Thursday, August 6, 2009

Three strikes

Three times over the past three weeks cabinet ministers,
including the Prime Minister, have publicly rebuked
citizens who expressed views uncongenial to the
Government. First, when Chief Justice Sian Elias made
some suggestions for relieving prison overcrowding,
Justice Minister Simon Power bluntly told her to stay out
of politics and concentrate on administering the law.
Then, when two women criticised Social Development
Minister Paula Bennett for cutting a training allowance
designed to help people off the dpb, Bennett released
privileged information about their incomes in a clear
attempt to embarrass them and shut them up. And now
John Key, apparently irked by the celebrity media
campaign to get New Zealand’s carbon emissions
reduced by 40% over the next 10 years, has told one of
the celebrities, actress Keisha Castle-Hughes: ‘Stick to
acting.’ No more calls, please: I think we have a trend
here, and it's running in the opposite direction to free
speech. The message from this government is ‘Shut up
and support us.’ Seems that living in a democracy—
wouldn't you just know it?—doesn’t entitle any old body
to enter into debates of concern to us all. Like, you know,
justice, work, income, the ecology of the planet.

Quite where Simon Power was coming from I don’t know,
as he’s not without a few good ideas for penal reform, but
expecting the country's chief judge not to discuss crime
and justice policy matters in general terms is a mark of
political immaturity. Bennett’s retort was sneaky and
shameful, end of story; and as for Key, where does he get off
making such a patronizing remark? Imagine if Joanna
Lumley, in her (ultimately triumphant) campaign to win
Nepalese Gurkhas the right to settle in Britain, had been
told at the outset by Gordon Brown: 'Stick to acting.'

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Denis
I have lost my diary which contains your address for Saturday. Is it possible for you to contact me again? Margaret