Thursday, March 31, 2022

Barry Soper: Labour is abusing its absolute power

What's happening to democracy in this country, let alone the promised transparency of this Government?

Labour is abusing its absolute power and it seems those opposing it are powerless to do anything about it because majority rules.

A couple of weeks ago National wanted Police Commissioner Andrew Coster to appear before the Justice Select Committee to answer questions about the three-week occupation of Parliament's grounds by protesters.

The Labour majority of MPs on the committee blocked their request, arguing the Independent Police Conduct Authority was the "appropriate place for the review of police operational activities".

The IPCA this week complained they are overloaded with work. Not surprising considering close to 2000 complaints have been lodged against the police by the protesters.

And by any logical reasoning that's not the body that should be inquiring into the protest anyway.

The request by parliamentary security to the police to remove the first tents erected is unlikely to be covered by the IPCA and neither is the actions of Speaker Trevor Mallard who many believe exacerbated the situation by turning sprinklers on the occupiers and blaring the worst music he could find at them.

And in a democracy, why should MPs be denied the right to question a public official without any good reason?

Certainly, Police Minister Poto Williams wasn't providing any when I spoke to her on her way into the debating chamber.

These things, she said, are taken on a case-by-case basis and she's decided to decline Mark Mitchell's request. Williams says police have been extraordinarily busy over the past few weeks. So, have they told her they are too busy to see Mitchell? Well no, but as their Minister she just knows how busy they've been.

And besides she justified banning Mitchell, claiming Stuart Nash, when he was Labour's police spokesman, was "declined on number occasions" by National from meeting with the Commissioner.

That simply isn't the case, say those in the know. He may have been declined once from visiting the Kaikōura police station during the earthquake there, which is perfectly understandable, but he was never stopped from seeing the commissioner.

It seems Labour's become the gatekeeper for the consensus commissioner, personally appointed by Jacinda Ardern against all odds.

And if featherbedding Andrew Coster isn't bad enough, get a load of what they are doing when it comes to questions being asked about its $1.9 billion spend on mental health which has come under fire from the Government's own Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission.

The majority of Labour MPs on the Health Select Committee have blocked National's attempt to ask questions about the commission's first damning report.

National's mental health spokesman Matt Doocey says it's bizarre. Not long ago they legislated to set up the commission, and now they're blocking MPs to ask questions of it.

Labour MPs apparently didn't think there were any questions to be asked given the commission's report had been made public.

That's not for them to decide, Doocey argues, given that National, Act and the Greens all wanted to quiz the experts.

And of course, he's right.

This goes beyond simply controlling the message. Like they say, power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Barry Soper, the political editor at Newstalk ZB, is one of the country’s most experienced political broadcast journalists.

1 comment:

Sharrylou said...

Good commentary Barry. But democracy died in this country when New Zealand got a PM and a govt it didn't vote for, 2 elections ago. I for one want to know the truth of why this really happened. I also seriously doubt the validity of the outcome of the last election where the swing from National to Labour was eyewateringly unbelievable. When something appears as unbelievable, it usually is. Read into that what you will.But will the truth prevail?