On radio station BFM on February 28, Mr Goff talked about meeting a man in Linwood whose sister was killed in the quake, whose house had been badly damaged but then it was ransacked by looters.
“I saw the army out in the street and I thought court martial, firing squads you just can’t believe how low a small minority of people can get,” he told the radio station.
Right wing blogger David Farrar highlighted the comment on twitter.
“Interesting that Phil Goff on radio said that army should shoot looters. Wonder how his caucus feel about his law and order policy?” he wrote.
Mr Goff said it was clear he was joking.
“I was making the point that first of all I had absolute contempt for anybody who would exploit other people’s misery at a time like this but I was making a joke … It was obviously not intended to be taken seriously by anyone other than the most dim-witted National Party blogger.”
Unusual for Phil to get personal, so it must have hit a nerve.
Of course no one thinks Phil Goff was actually advocating that new Zealand bring back the death penalty, and that we abandon trials in favour of court-martials.
What is the real issue, that NZPA avoided, was contrasting what Phil Goff said with what his own MPs have said about Judith Collins far more mild comments.
Grant Robertson blogged:
I also truly hope Judith Collins regrets her statement made in the wake of looting incidents. She was playing to the crowd of course, and I don’t think was refering directly to Arie, but it was not the calm words of leader in our community.
Now Judith’s statement was that the action of looters was “akin to ‘people who rob the dead'” and that “”I hope they go to jail for a long time – with a cellmate.”
Now while you can certainly argue the “with a cellmate” comment was un-necessary, it pales into comparison with saying they should be shot.
Now personally I think both Judith and Phil have just reacted as human beings to particularly vile behaviour.
But when Labour MPs then start to have a go at the comments, well it is entirely appropriate to point out that Labour’s own leader has made comments far beyond what Judith did. In fact could you imagine the hysteria if it was the Police Minister instead of the Leader of the Opposition who had talked about shooting looters. I imagine Labour MPs would have rushed out a plethora of statements comdemning her.
So the question that remains for me is that Grant Robertson has said that Collins’ statements were not “the calm words of [a] leader in our community. So I can only conclude that Grant also thinks that Goff’s words were not the “calm words of a leader in our community”.
Incidentially Phil Goff went on to say (you can listen below) that the looters should be shackeled to shovels and made to do hard labour for 18 hours a day. He also says he stands by those comments. Now I’ve got no problems with that view point, and I suspect the Sensible Sentencting Trust will back Phil up 100% on his views. But I do wonder about whether his caucus and the wider Labour activists are all that supportive of his “Sheriff Joe” type dialogue.