Werewolf: Gordon Campbell on the legal crackdown on hate crimes

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Unexpectedly, Justice Minister/SIS Minister Andrew Little has proven to be something of a loose cannon in the government’s response to the mosque attacks. Allegedly a safe pair of hands, Little initially tried to pre-empt criticism of the security services by publicly absolving their performance of blame even before an inquiry into their role had been set up. By doing so, he eroded the credibility of the government’s early preference for an in-house ministerial inquiry that would have been mainly focussed on the shooter’s actions and background. This allowed Act and National to call for a more wide-ranging Royal Commission which PM Jacinda Ardern then quickly embraced.

Even so, it does seem as though the Police actions on March 15 will not be scrutinised by the Royal Commission. That’s unfortunate, since there is still no definitive timeline of the Police actions on the day, and two different timeframes (36 minutes and 21 minutes) between the first call for help and the arrest of the shooter, have been put by Police into the public arena.

Secondly, Little has managed to scramble his initial discussion of the “hate crimes” issue almost as badly. By promising to “fast track” the government’s legislative response to hate crimes and discrimination Little made the exercise sound (potentially at least) like an attack on freedom of expression, as much as it would hopefully create a better protective shield for the vulnerable members of the community. By doing so, Little again provided Act’s David Seymour and National’s Simon Bridges with a platform, this time on which to present themselves as the thoughtful champions of free speech and the moderating influence upon Labour indulging in its Big Brother inclinations. Belatedly, Little has since stressed the government’s own sensitivity to the free speech implications of any changes, and he has clarified that “fast track” actually means having proposals on the table for consideration by the end of 2019. Fast and urgent, but slow and considered.

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