Last weekend the New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister made some extraordinary comments at a press conference in announcing the ruling National Party's election policy on drugs. Paula Bennett, announcing a crackdown on criminal gangs manufacturing and dealing in illegal narcotics, said that the National Government, if re-elected, would give police the power to search the cars and houses of the most serious criminal gang members at any time, at the police's discretion. Bennett acknowledged that this would breach the human rights of the individuals concerned but justified the measure on the grounds that serious criminals "have fewer human rights than others". Prime Minister Bill English said he agreed with the proposal stating, "it's good that we don't have a written constitution it's enabled the country to deal with all sorts of issues in a practical effective way."
It is clear from these comments that neither English or Bennett understand the concept of human rights. They would do well to read Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." If they don't like that authority they could go to an older source, the United States Declaration of Independence, which states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." Any other authoritative source says the same thing - rights are inherent, universal and equal in effect for all human beings. They are not entitlements to be granted or removed by governments at their discretion.
English and Bennett also fail to understand the purpose of a constitution, which is to constrain the government. Constitutions exist, often representing a long history of noble rebellion, because of the totalitarian instinct of all governments, just the sort of totalitarian instinct English and Bennett are now showing. The fact that New Zealand, like Britain, has a constitution based on inheritance and common law rather than a single written document, does not justify disregarding the rights it protects. The documents our constitution is based on, such as the Magna Carta Libertatum (Great Charter of Liberties - to give it its full and more appropriate name) and the English Bill of Rights, make it clear that all New Zealanders are entitled to due process under the law - exactly what Bennett and English seem only too ready to deny some of their citizens.
In my last post I wrote that despite this government's track record of enacting legislation that reduced the rights and freedoms of New Zealanders, I thought they were still the least bad choice in this month's election. I realise now that I was completely wrong. English and Bennett have shown their true colours and any government of which they are a part represents a serious threat to the freedom and democracy in this country. English has since tried to back-peddle on Bennett's comments about human rights, but this wasn't a mere mistake of language - the intent and rationale of what both of them said was clear and they were probably the most chilling words I have ever heard from New Zealand politicians.