John Armstrong covers the divisions within ACT over their u-turn to support the gang patch ban bill:
All such talk of free expression seemed to have been conveniently put to one side last week, however, as Act executed a 180 degree about turn and voted for a private member’s bill banning gang members from wearing their patches in public areas within the boundaries of Wanganui city – a bill Hide had previously described as “rubbish”.
The concession was made in the hope of securing a far bigger gain – passage of Act’s “three strikes and you’re out” bill. However, this pragmatic decision to back the gang patches bill promoted by the National MP Chester Borrows has been greeted with dismay by some party members.
Angry responses have been posted on blog sites from activists saying they did not stuff envelopes or knock on doors during the election campaign to see the party backing laws curbing individual rights – be they those of ordinary citizens, gang members or whomever.
And some of those activists have bene involved since the beginning.
Act is hoping that its voting for Borrows’ bill will make National – and particularly the more liberal-inclined Justice Minister Simon Power – look more kindly at the part of the new Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill which is Act policy.
In its current state, the bill is an amalgam of both parties’ positions. They are reasonably compatible when it comes to sentencing someone convicted of a first or second violent offence. Where Act and National differ markedly is in the case of someone committing a third such offence.
Under Act’s provisions, a violent offender would go to jail for 25 years minimum without parole full stop. National’s position is less severe in allowing judges to exercise discretion.
Armstrong is one of the few to catch on that the difference between National and ACT is only at the third strike.
A high-profile measure of that added-value will be the wording in the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill when it emerges from Parliament’s select committee.
If the bill shows National has heeded the wishes of its support partner to some degree, then trampling over the rights of gang members in Wanganui will be seen by most, though not all, of those in Act to have been fully justified.
There will be pressure for there to be some sort of compromise between National and ACT on what happens with a third strike.Tags: ACT, John Armstrong, law & order