Dr Michael Bassett

Dr Michael Bassett

< Columns

Labour's Crime Legacy of the Last Three Years


The Labour Government lost the 2023 election when its support halved from 2020. It deserved to lose on economic grounds alone. Covid lockdowns that went beyond the prudent and wrecked livelihoods in the name of saving lives; an orgy of careless spending of borrowed money; and a failure to ensure that the 16,000 extra bureaucrats improved crucial services in meaningful ways; plus sloppily handled infrastructure plans, were all counts against Jacinda Ardern, Grant Robertson and Chris Hipkins.

But this is only part of the case against that government. We are still experiencing aftershocks from the Maorification policy that Nanaia Mahuta and Willie Jackson foisted on the ministry, starting on the day the results of the 2020 election made it clear that Winston Peters' steadying influence was gone from the cabinet table. The He Puapua plan secretly hatched by Mahuta came to light. It aimed at Maori control of New Zealand by 2040. A wave of promoting everything Maori swept across the country at the Beehive's behest. State agencies were renamed with titles dreamt up by the Maori Language Commission; district health boards were dis-established and replaced by a centralised service armed with a Maori veto; bogus, but compulsory, New Zealand history began to be taught in schools, reinforced with grossly misleading aide-memoires for students like the School Journal cartoon presentation on the Treaty of Waitangi. This was sheer propaganda produced by people with an axe to grind and no serious qualifications in history. Both TV One and Radio New Zealand outdid each other in a competition among woke journalists to display their new skills at Te Reo. Bonuses were paid to bureaucrats who could spout Maori that the rest of us couldn't understand. Aotearoa became the country's new name, despite the fact that it was a relatively recent name, and meant for the North Island. The mainstream media swung into gear with The New Zealand Herald banning criticism of the government's Maorification policies from its pages.

Less immediately visible, but extremely important, was the long-term effect that the Maorification policy had on the underclass that decades of easy welfare had produced. Since the Labour Government seemed to be saying that all things Maori were excusable, the justice system went soft. Kelvin Davis as Minister of Corrections emptied more than 30% of offenders out of prisons, arguing they didn't need to be detained. Name suppression and a soft approach to under 18-year-olds became common in the courts. It protected young criminals who are truanting, thus providing a protective cover for their slack parents who aren't looking after their youngsters with the welfare payments they receive to do so. When young hoods come before a judge, "Cultural Reports" are provided to rescue them. Legal aid lawyers are there to plead their cases, and an army of taxpayer-funded social workers is on tap to support them. Meantime, the court system at the highest level has been swept up with Maorification, and has taken to lecturing us on the virtues of tikanga, most of it of recent invention. Nanaia Mahuta and Willie Jackson can't believe their luck. They sowed a wind and we are reaping their whirlwind.

Yet, the Labour Party escapes from the long-term results of their crusade. In the short term they don't need to come up with ideas about turning Maori society around so that law-breaking is no longer an acceptable way of life for so many young people. However, Labour needs to do a lot more work than simply devising new ways to tax the law-abiding segment of society and hoping the public will overlook their shocking dereliction of duty over the last three years. Those wet fish from the Labour caucus who rush to be included in photos with Chippy have a lot of hard work to do before the public can trust them anywhere near the Treasury benches again.

Maorification has to be wound back. We aren't a country of two cultures, but many. Proselytizing the notion that Maori are more than first settlers, and therefore entitled to extra rights and respect, must stop. Education might be a good place to start. As Sir Apirana Ngata always said, it was the key to Maori advancement. And it has to be done in an orderly fashion. Last week's report that Kiwi school students were amongst the worst-behaved kids in the OECD, and that behaviour has significantly worsened over the last two years, is scary. Pinching others' property and inflicting serious physical harm on fellow students, must be punished. Just standing students down from school won't fix anything. Parents need to be held to account, especially since we pay them via the benefits they receive to look after their children. Again, details from schools about young offenders need to be married to the welfare benefits register so that errant parents are made to realise there are material costs if they fail to perform their duties.

Fixing our schools goes way beyond this. More and better-trained teachers are necessary along with security guards at schools. The whole curriculum needs an overhaul. Erica Stanford desperately needs a more enlightened head of her ministry than Iona Holsted who has been at the centre of Maorification and the curriculum stuff-ups of recent years and will only be a drag on any efforts at reform.

There's a huge amount of work to be done. Is the current ministry up to the challenge?