Tuesday, 24 June 2008

i don't care where...

tim shadbolt came to the university of waikato to give a speech when i was studying there. this would be back in the mid-80's. i have no idea what possessed me to go and listen to him, given that i found his personality rather annoying at the time. but i did go, maybe because of the celebrity factor - i believe he was a mayor in auckland at the time.

i have to say that i was quite impressed. mr shadbolt spoke about his student protest days, his various brushes with the law, the experience of nearly going bankrupt and working off his debts, and life as a mayor. i can't remember now what exactly it was that impressed, except that he seemed to be a man of principles and ideals which was he prepared to stand up for, regardless of the consequences. most of all, i think it was his "never-say-die" attitude, his ability to come back up fighting regardless of what life threw at him.

fast forward to march 2006, and i read in the southland times that mr shadbolt had said this:

"In its infinite wisdom and compassion, this Government decided New Zealand would accept Muslim refugees from the Tampa. Australia had rejected them as unsuitable immigrants. In sharp contrast they have decided to launch dawn raids on ... tourist resort workers in Te Anau," Mr Shadbolt said.

as you can imagine, i was less than impressed and wrote a mild complaint to him, in which (amongst other things) i said:

i may be wrong, but the above statement appears to indicate that you might agree with the Australian government that the tampa refugees are "unsuitable immigrants". let us leave aside the fact that mr howard had used the issue of the tampa refugees to whip up an anti-immigrant wave which he rode into power; let us also leave aside the fact that it now appears mr howard lied about some of these refugees throwing their children overboard. my main concern here is the fact that you may feel these refugees are unsuitable for new zealand.

mr shadbolt, i would like to invite you to meet with the tampa refugees. i will be quite happy to pay for your return airfare from invercargill to auckland, and to organise the meeting. perhaps you are not aware of the effort these people have made to become part of our society, and how they have embraced the country they now call home.

well, he was nice enough to reply to me a couple of months later, after he had been in a pretty serious car accident. here is what he said:

Thank you for your e-mail of 14 March.

Yes, I admit it was a cheap shot, but we do feel persecuted in the deep south. Our city had the fastest declining population of any city in New Zealand or Australia, and when we finally got some new citizens, the Immigration Department launches dawn raids. If you believe in karma I've been punished and will not be travelling anywhere for some time.

which was all quite nice, and my good opinion of mr shadbolt continued. however, within the past year, that good opinion has been sorely tested, and about yesterday, the little goodwill i had slowly petered out.

i can understand that mr shadbolt is very concerned about the safety of his city, in light of recent gang violence. i know he must be feeling particularly helpless and wanting "something" to be done. but the notion that we should move to american-style elected sheriffs is just bizarre.

the one place that gangs are truly out of control is america. in fact many of the gangs here are offshoots of or inspired by american gangs. of all the countries in the world, i would have thought that would be the last place to look for solutions. wouldn't you rather look at countries that didn't have gangs, and replicate what they do?

the fact is that there is not a quick-fix solution to criminal offending and organised crime. the solutions involve a long-term view, which take years to take effect. not much consolation in the short-term i know. i'd suggest that in the short-term, mr shadbolt let the police get on with the job of restoring order, catching the offenders and putting them through the justice system. the best thing he can do right now is to work with police and to provide a calming influence.

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