Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Who is worse: foreigners or Foreign Affairs?"

Ok, so I wasn't going to write about the ridiculous kerfuffle from last week about foreign affairs officials and 'hardline' sentencing. But here I am.
"Foreign Affairs officials are warning the Government that its hardline sentencing and non-parole policy risk damaging New Zealand's international reputation.

They say National's "no parole for the worst murderers" policy and the proposed "three strikes and you're out" law could breach international obligations on torture and civil rights."
The article itself is fine, read out of context. The context, however, wasn't that flash. A relatively minor memo was thrown onto the front page and then thrown to the "Your Views" hounds. The 'great' thing about YV, and other such fora, is that you don't even need to pose the question in a sensational way. You don't need to ask "Are all immigrants terrorist-loving, dole-bludging, non-English-speaking, job-stealing terrorists?". You can just ask "Are immigrants a positive for New Zealand" and get precisely the same responses. So when "Your Views" asked "Would hardline sentencing damage NZ's international reputation?", they may as well have asked, "Should we put up murderers in fancy hotels and make the victim's elderly mother spoon-feed them ice cream?".

Interestingly, people seem to have found it very difficult to understand quite what the MFAT memo was saying. The reason I am writing about this today is that, on the "Readers' Forum", Claire Somers of Hamiltron (City of the Future) says:
If Phil Goff [not the person who wrote the memo, but who cares, right?] believes people anywhere concern themselves with NZ or its legal system, he is out of touch with our country's unimportance.
People's seem to interpret MFAT as worried that tourists might not want to come because we're too mean to criminals, or that overseas bloggers might start slagging off New Zealand on their blogs. Meanwhile, people with brains can immediately tell that they are pointing out that these laws may breach international covenants which New Zealand has signed. So other countries don't have to care about our legal system, Claire; they just have to care about countries sticking with international agreements. You may not, and in fact almost certainly don't, care about the people who live down the road from you - and they probably don't care for you - but that doesn't mean you shouldn't care about any agreements or contracts you have with them. There, was that simple enough.

People are mental, and that's not the Herald's fault. What is the Herald's fault is that they consciously (surely) throw the equivalent of a red rag to a bull and confuse what is a significant, if slightly dull, issue.

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