional or unethical? I can think of public official whose jobs were terminated one way or another or golden parachuted to safety etc. but I can’t recall a resignation on principle. Surprisingly, counter-intuitively it’s the politicians themselves that display acts of principle: Tariana Turia quitting Labour the most recent example (Matt Rata before her).

The Judiciary are insulated in legislation and makes rulings contrary to the government’s position all the time without any overt personal moves against them. Oh sure, Cullen (the Attorney-General) can criticize their independence but nothing more than authoritarian rhetoric – at the moment).

There have been “whistle-blowers”, those who leak information, a vast array of incompetent, over-paid officials who have eventually been found to resign only after they have been afforded the dignity of an exit package and an unwarranted positive testimonial. Embarrassments like Judge Beattie (found “not guilty” while his co-accused judge pleaded guilty) can be shifted sideways to anonymous postings (Accident Compensation Appeals Authority in Beattie’s case), but someone speaking up at all, let alone being punished? I just can’t say I’ve heard of that, except at the relatively low-level like Corrections Dept. staff member Jossie Bullock or nurse Neil Pugmine who were dealt with by their employers for their going public on issues that alarmed them.

I raise the issue of the seemingly systematic timidity of public officials because of the petition I wrote to the Governor-General imploring her to refuse assent, or at least delay assent, to the Foreshore & Seabed Bill in 2004. She signed it while on holiday immediately after it was couriered to her before seeing the petitions. Now for her to have even delayed the signing would have been a constitutional crisis of sorts, but the circumstances certainly justified it. On lower order issues one would think the ability and justifications for stands on principle would occur far more often. Apparently not.

It could be argued that officials do what they can within the rules and their battles are unsung, but I’m not convinced. As the movie Judgment at Nuremburg illustrated even those Germans who were used as prosecution witnesses had often gone along with the Nazis to an unacceptable stage of active collaboration.

Nixon wanted to fire the special investigator delving into the Watergate affair and instructed his Attorney-General to do so. Because it was constitutionally improper he refused and Nixon sacked him. Within hours he brought in the new Attorney-General and asked the same of him – he also refused – and Nixon then instantly fired him. Then he finally found one who would fire the investigator. I fear that in the NZ system, that is to say the Westminster/Crown system, he would have been sacked first go with not even so much as an argument and probably scant media scrutiny too.
So I watch the current Prime Minister’[s criticism and that of the Attorney-General (he’s not a lawyer) of the Auditor-General with expectancy. He has had the temerity to publicly rebuke the ruling Labour Party’s fraudulent election spending. Not that he’s alone in this of course, they had had warnings from many electoral authorities over it before it happened. Under the aegis of the State Services Commission he is safe…for now.

I recall though the flip-side of the “whistle-blowers” – the government’s little helpers (why else would they – apart from ideology and partnership?). I’m thinking here specifically of the former Solicitor-General, Terence Arnold, the principle head-kicker for prosecuting Opposition M.P’s (and humiliated in front of the Supreme Court with the watery evidence against Ahmed Zaoui) who was earlier this year elevated to the Justice of the High Court and Appeal Court. What appears to the outside observer as Mugabesque political persecution has apparently been repaid with a judicial role. I’m particularly alarmed and not confident that Arnold is appropriate because my Appeal is set to go before that court in the near future. What will someone with an authoritarian track record make of sedition?

The close knit nature of NZ’s legal fraternity (or should that be sorority?) as well as the other elites poses crucial questions of independence and objectivity as no-one wants to damage their careers by upsetting the cozy arrangements. Indeed, combined with the rigid power structures and command oriented institutional history, I wonder if they could even identify what principles are worth having let alone be capable of defending them.

DON’T FORGET Tim’s Book and magazine collection for the Prison Library, please send your books and magazines to:
Tim Selwyn
Librarian/Unit 8
Hawkes Bay Prison
Private Bag 1600
Napier, NZ


Tim Selwyn (Editor of Tumeke!)
PRN 60477981
Hawkes Bay Prison
Currently appealing sedition conviction

7 Comments:

At 28/9/06 7:17 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually you may find there are many who have lost everything for/because of integrity and thinking of others.

Thing is Tim you don’t care and never hear about them. They don't generally make good news, they are not sexy and interesting like you, so you never hear about them

Government departments know nobody cares so they can quietly and relentlessly persecute, ruin and destroy anyone stupid enough to think anyone cares about justice. They get a lot of fun as they see their innocent targets sink further into despair.

This inevitable outcome for the decent acts as a good warning to anyone else who considers doing the right thing - like telling the truth, standing up for decency, working by the rule book and reporting those who don't.

Never, ever take on ‘city hall’ its just not worth it.

 
At 28/9/06 7:24 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh I forgot - as well as being ruined the honest and decent have the added pain of seeing the guilty promoted and their persecutors and abusers prosper.

Don’t know how your will to live is Tim, the fact is if you killed yourself all hell would break loose – hold the front page. When the innocent die nobody notices or cares and coroners rules conveniently forbid the reporting of suicides of the innocent.

 
At 29/9/06 3:03 pm, Anonymous THE REAL PRESIDENT said...

FEAR NOT GOOD BUDDY AS A COPY OF HAAMI PIRIPI'S INFLAMMATORY COMMENT'S ABOUT "CIVIL WAR" IN SLACK'S BOOK,AND A COPY OF BRASH'S OREWA RAVING'S LIKE NO FULL BLOODED MAORI'S LEFT ANYMORE,GO ASK WILLIE JACKSON I SAY ON RADIO-LIVE TALK-BACK BUT ANYWAY I DIGRESS.IT IS IN THE FAST-POST TO HAWKES BAY PRISON AS I SAW YOUR APPEAL FOR SOMETHING GOOD TO READ ON THE BACK PAGE OF FRIDAY'S NZ HERALD OLD MATE SO TAKE CARE AND HANG IN THERE "MR.SELWYN" AS ALL THE REGULAR CALLER'S AROUND THE MOTU WANT TO "TAITOKU YOUR KORERO" MATEY!

 
At 30/9/06 11:03 am, Blogger peterquixote said...

tim,
would be good if you could
more closely edit TUMEKE
it is appearing single minded and extremist even if much of what bomber says is true,
i will bring up books and things that are allowable when i visit you,
please respond take time to consider what you need there, and let me know, because i will just get it,
pq

 
At 30/9/06 12:03 pm, Anonymous Lydia said...

Here is a question not too many people ask... How many articles is there in Te Tiriti, The Treaty of Waitangi.

I always thought that there were four, so why does New Zealand Tourism and Government Agencies state three?

Must be my mistake considering my great grandfather signed the Treaty
of Waitangi on the 6th February 1840 with his birth given name.

Corruption in New Zealand starts with a western culture and belief of power and control and who really cares what the truth is as long as your identity is white and not maori.

 
At 30/9/06 12:23 pm, Anonymous deano said...

Good point to open your blog Tim- there seems to be no-one of honour in NZ politics these days. If you do something wrong, you don't fall on your sword, rather you deny it, or try to cover it up, or instead go on the offensive and fling monkey shit at those who brought up your failings.

 
At 5/10/06 2:39 pm, Blogger bomber said...

...
Amen Lydia

 

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