The Government has today committed to doing something Defence Minister Ron Mark and his NZ First colleagues criticised in Opposition – making compromise purchases of defence assets that weren’t built to do the jobs expected of them, National’s Defence spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.
“This is a Government with a now proven fiscal hole and that is starting to impact the investments it makes, including long-overdue upgrades to Defence assets.
“The 85 metre Norwegian vessel Edda Fonn will come to the Royal New Zealand Navy already 15 years old. It is a survey and light construction ship, not the dive, hydrographic and mine clearance vessel approved for purchase in 2016.
“The Government will need to retrofit it at an as-yet unspecified further cost to taxpayers on top of the $103 million purchase price.
“The Edda Fonn is not the sort of Littoral Support Vessel the Defence Force made a strong business case for to replace the now retired vessels Resolution and Manawanui.
“Only last month the Defence Minister said there ‘had been too many examples in the past where procurement decisions have been the wrong decision, where we have taken a commercial option only to find that it doesn’t work there in the military role.
“He went on to say ‘In fact, some of them don’t even work in a civilian role. We’re not going to cut corners’.
“During that interview Mr Mark must have known that he was on the verge of signing off the purchase of a commercial survey and light construction vessel that was going to need to be expensively overhauled to turn it into the dive and hydrographic vessel the Navy needs.
“Mr Mark needs to explain how much this process will cost, and whether all the specifications in the business case approved in 2016 will be fitted to the Edda Fonn.
“If the converted ship cannot undertake all of the functions in that business case Mr Mark will have delivered a compromise solution of the sort he criticised in opposition.”
National’s Defence spokesperson Mark Mitchell has welcomed the repatriation of the remains of former New Zealand Defence Force personnel who died while serving overseas.
“This is an historic day for the families of fallen Defence Force personnel and for New Zealand.
“As the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade select committee that made the recommendation to the previous Government for repatriation, I’m sure I can speak on behalf of the Committee in saying how pleased we are for the families on this very special day.
“After decades of delay and advocacy by the families and former colleagues of the fallen soldiers, the decision was taken by the National-led Government to bring them home. I’m sure it will be an incredibly emotional day for all those involved.
“I was pleased to see that after questioning to the Minister of Defence, provisions were made for Veterans to pay their respects to their comrades, through a guard of honour.
“I wish to extend my heartfelt thoughts to the families of those welcoming home their loved ones today, and thank those currently serving in our Defence Forces, whether at home or abroad.”
The National Party will be well represented at this week’s Criminal Justice Summit, but we’re extremely doubtful it will come back with any good reforms National’s Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.
“National wants to ensure any reforms to the Justice system will reduce the crime rate but also keep victims at the heart of the justice system. Instead, the Justice Summit is set to be a talkfest between people with the same goal – to soften the punishments for serious offenders.
“Justice Minister Andrew Little says that the stories of victims shouldn’t be told in the media while the summit is happening. He wants to restrict the voices of victims, while letting violent criminals onto the streets to reduce prison numbers.
“This is completely hypocritical, as Mr Little has repeatedly talked in the media about the stories of offenders. Just today he was in the news defending a man who attacked his ex-girlfriend’s car with a sledgehammer. He goes as far as saying the man was ‘obviously provoked’.
“His attitude shows he’s firmly on the side of offenders and doesn’t want to know about victims of crime.
“The Government has only invited speakers who are going to tell it what it wants to hear and isn’t bothering to listen to victims who are worried about its plans to go soft. The agenda reads like that of a yoga convention with sessions like ‘individual reflection’ and ‘hope’.
“Typical of a Government which has established 140 working groups but is refusing to listen to anyone it disagrees with, the Government has its agenda and that’s to go soft on crime. It wants to reduce the prison population by a third, but it doesn’t have a plan to reduce crime and nothing on the Summit’s agenda suggests this is a focus.
“Instead it’s just going to soften up our bail, parole and sentencing laws to make it easier for criminals to get out of prison early and harder for them to get sent there in the first place. That’s just going to make our communities less safe and we won’t stand for it.”
The Government’s Criminal Justice Summit is nothing more than a public relations exercise to try to justify its plans to go soft on crime, National’s Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.
“It is apparent that the Government has already pre-determined the outcome of the Criminal Justice Summit, and that’s to loosen up our bail, parole and sentencing laws.
“We know this because it has chosen to downsize Waikeria Prison by 1000 beds, even though forecasts from the Government’s own officials show that the prison population is set to rise by 4100 in the next nine years.
“Responding to a forecast increase of 4100 more prisoners – over 2000 more than the previous forecast indicated – by slashing the number of new beds at Waikeria Prison by 1000 shows that the Government knows exactly what it wants to do with our justice system.
“New Zealand will be thousands of prison beds short so the Government simply won’t be able to lock away all the serious offenders it needs to in order to keep our communities safe.
“And the Government has already said it wants to cut the prison population by a third, but doesn’t have a corresponding plan to reduce crime and the number of victims.
“Instead, it looks like the Government is just going to make it easier for criminals to get out of prison and harder for them to get there in the first place.
“Justice Minister Andrew Little knows that New Zealanders won’t stand for this so he has set up this Summit to try to justify the Government’s unpopular plans.
“If the Summit was genuinely about looking at ways to reduce crime, then National would support that. But all the talk from this Government so far has been focused on having fewer prisoners, rather than fewer victims.
“National will do everything we can to stop the Government putting criminals ahead of victims and hardworking Kiwis.”
National’s Defence Spokesperson Mark Mitchell welcomes the Government’s decision to procure four Boeing P-8 Poseidon aircraft to advance the capabilities of our Defence Force.
“I welcome today’s announcement of the procurement of four Boeing P-8 Poseidons by the Government, which brings expanded capability to our Defence Force and retains interoperability with our partners.
“The previous Government had put a lot of work into this, and had the process well advanced, so it’s pleasing to see this Government has finally made the right decision.
“The P3 Orions have provided our nation with an incredible and reliable service for over fifty years, and they have earned their retirement.
“The procurement of the P8s sends a positive signal to our allies and partners, showing that we will remain a capable Defence Force, and are well equipped to play our role on the international stage, alongside providing support to regional security arrangements.
“Our Defence Force is responsible for the largest search and rescue area in the world, and the P8s will make a major contribution to search and rescue operations and towards the policing of our wider Exclusive Economic Zone.
“I look forward to the P8 Poseidons being brought into service.”
The Government’s characterisation of an indecent assault on a female Corrections Officer by a male prisoner as a ‘pinch’ trivialises the offence and undermines the victim, National’s Women spokesperson Paula Bennett and Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell say.
“The victim had her buttock grabbed hard and held by the offender and when she tried to get away, the offender followed her and grabbed a gate to stop her from leaving. In her own words, this left her feeling degraded, vulnerable and uneasy at work,” Ms Bennett says.
“Yet Justice Minister Andrew Little has repeatedly defined this serious assault as merely a ‘pinch on the bottom’, with Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter today defending Mr Little.
“Ms Genter first avoided questions about whether she agreed with characterising the grabbing of a woman’s bottom for a prolonged period as merely a ‘pinch’. When pushed, she acknowledged the offence was serious but failed to condemn Mr Little’s comments.
“Women are more likely to be victims of sexual violence and instead of downplaying and trivialising this assault, the Government should be advocating for women to ensure that they feel safe and supported to speak up and know that these offences will be taken seriously.”
Mr Mitchell says it’s unacceptable that Mr Little has repeatedly misrepresented this indecent assault case as a ‘pinch on the bottom’ and dismissed it as ‘not violent’ and ‘low level’.
“In the days since he first made these comments, many women who have been victims of similar assaults have told me they feel undermined and marginalised by the Government.
“He today admitted that he based his comments on stories in the media and hadn’t bothered to read the sentencing note that detailed the significant impact of the assault on the victim.
“When Mr Little was today offered the chance to apologise to the many women who have said they are hurt and offended by his comments, he refused.
“Indecent assault is never acceptable and suggesting otherwise sends completely the wrong message to victims and offenders. Mr Little and Ms Genter should be ashamed.”
In a remarkable admission today, Justice Minister Andrew Little has dismissed an indecent assault on a Corrections Officer as ‘not violent’, National’s Justice Spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.
“When asked to provide an example of a non-violent offence, Mr Little referenced an indecent assault case in 2016 where a prisoner with a long rap sheet grabbed a female Corrections Officer’s bottom.
“It was astonishing to hear him say that he does not consider this and other indecent assaults to be violent offences.
“The sentencing note on this particular case outlines the seriousness of the offending – ‘Standing behind the Corrections officer, you grabbed her right buttock, squeezed it quite hard, and held on for about one to two seconds.’
“It beggars belief that the Justice Minister could so callously dismiss this as non-violent.
“He even attempted to minimise the offence by describing it as ‘pinching’ and suggested that it shouldn’t have even been categorised as an indecent assault.
“It completely undermines the victim of this assault, who said she felt angry, frustrated and totally degraded by the offending, and had been left feeling vulnerable and uneasy when performing her work duties.
“For a Government that claims to pride itself on tackling issues of sexual violence, Mr Little has seriously dented its credentials. His Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Domestic and Sexual Violence Jan Logie must publicly condemn his comments.
“This is just another example of the Ardern-Peters Government going soft on crime and not protecting victims.”
Just a day after being hung out to dry by his Prime Minister, Justice Minister Andrew Little has returned the favour by failing to back up her false claims that New Zealand’s prisons are filled with low-level offenders, National’s Justice Spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.
“When asked today in Parliament to clarify exactly what the Prime Minister means by a ‘low-level offender’, Mr Little was unable to give a coherent explanation.
“The reality is 98 per cent of people in our prisons are there for Category 3 and Category 4 crimes. These are offences punishable by a prison sentence of two years or more, like murder, sexual violence and serious assault.
“What’s more, people in our prisons have an average of 46 convictions on their criminal record. This reflects a significant number of victims.
“Yet the Prime Minister has spent the last week making false claims that New Zealand has a ‘US-style’ justice system where prisons are being filled with low-level offenders – all to try and justify her Government’s reckless refusal to add the required number of prison beds.
“For a Government so focused on ‘justice reform’, it appears to know very little about the make-up of our prison population.
“This is seriously concerning because it means the Government has no idea what kind of people it will be letting out when it goes ahead with softening our bail, sentencing and parole laws.
“This incompetent and bumbling Government should spend less time lying to the public about the make-up of our prison population and more time on protecting New Zealanders.”
Incoming Prime Minister Winston Peters’ first act should be to keep his word to voters and veto Andrew Little’s proposed repeal of the three strikes law, National’s Justice Spokesperson Mark Mitchell says.
“For decades Winston Peters has been a champion for the three strikes policy requiring tougher sentences for violent offenders. He needs to reassure the country that under his leadership the three strikes law will not be repealed and our bail laws won’t be weakened,” Mr Mitchell says.
“This would be a deep betrayal of Mr Peters’ supporters and New Zealanders generally. Three strikes is a policy that is not only supported by New Zealand First voters, but also the wider public, because it’s a policy which actually works.
“Data from the Ministry of Justice shows that there has been a 4.9 per cent reduction in ‘first strikes’ warnings and that the number of second strike offenders has decreased by 34 per cent.
“Dangerous, violent, repeat offenders are being locked away for longer, keeping our communities safer.
“New Zealanders have a right to be worried about the Government’s secret plans. New Zealanders have more cause for concern today.
“National rejects softening of bail and sentencing laws which will make our communities less safe, won’t rehabilitate any more people, and won’t prevent further crime from happening.
“To safely reduce prison numbers, you need a plan to reduce crime which this Government clearly does not have. They just want to make it easier to get out of jail regardless of the consequences.
“In Government National will reverse the repeal of the three strikes regime and the changes to sentencing and bail laws which will see more serious, violent offenders on the street.
“This will be a serious first test for Winston Peters, will he remain committed to the safety of law abiding Kiwis or will he fold to the demands of Labour and the Greens and increase the number of violent and dangerous offenders being released back into our communities.”
The Government needs to think a lot smarter if it is serious about building on National’s strong record of tackling family violence, National’s Justice Spokesperson Mark Mitchell and Social Development Spokesperson Louise Upston say.
“Family violence is one of the most insidious and entrenched social issues in our country, and to break the cycle of offending we need to try new things,” Mr Mitchell says.
“That’s why in 2016 National introduced a $132 million package of reforms, which overhaul family violence laws and the way the system prevents and responds to family violence.
“On top of that, in last year’s Budget we invested $37.2 million into targeted family violence services, including the Integrated Safety Response pilot and the Gang Action Plan pilot.
“As a result of our changes, we’ve seen more people coming forward to report family violence incidents, and Police and courts taking the issue much more seriously. We don’t want to go back to the old days where people would turn a blind eye to family violence.”
Ms Upston says investing in initiatives to combat family violence has always been a priority for National but it was about ensuring that the services were targeted and had proven outcomes to ensure money was always well-spent and to maximum effectiveness.
“This was to ensure that the people who were most in need of our support got it.
“The Government’s Budget announcement today, while headline-grabbing, contains very little detail about where the money will go - other than to 150 service providers. But that’s where the lack of detail is worrying, because we can only assume that each will get a fair distribution – and on that assumption that equates to $140,000 each – so by that definition, the funding isn’t targeted and isn’t going to be spent where it’s needed the most.
“Family violence is a serious issue that we are focussed on resolving but it needs to be recognised that complex intergenerational hardship is often the cause of violence.
“That’s why it’s extremely concerning that Jacinda Ardern and her Government hasn’t committed to retaining either the Social Investment approach or the Better Public Services targets we implemented, including around reducing child harm.
“Our drive has been – and will always be – to root out the source of the problem through sophisticated data-driven risk analysis, followed up with solutions that work for the individual on a case-by-case basis. This is what changes lives and changes futures.”