Against “courageous corruption” as Crown policy

datePosted on 12:40, May 14th, 2012 by Lew

It should come as no surprise that I disagree with Chris Trotter’s latest piece about the Urewera raids. Don’t get me wrong — I think his assessment of the operational capability New Zealand police and intelligence services are correct. Their actions were strategically and tactically flawed, and they seemed to hold unrealistic expectations of the task they were undertaking. But some of the judgements Chris wraps around this argument are troubling to say the very least.

Not all of them. Some are fine: we need a competent security and intelligence apparatus, and the lack is something that should be rectified. Some are nonsense: a sophisticated left-wing propaganda network (where have they been these past two electoral terms?) and sleeper cells of “sympathetic journalists” (presumably not those who are shills for the corporate élite?). Some are merely distasteful. Others, however, are downright frightening, and the worst of these is the notion that the Crown should not be bound by its own laws when prosecuting dissident citizens.

Also lacking were the reliable media “assets” so highly prized by the British security services. Individuals to whom key elements of the Crown’s case … Where, for example, was the Crown’s equivalent of Wikileaks? Clearly no one was prepared to play the role of Private Bradley Manning by dumping all the evidence denied to the Prosecution on a suitably insulated and legally untouchable website.

Let’s not forget that some of this actually happened. Elements of the Crown case actually were leaked to the public, and some suppressed material was published in daily newspapers and was the subject of (unsuccessful) contempt proceedings.* Other elements, having been retrospectively ruled in by a court despite having been collected unlawfully, were used throughout the trial to create a prejudicial atmosphere around the trial.

Given those events, the argument here is essentially that the Crown didn’t leak enough evidence; didn’t act ruthlessly enough and was too heavily burdened with scruples to secure a “right” outcome. The call for an officer of the Crown to wilfully breach the very laws they have sworn to uphold, in the name of their own individual assessment of a complex situation, is extremely concerning. Having failed to conduct their evidence-gathering operations lawfully, and having failed to persuade a judge that, in spite of that, there was still a sufficient reason to admit all the evidence, the argument here is that the Crown should have taken an extrajudicial Mulligan.

When I started writing it this piece was considerably more personalised to Chris, and how his post seems to provide final proof of his degeneration from idealistic radical to authoritarian establishment curmudgeon. The reference in the title is to his now-infamous declaration that Labour’s breach of electoral law during the 2005 election campaign was justified inasmuch as it prevented a terrible counterfactual — a National government led by Don Brash — from coming to pass. I disagree with that argument on the grounds that the integrity of the democratic system as a whole is of greater importance than any particular electoral outcome, and I disagree with his argument regarding the Urewera 4 for the same reasons: the integrity of the justice system is of greater importance than the outcome of any given case.** But I don’t want to dwell on the personal; rather than trading extensive cannonades with Chris (again), I think there’s more value in covering my reasons for holding these views in principle, leaving aside the specific merits (on which we’re never going to agree), or whether I support the principals in either case.***

The first and most obvious argument against this sort of extra-legal recourse is: be careful what you wish for. If you want the Crown to leak, to cultivate sources in the media whom they can trust to run their propaganda for them, and to resort to whatever other means they might need to secure what you think is a “right” outcome, you’d better hope you always agree with them. If you don’t, eventually you’ll find yourself on the wrong end of it. The danger of this for the ideological left in Aotearoa should need little elaboration: almost all the authoritarian cards and most of the ruthlessness in playing them are in the hands of the various factions of the ideological right, and they are constrained more by norms of conduct and the need to appear to be less ruthless than they are than by black-letter law or constitutional barriers. These norms are quite robust, but they essentially all operate on the honour system: they persist because people observe them. If you break the law in the name of the rule of law, you erode the rule of law. If you destroy the village to save the village, you still destroy the village.

This leads into the second point: changing norms of Crown conduct, or what we might call “authoritarian sclerosis”. Norms that constrain what a government, the Crown or its agents may acceptably do are becoming more lax, and have been since shortly after 9/11, when the Terrorism Suppression Act that gave rise to the current farce was hastily passed. In the past two parliamentary terms this has continued to accelerate, partly as a consequence of hysteria around — and blurring of — activism and terrorism more generally. The government, by leave of an increasingly punitive and paranoid populace, can now impose disproportionate punishment on certain offenders via the “three strikes” regime, and indefinite “civil” detention of certain offenders. The infiltration of the security and intelligence apparatus into harmless activist groups such as those that agitate for animal rights has been well-documented in recent years. It has gotten to this point despite the fact that (Urewera case aside) the two most significant threats to our national security in the past decade have been an Algerian theologist who now makes kebabs in a food hall on Karangahape Road, and three Catholic pacifists with agricultural implements. The government can now amend or suspend almost any law or enact almost any measure it likes, with immediate effect and without meaningful judicial oversight, in the service of rebuilding Christchurch. There are laws on the books that shift the burden of proof of innocence for some types of copyright infringement from the accuser to the alleged offender. On US urging, the New Zealand police recently undertook expensive, unprecedented and legally risky operations against a foreign national who had apparently committed no serious crimes against New Zealand law, and it now seems increasingly unlikely that the case will amount to anything. The government may now spend beneficiaries’ money for them. They are are moving to require DPB mothers (and their daughters!) to use long-term birth control, and to force them to work when their youngest is just one year old. The latest proposal is to force beneficiaries to vaccinate their children, in violation of the fundamental right to refuse medical treatment. These latter policies of authoritarian sclerosis disproportionately affect Māori, who are already disproportionately impacted by the state’s historical use of its power via colonialism. I could go on, but you get the point: the door to the police state is not yet open, but it is creaking ajar. Those who benefit from opening it do not need agents of the left nudging that door wider for them, but they will gratefully accept it if some are willing to do so.

This is all bad enough in itself, but as well as eroding the norms of what is acceptable, authoritarian sclerosis makes it more difficult to erect robust black-letter or constitutional safeguards against undue exercise of power by the state over its citizens, making it more likely that the norms which are being undermined are all we will be able to rely on in future. Again: be careful what you wish for.

Perhaps more important than all of that, though, is the incentive that the Mulligan creates within the organs of the Crown responsible for implementing the policies outlined above. If you make excuses for underperforming or incompetent agencies, if you cut senior officials slack when they or their subordinates fail to discharge their duties adequately, when they bring into question the good standing of their departments; if you seek to tailor laws and regulations to them rather than requiring them to work within the existing bounds of proper conduct, then you produce agencies which are dependent on special pleading and special treatment. When you select against competence, independence, resourcefulness and strategic thinking by allowing “right-thinking” loyalty and patronage to thrive, you breed pampered inbred poodles reliant on favour from political masters, rather than vigilant, independent watchdogs of civil society.

Multiple layers of dysfunction contributed to the Crown’s failure to convict on substantive charges in the Urewera 4 case. They started with the drafting of the Terrorism Suppression Act, which Solicitor-General David Collins declared “unnecessarily complex, incoherent, and as a result almost impossible to apply”. Court interpretations giving the police permission to undertake surveillance operations that were later ruled illegal also contributed. Police culture and operational capability, and a lack of both strategic and tactical awareness also contributed strongly, and Crown Law’s failure to make best use of the meagre evidence that derived from those preceding actions was merely the last in a long chain of failures.

If you want to make a system stronger, the solution is to genuinely strengthen it, making it better, by having those agencies take their lumps and learn their lessons, by punishing failure and rewarding success; by staffing it with better people, better trained and with greater strategic vision. I want an intelligence/security and police apparatus and a justice system good enough that it doesn’t need to be oppressive to be effective. One that I can trust to keep society safe, and to not persecute me while doing so. That can’t happen if we erect a scaffold of legal or extra-legal privilege beneath the sagging edifice, pretend there’s nothing wrong, and call it a win. It didn’t work for the investment banks, and it can’t work here.

L

* Chief High Court Judge Randerson and Justice Gendall found that the publication had not “caused a real risk” of prejudice, so fair enough. But they also stated that “The breaches of suppression orders and the unlawful conduct of a major news organisation and a senior newspaper editor should have resulted in their prosecution” by the Police, and that the court was “at a loss to understand why these breaches were not prosecuted.” While they raised the point that the penalties for such breaches are risibly small, it’s also hard to avoid the conclusion that the Police were simply reluctant to punish actions that might have helped their case.

** In principle, there is a time for extrajudicial action, for exercise of the reserve powers or of the almost-limitless authority of the sovereign parliament, or for rebellion by the people. Desperate times may call for such measures. These are not such times.

*** For the record: Of course, I did not support the 2005 National party. I am satisfied with the Urewera 4 verdicts since they accord with what I know about the case, though I also would not have been averse to a retrial and an opportunity for them to clear their names more forcefully.

42 Responses to “Against “courageous corruption” as Crown policy”

  1. Russell Brown on May 14th, 2012 at 13:14

    Let’s not forget that this actually happened. Elements of the Crown case actually were leaked to the public, and some were published in daily newspapers and were the subject of (unsuccessful) contempt proceedings.*

    It bears noting that those two events were not the same. The Dom Post in particular appeared to accept heavily-spun leaks from the police from the day of the raids onward.

    But the actual leak to the public was of a copy of the police affidavit held by defendant Jamie Lockett. Lockett’s lawyer made a complaint to the Solicitor-General about the Dom Post’s publication of its contents, but only subsequently learned it had been posted on the internet. It remains a reasonable guess that Lockett himself was the source of the leak. The affidavit itself is widely available online.

    And of course, Vince Siemer, supposedly a friend of some of the defendants (well, Valerie Morse, anyway) has just lost his appeal against a contempt conviction for publishing Justice Winkelmann’s suppressed decision on a judge-only trial for the defendants.

    So it’s all a bit of a mess. I think your main point is correct, but can’t help but feel that the publication of the affidavit in some orderly way would contribute to understanding of the case.

  2. Graeme Edgeler on May 14th, 2012 at 13:21

    Court interpretations of this act giving the police permission to undertake surveillance operations that were later ruled illegal also contributed.

    No warrant was ever sought under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

    The judicial officer (I assume court registrar, but I don’t know that I’ve seen confirmation it wasn’t a justice of the peace) who granted the search warrants, which were ordinary search warrants of the type granted in dozens of cases daily, would not really have looked at what the Terrorism Suppression Act would involve in great detail.

    The only court decision ever recognising the power of police to use a search warrant to conduct surveillance involving a trespass was the Court of Appeal decision, which was sandwiched between High Court and Supreme Court decisions which stated this was wrong. None of these decisions had anything to do with the Terrorism Suppression Act either.

  3. Tiger Mountain on May 14th, 2012 at 13:49

    republished from what I said on Bowalley Rd… and I realise Lew, Russell and Graeme are making way more serious systemic/procedural points than my opinions,

    …The SIS from a distance does appear well populated by ‘Jonny English’ types and the well worn ‘pie and Penthouse’ bungler legacy. I mean how about the Waihopai dome incident. Three god botherers with scythes temporarily bring part of Echelon down?

    Did anyone with any sense of history at NZ Police really think they could form up on “Cullen’s Line” at Ruatoki and get away with it?

    That aside I maintain the only thing the U Four might be convicted of is behaving like prize dicks. The argument that the inefficiency of those charged with protecting this country could have serious consequences in future might cut more ice if the multiplicity of spook squads went into the South Island and cleaned out a few of the camo clad white supremacists who charge about with weapons in the bush.

  4. Chris Trotter on May 14th, 2012 at 13:57

    Salus populi suprema lex.

    (The safety of the people shall be the highest law.)

    - Cicero

  5. helenalex on May 14th, 2012 at 14:22

    As I understand it, there are no plans to compell DPB mothers or their daughters to use long-term contraception; it is just being made available for free. Although this still has disturbing eugenic overtones, it’s not the same thing at all.

    Strongly agree with you about everything else though.

  6. Lew on May 14th, 2012 at 17:31

    Russell and Graeme,

    Thank you for the corrections; right on both counts. I’ve made minor changes to the text to accommodate them.

    Russell, I also agree that a means by which more of the evidence might have been made legitimately available to the wider public could have helped matters. But I don’t see a way through this.

    Chris,

    Of course the safety of the people is paramount, but that’s not at issue. At issue is: are the people safest when protected by agents that are transparent and clearly accountable, with limited but carefully-constructed powers that they use wisely, or by agents that are unaccountable, beyond the laws they claim to uphold, and unable to wisely use the very extensive powers already afforded them?

    And I think what’s really at issue here is your implicit definition of who “the people” are; apparently they don’t include radicals or activists any more. As I say, careful what you wish for. If the Crown follows your advice, it’s only a matter of time before they come for something you do care about — unions, for example.

    helenalex,

    There is a distinction between “use contraception” and “use contraception or you’ll be forced to seek work when your kid turns 1″, but both are coercive. I would like to believe that it’s merely contraception being made available for free, but I think given this government’s prior form that’s a pretty optimistic position.

    L

  7. Pablo on May 14th, 2012 at 17:33

    Graeme:

    If what you say is true then Lew’s point is even stronger. The general belief is that the Police got permission to use the TSA to obtain the surveillance evidence, and that the High Court allowed a fair bit of that evidence to be presented even though the SG decided to rule out prosecution on TSA charges. Winkelmann’s decision on the matter supposedly says as much (I have not read it but have been briefed).

    Chris: Do not yet your loyalty cloud your judgement, and by all means do not cover your reasoning with quotes from an authoritarian classicist, whether in translation or not.

  8. Hugh on May 14th, 2012 at 17:50

    Poor Chris, he’s going to have to wear that “courageous corruption” albatross around his neck for a long time to come.

    Not that I really feel sorry for him, nobody forced him to write it.

  9. NeilM on May 14th, 2012 at 23:05

    They are are moving to require DPB mothers (and their daughters!) to use long-term birth control

    only if you believe that State subsidised abortion “requires” women to have abortions. Quite a few conservatives think that way.

    The latest proposal is to force beneficiaries to vaccinate their children, in violation of the fundamental right to refuse medical treatment.

    it’s the children who have the treatment, not the parents but the children do not give consent, the parents do. the issue is one of where the parents are not acting in the best interests of their children by not vaccinating their children.

    Surely the State has an obligation to consider the health of children even if, and inded especially when, that goes against the wishes of the parents.

  10. NeilM on May 14th, 2012 at 23:19

    just to make that clearer, if there is some sort of violation, it is not of the right to refuse treatment but of the right of parents to have absolute authority over their children.

    which is no doubt why Tariana opposed the contraception measure.

  11. Graeme Edgeler on May 14th, 2012 at 23:41

    If what you say is true then Lew’s point is even stronger. The general belief is that the Police got permission to use the TSA to obtain the surveillance evidence, and that the High Court allowed a fair bit of that evidence to be presented even though the SG decided to rule out prosecution on TSA charges.

    It shouldn’t be. Feel free to read a couple of posts I put up on Public Address shortly after the raids:

    http://publicaddress.net/speaker/not-quite-what-you-may-think/
    http://publicaddress.net/speaker/pt-2-terrorism-charges-whats-involved/

    A simple point to note: unlike the anti-terrorism legislation of some other countries, the Terrorism Suppression Act contains no investigative or detention powers.

  12. John on May 15th, 2012 at 07:41

    The police used regular search warrants when they went to place the cameras. Furthermore on at least on occasion the police lied about the reason for the search warrant. For example on one occasion the police said that the warrant was for a scene examination after one of the camps, however a warrant had already been granted for this purpose and a full examination had been carried out. Instead the sole purpose of this new warrant was to place surveillance cameras. The defence argued that the police new that they did not have authority to place the cameras and for that reason lied on the application.

    On other occasions search warrants were granted based on GPS co-ordinates and no aerial photography, address or other reference point was provided. These GPS co-ordinates covered very large areas of Te Urewera and allowed the police incredible freedom in their fishing expedition.

    I sat through most of depositions for operation 8 and some subsequent hearings. I was often shocked by how lax and inappropriate police behavior seemed. My opinion is that police had formed a picture of what was going on based on a subjective interpretation of vast amounts of surveillance data. I believe that the police truly expected to uncover a trove of damning material upon termination (ie the raids). When they did not find anything like they were expecting they continued with the story rather than backing down.

    I still have no idea what the camps were about but to be honest they scare me, even playing around with dreams of violent guerrila warfare should raise serious concerns.

  13. Lew on May 15th, 2012 at 07:45

    Neil, way to pick on the most trivial, transient point. See my response to helenalex re the first. And re the second, of course kids don’t consent personally; their parents do for them. That’s still a basic right. And even if vaccination is in the best medical interests of every child, enforcing it still has authoritarian overtones.

    L

  14. NeilM on May 15th, 2012 at 08:24

    the most trivial, transient point.

    I don’t think the issues are trivial and you used them as evidence for your argument.

    And even if vaccination is in the best medical interests of every child, enforcing it still has authoritarian overtones.

    so does fluridation according to some.

    But as for the Urewera case, personally, if any of those involved had shown the slightest indication that they had second thoughts about what they were doing then I’d say the police might have over-reacted.

    But they didn’t which indicates to me a serious level of group delusional thinking combined with a high level of self-righteous certainty. They were practicing armed combat and one of those invloved was well known to want to have a gun fight with the police.

    But if you believe there are right wing groups doing similar then I think you should take that information to the police and/or media.

  15. Lew on May 15th, 2012 at 08:38

    Neil,

    Not trivial in general; trivial inasmuch as they form a small part of a long list of topics that are tangential to the post as a whole.

    But anyway: second thoughts about what? The question of what they were doing is what’s mainly in dispute.

    But I’m not going to thrash out the merits again — the arguments have all already been had, and it’s a dead letter anyhow.

    It is common knowledge that right-wing groups are running their own military-style training camps — yes, Virginia, with firearms — and preparing for the inevitable collapse of society. I’ve written about it before and it’s not exactly a secret. But here’s the thing: want any bunch of blowhard dickheads banged up on bogus terrorism charges, even if I disagree with them. If they’re not a significant threat to public wellbeing, I’d rather the powers that be concentrate their limited resources and operational capability on those that are, like gangs and the directors of finance companies.

    L

  16. Lew on May 15th, 2012 at 08:48

    By the way, last night Native Affairs ran a special on this topic, including Russell Brown.

    I was disappointed to see Chris declined to appear — but as it turned out, Stephen Franks made his argument pretty well for him.

    L

  17. Pascal's bookie on May 15th, 2012 at 09:02

    “Surely the State has an obligation to consider the health of children even if, and inded especially when, that goes against the wishes of the parents.”

    This argument would have more force if the government was, for example, telling parents recieving ’20 hours free’ subsidies for Rudolf Steiner pre-schools that they must vaccinate their children. But for some reason it just looks like it’s for other beneficiaries.

  18. Chris Trotter on May 15th, 2012 at 09:08

    As was also, no doubt, the case with our Urewera guerillas-in-training, Lew, I have been taught to recognise an ambush when I see one.

  19. Lew on May 15th, 2012 at 09:09

    Yes, Chris — perish the thought that you should have to debate people who don’t agree with you.

    L

  20. NeilM on May 15th, 2012 at 09:51

    This argument would have more force if the government was, for example, telling parents recieving ’20 hours free’ subsidies for Rudolf Steiner pre-schools that they must vaccinate their children. But for some reason it just looks like it’s for other beneficiaries.

    those parents generally have more resources and hence easier access to health care than those on a benefit.

    But if those parents did willfully or through neglect cause the health of their children to suffer then one would expect the State to intervene.

    There has been a TV campaign promoting cervical screening to maori and Polynesian women. Sure it could have been aimed at all women but that’s not really the point.

  21. Russell Brown on May 15th, 2012 at 13:18

    Doing the show was a good experience for me — not least in that it obliged me to sit down in the green room and chat with people I’ve been quite strongly critical of.

    Most notably: Whiri Kemara, the guy who bought all the guns and seems to have done a lot of the encouraging. I was struck by how gentle he seemed. Even though I disapprove of his actions, I hope he gets on okay. He certainly seems to have something to offer.

    Tame Iti, otoh, was quite edgy, on and off screen. And Greg O’Connor kept very much to himself.

  22. Pablo on May 15th, 2012 at 17:17

    Russell:

    I had a laugh at your comment, for the wrong reasons. Shortly after the raid Jon White and I appeared on Native Affairs with Julian (that was a big story for him at the time). The discussion was low key given that it was early days and Jon and the Police were playing coy with the evidence. Julian was good at balancing the conversation.

    When Jon and I went together to the Green Room after (not before) the show, we were served the most impressive array of donuts I have ever seen in my life. Having done my undergrad degree close to the US-Canadian border, I can tell you that I know my donuts and that sh*t was the BOMB! There was clearly someone with a wicked sense of humor in Julian’s support crew.

    Whatever people may say about him, I can categorically attest the Commissioner Jon White is a delicate and discrete donut-muncher in public. I left the room covered in powdered jelly. As for Jon’s reasoning as to why he called the raids–well, that is a matter for him to say.

  23. Andrew Geddis on May 15th, 2012 at 17:58

    Salus populi suprema lex.
    (The safety of the people shall be the highest law.)

    I’m pretty sure that’s what Sid Holland and William Sullivan had tatooed on their biceps back in 1951 … . Or is it only an acceptable slogan when deployed by a “leftist”?

  24. NeilM on May 15th, 2012 at 21:39

    1980′s New Caledonia makes for an interesting comparison.

    NC I think is the country most like NZ but probably because it’s French, not English, gets overlooked.

    The documentary Retour à Canala is well worth seeing.

  25. Lew on May 16th, 2012 at 07:39

    Such a comparison is really a curiosity. The relatively rudimentary state and civil society apparatus maintained by the French in New Caledonia really bears very little similarity to that of New Zealand, and the fact that the place is still not an independent state in its own right also counts against serious consideration.

    L

  26. Annabelle Lee-Harris on May 16th, 2012 at 08:20

    Kia ora Russell, I just wanted to thank you again for appearing on our Native Affairs Operation 8 special. It was important to us that we provide adequate time and a range of views to discuss the issues and I admire you and all our other manuhiri, particularly Greg and Stephen for having the courage of your convictions and sharing your whakaaro with us. At Maori Television we strive to ensure our manuhiri get a fair hearing. We hope to see you in our green room again soon. Nga mihi.

  27. NeilM on May 16th, 2012 at 08:48

    Such a comparison is really a curiosity. The relatively rudimentary state and civil society apparatus maintained by the French in New Caledonia really bears very little similarity to that of New Zealand, and the fact that the place is still not an independent state in its own right also counts against serious consideration.

    It has a large settler popluation and a large indigenous population that still vie for power and there was major political violence between armed factions not that long ago and one can very easily talk with people on both sides who were involved in that.

    I find it puzzling that there is such a lack of curiosity here in NZ about how that all played out (and is still being played out) and what we can learn from it.

    I suppose it is widely assumed there is nothing to learn. But if anyone is interested it’s an interesting mirror.

  28. Lew on May 16th, 2012 at 08:59

    Neil, are you serious?

    It has a large settler popluation and a large indigenous population that still vie for power

    Whereas here power has for decades now been brokered peaceably and by mutual agreement, and is shared to a large extent between settler and indigenous groups within ethnically homogeneous organisations like political parties.

    and there was major political violence between armed factions not that long ago

    Whereas the last such outbreak split on ethnic lines in Aotearoa, leaving aside events that only took place within some folks’ fevered imaginations, was a century ago.

    Cosmetic similarity doesn’t mean two situations are directly comparable.

    L

  29. Pablo on May 16th, 2012 at 09:09

    It really is painful to see such mis-comparisons trotted out. Admittedly, as someone trained in comparative politics I tend to focus more than most on the basis for case selection and cross-national sampling and the chain of causality involved in the relationship between independent, intervening and dependent variables, but even a first year undergrad can figure out that comparing NC and NZ is spurious for a raft of reasons. Heck, the FLINKs ate still agitating for independence in NC and the French are holding on by all means possible short of the systematic use of armed force (even if NC went overwhelmingly for Sarkozy in the last election, which has to do with the number of retired mainland French ex-military and colonial bureaucrats living there). So sorry Neil, but you are on a hiding to nothing.

    For something a little more analytic and in depth on issues involving Melanesia and Polynesia, check out 36th-Parallel.com.

  30. NeilM on May 16th, 2012 at 09:21

    I can just give my own experiences and I’ve had some very fruitful conversations about decolonisation and comparing what’s happening there with here with people with various views in NC.

    I mentioned the violence of the 80s since it’s worthwhile undertsanding why amd how that happened and what happened as a result.

  31. NeilM on May 16th, 2012 at 09:47

    the French are holding on by all means possible short of the systematic use of armed force (even if NC went overwhelmingly for Sarkozy in the last election, which has to do with the number of retired mainland French ex-military and colonial bureaucrats living there).

    The French have been for some time trying to get out of NC because it costs them huge amounts of money which goes into the country’s infrastructure.

    It’s elements of the settler population that don’t want independence. And some wihtin the Kanak community are looking at what happened with Vanuatu and wondering if that worked out all that well.

    Conservative Caldoche voted Sarkozy, as the voted for Chirac, because they got burned by the opportunistic Mitterand.

    There are strict controls on metropolitan French immigrating to NC, (there are no such restrictions going the other way) to ensure that the Kanak population retains its prominence.

  32. Sanctuary on May 16th, 2012 at 10:58

    “…It’s elements of the settler population that don’t want independence…”

    Given the frightful ultra-nationalist precedent set by the Pieds-Noir and the OAS I would not surprised if the French establishment is paralysed with fear in New Caledonia.

  33. NeilM on May 16th, 2012 at 11:53

    I would not surprised if the French establishment is paralysed with fear in New Caledonia.

    there’s concern and a few want to leave but it’s unlikely there’ll be anything like the white flight that occured in the 80s.

    The Caldoche are still very much engaged in the political process. They’re not going anywhere.

    The far-right National Front has dwindled to insignifiance. The anti-independence bloc is still strong in the South – boosted by Wallensian immigration, but lost gound in the last election.

    I think there might be some misunderstanding about the nature of New Caledonia’s governance. There is a locally elected govt – ie voted in by NC citizens, French citizens can not vote – that is independent from France in all local matters (defence, foreign affairs still controlled by the metropol). On the other hand NC citizens still get to vote in the metropol elections and indeed in the European parliamentary elections.

    The govt has two official flags, the French flag and the Kanak indepence flag, all parties are required to have 50% women on their party lists. The way in which ethnic/colonial disputes have been mitigated via the structure of political institutions while not perfect is quite interesting.

  34. Pablo on May 16th, 2012 at 12:08

    Neil: That just offers more proof of how absurd the comparison was in the first place and again, shows a wikipedia level of grasp of the subject. Sheeeet. Now that the thread has been completely hijacked thanks to you I shall desist from adding more to it.

  35. NeilM on May 16th, 2012 at 12:34

    That just offers more proof of how absurd the comparison was in the first place and again, shows a wikipedia level of grasp of the subject.

    if people are interested then I'm sure they'll be rewarded by the comparison.

    I'm not sure why I should need to defend myself on a personal basis but for your information most of what I have said comes from talking to Kanak and Caldoche including members of the Congress and my wife is a close colleague of a senior independentist minister. I checked wiki re the official flag status, I was pretty sure but wanted to get it right.

    If you are not interested, fine, perhaps others are.

  36. Hugh on May 16th, 2012 at 13:40

    While I agree that Pablo may be over-egging the souffle re: the dysfunctional state of race relations in New Caledonia, I think it’s not really a great comparison simply because in New Caledonia the indigenous people greatly outnumber the colonists, while in NZ it’s the other way round.

  37. NeilM on May 16th, 2012 at 17:31

    I think it’s not really a great comparison simply because in New Caledonia the indigenous people greatly outnumber the colonists, while in NZ it’s the other way round.

    That’s true but when other groups such as the Wallisians are taken into account the balance between pro- and anti-independence votes is quite fine. There’s been a lot of manuouvering in the lead up to the referendum on independence as it’s not clear which way it will go.

    The Kanaks are in a far more powerful position than other indigenous groups in the region but they still can’t at present dominate the political agenda.

    It’s a lot more like here in NZ than in say Australia. And some of the issues they face are very similar to what we face here. The accomodations eventually arrived at will have some differences because of the relative population numbers but a lot of the dynamics will be familiar.

    It’s a mirror, if we look at what has happened there we can see oursleves more than with any other of our neighbours. It’s not an exact mirror of course. The Caldoche share a penal colony heritage with the Australians but in terms of the decolonisatrion process we can learn a lot from them and they from us.

    That’s just my experience though and it’s a country so close but hardly ever appears on our radar.

  38. Hugh on May 16th, 2012 at 19:02

    Well, the difference isn’t so much about the relative numbers of people with certain political positions as it is about the numbers of people of different cultural heritages. But yes, point taken, the similarities are obviously very strong. I do remember seeing that a lot of New Caledonian politicians, both pro and anti-independence, have actually come to New Zealand to review New Zealand’s structures and processes, particularly around indigenous language education. The other way round, though… sadly so much of New Zealand’s pro-indigenous sentiment is so thoroughly grounded in intense nationalism and the concomitant conviction that New Zealand is a thoroughly unique place, that looking to overseas models, even models that have more similarities than differences, doesn’t make sense to the average pro-indigenous activist.

    I think when New Caledonia does become independent (presumably not under that name) it will come as a bit of a shock to New Zealand. Perhaps MFAT’s mandarins are already all over it, but even if they are there’s only so much they can do. Really New Zealand should be engaging -now-, given that New Caledonia is already a long way towards independence on almost every quantifiable level.

  39. NeilM on May 16th, 2012 at 23:48

    I do remember seeing that a lot of New Caledonian politicians, both pro and anti-independence, have actually come to New Zealand to review New Zealand’s structures and processes, particularly around indigenous language education. The other way round, though…

    I find it a bit odd, perhaps NC just gets over looked because they’re French and Melanesian and we haven’t had so much immigration from there.

  40. Hugh on May 17th, 2012 at 00:56

    I don’t find it odd at all – as I said, I think it’s product of the nationalism inherent to indigenous activism. It is sad, though.

  41. NeilM on May 17th, 2012 at 08:41

    My wife was involved for a while trying to arrange for a content exchange between Maori TV and TV Noumea which ultimately went nowhere since it’s not an indigenous broadcaster pre se and so fell outside MTV’s funding remit.

  42. NeilM on May 17th, 2012 at 11:57

    we may also get a valuable object lesson from metropolitan France when Hollande introdcuces a financial transaction tax. If it does what it’s intended then that could play into the tax reform debate here.

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