Darroch Ball: A response to Mark Mitchell’s attempt at satire

Opinion 06/03/2020

By Darroch Ball, New Zealand First Spokesperson for Law & Order.

Earlier this week National MP Mark Mitchell wrote an article with the bog standard, one dimensional, unimaginative, baseless rhetoric of National is “tough on crime” and the current government is “soft on crime”. What really stood out for me though was the seemingly new stratospheric heights of hypocrisy he seemed willing to reach in the article - all the while just expecting people to believe him.

What Mitchell wrote was so comical it is truly difficult to figure out where to begin to point out how National demonstrably failed New Zealand in the law and order space throughout their decade in government.

Mitchell clearly thinks that by simply stating that National is ‘tough on crime’ voters will believe him and he need not bother with the facts. Well, here are just some of those facts of what National ‘delivered’ our country when they were in government.

In 2008 the National Party campaigned on law and order, as they are now, and promised to maintain our police force numbers, police funding and police resources. Of course having a strong, well trained, well equipped police force leads itself to being able to maintain law and order, control the growth of gangs and most importantly ensure a strong presence is seen in our community. What’s comical about Mitchell’s comments is that he fails to mention that National totally and utterly neglected our police force and it has led to many of the issues we are seeing today.

National totally and utterly neglected our police force.

From 2012 to 2017 – the final five years of National’s tenure – the total number of sworn police officers actually dropped by 16 officers. There were fewer police officers on the beat under a National party that campaigned on ‘tough on crime’. What makes matters worse is the fact that our population grew by more than 350,000 over that same time period. Think about that for a second.

(L-R) Darroch Ball, Mark Mitchell

How on earth can we as a country expect law and order to be maintained when we have a massive influx of people to our country and a shrinking police force? Added to all of that, was the fact that at that exact same time Australia decided it was a good idea to deport all of their gang members back to New Zealand.

What is even worse is that between 2008-2017 there were no fewer than 27 police stations closed –most of which were in our regions. But that can’t be a surprise to anyone as we simply didn’t have the police force numbers to occupy them. Just as a point of comparison, under this government in 2018/19 there have been zero closures.

So, under National, we had a shrinking police force, a massive surge in population, police stations being closed around the country, and hardened criminals in their hundreds deported back to New Zealand from Australia. That is the perfect recipe for gangs to sow the seeds to grow, get organised, and commit crime unabated. And grow they did – under the National Party. Yet Mitchell has the temerity to suggest that this current government of just two years is to blame all of a sudden for the rising gang numbers today?

The fact is our current coalition government has now overseen the largest number of new police recruits go through training ever on record, overseen an increase to the largest police force on the beat ever on record, and the largest ever funding allocation to our police on record. All of this in just two short years.

Our current coalition government has now overseen the largest number of new police recruits.

Mitchell also ironically mentioned that “it’s difficult to be sentenced to prison, and you have to have committed serious crimes to get there”. Well if that is true, then he needs to explain why under his National government they oversaw one of the largest increases in prison population in our history.

From 2008 to 2017 the prison population blew out from seven thousand prisoners to well over ten thousand. That’s almost a fifty percent increase in just nine years which led to tax payers needing to fork out for a new prison to the tune of over a billion dollars. So if what Mitchell said was true, then there must have been a cataclysmic increase in serious crimes under National – which, according to him, includes crimes such as “serious assaults, robberies, family violence and sexual offences” - and increase they did. In fact, those prison numbers have only now started to come down – under this current government.

Even if we look at the simplest of statistics around the victims of crime between 2015-2017 they increased under National. With victims of robbery jumping up by a factor of around a third and burglaries by over seven thousand more every year.

Mitchell finished off his satirical piece with “a National Government is tough on crime that puts victims at the heart of our justice system”. What’s ultimately sad about that comment is that it’s looking more and more likely that he truly believes it.

It actually reminds me of an old proverb - “there are none so blind as those who will not see”.

Darroch Ball is a New Zealand First MP and Spokesperson for Law & Order.