There is a consensus building in favour of a clampdown on gangs in New Zealand, and most of the methods advocated involve the significant erosions of our civil liberties. This conservative consensus involves both parliamentary and non-parliamentary forces, as well as, sadly, 'the left's' Chris Trotter. [Read more below]
First, Maori Party co-leader, Pita Sharples, whipped up anti-gang feeling, and said he wanted to look at all gang insignia being banned, and he threatened to name and shame gangs and their members. Unsurprisingly, National and NZ First are in agreement about the need for some sort of authoritarian action – see Gang patch ban backed by National. NZ First takes a very blunt and crass approach of just wanting to ban gangs. Spokesperson Ron Mark says, ‘I don't care if we have to build another 10 prisons to house them all, that's the only useful place for them’. And while Labour’s Minister of Justice Mark Burton has questioned the feasibility of such actions, he too says that in principle he favours tougher measures.
Political commentators and journalists are getting on board the consensus too – with the usual conservatives outlining their disgust at gangs. It seems that even on the so-called left want gangs dealt to.
Although in Friday’s Dominion Post Chris Trotter lampooned how anti-gang vitriol was just another conservative sideshow (‘those three old favourites of the Pakeha press: Maori, gangs and guns. And so the cries go up: "Ban the gangs!" "Ban their colours!" "Put them on an island!" "Treat them like the terrorists they are!"’) two days later in the Sunday Star-Times he was suddenly saying Ron’s gang solution deserves attention. Trotter’s over-emotional ridiculousness gets the better of him once again: ‘how much difference is there really between an Iraqi mother carrying her baby through a Baghdad marketplace – just before the terrorists’ car bomb goes off; and a Wanganui mum putting her toddler down to sleep on the couch – just before the gangsters’ guns go off?’ Later he again states, ‘I’m just not sure how many more times we can reasonably ask a New Zealand family to clean their little girl’s blood off the living-room couch, before we give Ron Mark’s revolutionary solution a go’.
As to whether Trotter worries about the implications of Mark’s reactionary policy on civil liberties, Trotter makes a strange argument against civil liberties based to the fact that the left has given up on civil rights: ‘And don’t, please, read me a lesson on civil liberties. New Zealanders gave up fighting for those a long time ago’. Trotter's 'left' column alternates weekly with Matthew Hooton's 'right' column, and somehow I suspect that next week we will see Hooton actually advancing a more progressive approach than Trotter. After all, was it merely a subeditors oversight or a freudian slip, that below Trotter's column it states: 'Next week, step left with Matthew Hooton'!