One shakes one’s head in wonderment that multiple guns could be stolen from a city police station in broad daylight (and chuckles at the suggestion I saw that perhaps Police could be prosecuted for failing to store firearms safely). It isn’t, I guess, the direct responsibility of the government, but somehow it seems symptomatic of just how badly off course the government’s so-called “year of delivery”, transformational change etc, is. The public sector can’t even get the basics right, even as the bosses parade around (in the Police case), advancing trendy political and social causes, asserting the right to carry firearms in all circumstances, and (wildly inappropriately for a supposedly neutral public servant) offering public adoration and praise of the Prime Minister. How anyone can still have confidence in the New Zealand Police is a bit beyond me.
This is the same organisation which appears to simply choose to ignore the law when it suits. Let me illustrate.
In mid-March, a reader drew my attention to an article in a Police magazine, gushing over the appointment of an Assistant Commissioner (formerly the police person in our embassy in Beijing) as a visiting lecturer
at the People’s Public Security University of China – the first foreigner to hold such a role.
The university is where China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) trains the elite of China’s police. …..
I wrote a post expressing astonishment that Police could think this was in any way appropriate, given the (official) PRC disregard for the rule of law, and the active part played by Ministry of Public Security in (for example) the large-scale repression and persecution of Uighurs in Xinjiang (or any of the other systematic repressions the PRC prides itself on). Political loyalty to the CCP will be a key consideration in recruitment, and in helping the Ministry, New Zealand Police buttress the agencies of a regime responsible for so much evil. Mr McCardle though seemed quite chuffed at his appointment.
He says the university appointment is an endorsement of the healthy state of the New Zealand-China bilateral relationship, and “underscores the idea that New Zealand has values and ideas worth considering in the Chinese context”.
It also aligns with the aims and values of the New Zealand-China Friendship Society and the pioneering work of New Zealander Rewi Alley who fostered a life-long friendship with China from the 1930s.
As I noted
And what about that weird stuff in the final paragraph of the quoted excerpt? The New Zealand-China Friendship Society has been around for decades and long-served as a Beijing front organisation in New Zealand, right through the horrors of the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and on to their total silence today about repression in Xinjiang. And Rewi Alley? Well, he lived a fairly comfortable life in Beijing after the CCP took over, navigating this way through the thickets of changing CCP politics, reaching new lows when he published a jointly-authored book near the end of the Cultural Revolution defending the regime at its worst. What possesses our Police to think these are “aims and values” to champion? Why not, for example, the aims and values of the Tiananmen protestors, the Falun Gong movement, or the (underground) Catholic church? But that wouldn’t fit the narrative I guess, of prostrating the New Zealand system before Beijing.
I wondered what thought, or analysis, went into the decision to accept this appointment, including whether relevant ministers had been aware in advance (and thus complicit).
And so I lodged a couple of Official Information Act requests, one with Police, and one with MFAT. The request to Police asked
Please provide me with copies of all information relating to the appointment of Hamish McCardle as a Visiting Professor in the People’s Republic of China (as described in [the article]) Without limitation, this request includes any consultation with or advice to other government agencies, or government ministers (or their offices).
I had a response from MFAT fairly promptly, within 10 days or so of lodging the request. MFAT noted that they were aware of my separate request to Police and responded that
That was useful information in its own right: presumably there had been no internal discussion at MFAT, and no briefing to, or consultation with, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
And what of Police? I had an automated acknowledgement of my request, and the MFAT response confirms Police were aware of the request. Under the Official Information Act, agencies are required to respond as soon as reasonably practicable, but within no more than 20 working days. That deadline has now long since passed and I have heard nothing at all from Police.
Given the other stuff going on after 15 March, I wouldn’t really have been surprised if Police had got in touch to explain that they needed an extension of time. In the circumstances, I wouldn’t have been particularly bothered. Agencies do it all the time, in much less compelling circumstances. But I’ve heard nothing at all from the Police. Earlier this week I even got in touch and pointed out that I had heard nothing, in case a reply had simply fallen through the cracks. I noted that if I had heard nothing by the end of the week I would be lodging a complaint with the Ombudsman. As I now will be.
You might have hoped that Police would more scrupulous than any agency in ensuring that they, and their staff, complied with the law, letter and spirit. But perhaps they’ve been imbibing some of the lawless values of the People’s Republic of China, whose repressive apparatus their Assistant Commissioner is now helping out, and with which they associate the once-honourable name of the New Zealand Police. Opportunism not honour, just doing whatever they choose and think they can get away with, now seems to be the order of the day in the Bush-led New Zealand Police.
Police should start complying with the law, and releasing the relevant material under the Official Information Act. Beyond that, they should rethink this appointment, and ministers should insist that McCardle withdraw from the appointment. But, of course, there is no hope of the latter, as our government (and Opposition) fall over themselves to show who can do more to defer to the interests and preferences of the PRC. And that, of course, is why the foreign interference inquiry Parliament’s Justice Committee is undertaking (submissions closed last night) has very little credibility: like foxes taking responsibility for investigating security on the hen house.
UPDATE: The PRC approach to policing and the rule of law – the disappearance into custody, without charge or trial, of the (PRC) head of Interpol (as reported in a substantial article today in the Wall St Journal). The sort of thing our Commissioner and Minister of Police are happy to associate with?