This has been rather a strange debate. I think people in the future looking back at Hansard will puzzle a little bit. People like Phil Goff and other speakers have said that the Greens are against taking action on terrorism, and that the Greens are against implementing the United Nations resolutions like United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373, when time after time in this debate, I have said we do believe in taking action against terrorism, particularly by acting within the criminal law of our country and changing it where necessary.
But other participants in this debate have not provided arguments as to how terrorist acts are any different from other criminal acts, and why we cannot handle such crimes through the present criminal law, amended as necessary to improve the penalties for financing crime and the process of seizing assets of those engaged in crime, including terrorist crime. That can be done in a way that does implement resolutions such as the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373. That is clear.
The point is that we do not want an approach such as has been taken in this bill, in which a separate law structure is set up for politically motivated crime that is at variance with our other criminal law, without the same checks and balances.
This bill does undermine our civil liberties in a way that we have not seen for many years. It will criminalise New Zealanders’ support for liberation movements and criminalise New Zealanders’ support for mass protest action or union action of a type that does involve mass civil disobedience and disruption of structures in our society — the blocking of roads, perhaps, as happened during the 1981 Springbok tour protests — or industrial action that would be covered under this bill, as the previous speaker indicated.
I used the example of the nurses union because an action by that union would fit these criteria. It would be political if it was against the closure of a hospital ward, it could be defined as unduly compelling a Government to do something, and it could have the intent to produce one of the other outcomes in the definition, which is serious disruption to an infrastructure facility.
As the previous speaker said, the point of a strike, like the longshoremen’s strike that he talked about, or nurses protesting the closing of a hospital, is to seriously disrupt that infrastructural facility in order to give the union leverage on the employer. That is the nature of a mass strike action. Under this definition one does not have to prove intent to endanger human life, paragraph (d) of clause 5(3) provides that a person just has to conduct an action that is likely to endanger human life. One does not need to have the intent to endanger human life, and certainly a hospital strike would be likely to endanger human life — just as the mass anti-Springbok tour demonstrations were of such a scale and of such a disruptive character that they could be deemed to have been a danger to human life.
So what if we put determinations in such situation in the hands of someone like Robert Muldoon, who was the Prime Minister at the time — and this is relevant, because we have a political designation process under this legislation, not a court designation process. We have to look at the scenario of a worst-case Prime Minister, not a best-case Prime-Minister, who, under this definition would say that those workers can be defined as terrorists, and people supporting them financially would be subject to the provisions of the legislation, such as being sentenced to 14 years jail as the maximum penalty.
In the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade committee, Graham Kelly and myself has a disagreement as to the interpretation of the legislation. I in no way challenge Graham Kelly’s credentials and the fact that he has supported, and continues to support, liberation movements. But we had a genuine disagreement over the interpretation of the legislation. His response to that genuine disagreement was to imply that I was challenging his credentials and he suppressed my minority report from the select committee back to the House. That has denied the public the right to know my criticisms.
I provided the report, which anyone can have a copy of, to the select committee prior to the hearing. We discussed it at length in the select committee and its subcommittee. Those committees did not accept my report because they did not agree with my interpretation of the legislation. My report fell over, particularly on one sentence. They said that I could not include a sentence that stated: “in the Green member’s opinion the definition remains too broad and could still include activities of liberation movements.” I was specifically told by Graham Kelly and Wyatt Creech that they would not allow my minority report to go back to the House if it included that sentence. That is censorship; that is not accepting that members can have genuine disagreements on legislation.
We have to link the overly broad definition of terrorism with the political designation process — the fact that a Prime Minister could be doing it for his or her political ends — the fact that we do not have complete due process in the appeal structure — and the fact that classified information upon which the designation is based can be withheld from the alleged terrorist through every stage of the appeal process, which is contrary to the processes of our law.
I disagree with Phil Goff when he says that terrorism is the greatest contemporary threat to the world’s prosperity. On another occasion he said it was the greatest threat to international security and peace. I think, if we talked to the people of Zimbabwe or Myanmar, for example, or to the women of Saudi Arabia, and to others who are suffering under oppressive regimes around the world, they would not say that that is the case.
In fact, without downplaying in any way the horror of September 11, more international terrorism actually took place when hijacks by Palestinians and South Americans and sop on were at their height in the 1970s and 80s. Certainly we have to take collective action to bring those responsible for terrorism to justice, and the Greens are right behind that. But the most effective way to bring terrorist criminals to justice is to maximise public cooperation. Draconian, so-called anti-terrorist, legislation that undermines our civil liberties, and going to war in places like Afghanistan and maybe Iraq, is not helping to get public cooperation, particularly in the Islamic world, which is probably why they are still looking for Osama bin Laden
Most of the people in the third world, while not supporting terrorism, do not see it as the main threat. They see as the main problem: poverty, lack of democratic rights, oppressive Governments, and the way the gap between rich and poor countries is growing as their economies come more and more under the sway of Western-based multinationals. What they see of the war against terrorism is Israel’s Prime Minister saying he is fighting terrorism by bombing and shelling Palestinian refugee camps. They see Russia terrorising Chechnyan civilians in the name of the war on terrorism. They see Indonesian troops killing political leaders in Aceh and Western Papua in the name of the war on terrorism. They see asylum seekers in New Zealand and elsewhere being jailed in the name of the war on terrorism. And they see the war on terrorism giving impetus to anti-immigrant and anti-refugee parties like New Zealand First.
What we have to do to combat terrorism is ask the ‘why’ question. Why are there social problems in the world that seem to be breeding terrorism? Get to the root of the problems, try to get dialogue between the parties, as is happening now between the Tamils and the Sri Lankan Government in Thailand, where instead of trying to label the Tamils as terrorists, the new Sri Lankan Government has said it will make the Tamil Tigers a legal organisation and talk about how to get peace in that country.