Very much enjoyed the hearing on the sedition repeal bill.
First up was the Human Rights Commission, whom it seemed didn’t put a written submission in and were explaining that they were short of resources. I didn’t hear all of their hearing.
I was second up, and started off by saying that as someone who specialises in exciting the odd bit of disaffection against the Government, I was quite pleased to see the bill.
They had my written submission so I then made just two points.
- There were 11 other sections of the Crimes Act which could be used more appropriately in relation to undesirable acts from treason to threatening to destroy property.
- It has never really been used for its intended purpose of basically someoen trying to overthrow the state, and I highlight that it was aolmost comical that a Dunedin pub owner was charged with sedition but given diversion as a first time offender, as this summoned up images of someone being told “You’re a naughty boy for trying to overthrow the country, but we’ll let you off with a warning”.
The questions were all pretty supportive. I got nervous at one point as Chris Finlaysosn said he did want to challenge one of my assertions (my para 2) but upon rereading it he was satisfied I hadn’t said that one should never be held criminally liable for what one says – just that generally one should not. As the rep from Maxim found out it is best not to be at the wrong end of Chris!
Nandor did ask if I could confirm whether or not I did want to overthrow the Government and I confirmed that yes I do, but only through democratic means 🙂 – this led to a slight diversion about how the ends do not justify the means with Fiji as an example.
Next up was Idiot/Savant (his post on the experience is there). I had alluded to him as being the historical expert on sedition cases and he laid out some of the ridiculous examples from the past. The MPs found nothing to disagree with and the only discussion really was around a related issue of promoting terrorism.
Maxim followed I/S and argued against the bill. They said the definition should be more narrow but there was a need to protect legitimate authority as an important symbolic value. Chris Finlayson was in very sharp form attacking their arguments (and Chris is someone who has argued before the Privy Council more than possibly any other NZer) and the point was made that anti-heresy laws didn’t do much to stop heresy. This got both I/S and me excited at the opportunity to have a go at getting rid of blasphemous libel at some future stage.
Finally we had the Police, with the main rep being the Detective Superintendant in charge of all Police Prosecutions. He referred to the three recent cases of sedition charges being laid and was very upfront with his view that in two of the cases it was inappropiate to have used the sedition charge. There was some debate over how justified it was in the case of Tim Selwyn.
Overall I got the impression that the Police would not be at all concerned if the bill passes.
So was a fun experience. I am glad both I/S and myself did bother to make submissions as one should not take for granted a bill will pass. I will be most surprised if it doesn’t proceed.
Afterwards I/S and Graeme E from the COG had an extended coffee session, mainly talking about the Electoral Finance Bill. Oh yes also met Nicholas O’Kane from Vic, whom I hadn’t met before.