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19 March 2018

No tech stuff today but further evidence that we live in a country which, at times, is as bad as the former soviet union when it comes to respecting the rights of its citizens.

I'm talking about this story that ran last week on Stuff.

I doubt that any sane, thinking person is surprised by the decision of the IPCA and the Privacy Commissioner in respect to this case but what does beggar belief is the total lack of censure being handed out in the wake of this event.

Both the Privacy Commissioner and the Independent Police Complaints Authority have slammed the actions of police in this matter -- yet we do not hear that those responsible are being fined, imprisoned or punished in any measurable way.

Why the hell not?

If I set up a road-block and demanded (with menaces) that people give me their names, addresses and other information, I would be locked up for sure.

If I fraudulently represented myself as having the legal right to stop you on the highway and demand such information without having any such authority, I would also surely be dragged through the courts and suffer some form of punishment for my offending.

Yet, when the police, an organisation that relies on the trust and respect of the public to better carry out its role, chooses to do exactly this, they're effectively given a "get out of jail free" card.

Personally, I see little point in having the IPCA or the Privacy Commission or any regulatory authority investigate the actions of police or other government agencies if, even when they're found to be acting "unlawfully", there are no consequences for those who made the conscious decisions that resulted in such actions.

We have seen, time and time again, that there is no censure for those who operate under the protective cloak of a "government agency" so why are we engaging in the ridiculous charades that have surrounded:

  • the unlawful raid on Kim Dotcom's mansion
  • the unlawful surveillance of NZ residents by the GCSB
  • the unlawful detention of NZ residents during the Ururewa raids
  • the unlawful stopping of those attending a euthanasia meeting
  • etc, etc, etc

So long as there are no consequences to such "unlawful" actions then we're just wasting taxpayers' money engaging in these investigations and judgments.

And surely, in a free democracy, we as the people who are inevitably the victims of such "unlawful" actions on the part of the state, have a right to demand that those who dare to break the laws are subject to punishment for their crimes.

Why is it that when members of the public break the law it's deemed an "illegal act" but when government agencies do exactly the same it's redefined as an "unlawful act"?

Why does "illegal" often involve a stiff fine or custodial sentence but "unlawful" rarely if ever involves any punishment for those who made the decisions and carried out the acts?

Sorry... but I believe that this simply isn't good enough.

If the Nuremberg defence wasn't good enough for the post-WW2 trials, I don't think it should be good enough for civil servants here in NZ and those who gave the orders to carry out an illegal act should be dismissed from their job, at the very least.

Sadly however, I see nothing changing any time soon.

The average Kiwi really doesn't give a damn about his fellow citizen and lacks the empathy to say "that's bad, we must do something". The government of the day isn't going to take the bold move of sorting this mess out either -- because they're far too beholding to the mountain of civil servants who would then lose their "get out of jail free" card as a result.

So we will just continue believing the myth that we are protected from the excesses of the state and some of its more rogue elements -- something that is patently untrue because we do not punish the worst offenders.

The Soviet Bloc may have been bad... but at least there was no fake pretense of protection from the state there. Here in NZ, we just refuse to admit that on occasion, we're every bit as bad as 1970s Russia was.

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