In the interests of fairness I can now post the last speeches David Garrett made during the committee stages of debating the Gang Insignia Bill. Although he casts ACT's 5 votes in favour at the second reading, he casts doubt on whether ACT will support the third reading. I have posted them in full;
DAVID GARRETT (ACT) : I have been invited by Labour to stand and state our position on this bill. I have to say that it is not easy to do, because there has been considerable debate among our party, among our supporters, and among our caucus, on our position on the Wanganui District Council (Prohibition of Gang Insignia) Bill—and for very good reason. I am afraid that as much as I like and respect my new colleague Mr Bridges, I cannot agree that it is a good bill. It is not a good bill for a number of reasons. It is not a good bill because it does not clearly define what gang insignia is. It is not a good bill because it does not spell out exactly which areas in the Wanganui District Council district can be designated as gang-free zones.
Before continuing, I would like to take up Ms Turei’s point. I find it rather saddening to have to say, for about the fourth or fifth time I have spoken in this House after Ms Turei, that it would be very helpful if she actually read the bill that she was debating. She just stated that there is nothing in the bill that prevents the entire Wanganui District from being designated a specified place. I thought she had trained as a lawyer—I did so. If the member read clause 5(5), she would see that it specifically states: “A bylaw must not be made under subsection (1)(a) if the effect of the bylaw, either by itself or in conjunction with other bylaws made under subsection (1)(a), would be that all the public places in the district are specified places.” So there is one point that is completely incorrect, and it would be very, very helpful if those who were going to debate this would actually read the bill.
The second point that Ms Turei made that I am afraid I must take issue with, and quite strongly—and I will explain why in a moment—is this absolute nonsense that the bill is aimed at Māori gangs. The bill specifically refers to a number of gangs, including Hell’s Angels, the Mothers, and the Magogs. During the adjournment week I was contacted by text by one Shagger Gilmour—he was stupid enough to write it—of the Magog Motorcycle Club. He made some fairly carefully veiled threats to me over speeches I had made on this bill earlier. Shagger is a senior member of the Magog Motorcycle Club, which, despite his claims to the contrary, is either entirely, or at least mostly, a white gang. He claimed, although he would not name who the member was, that a Māori had been a founder member for 32 years, and he suggested that I in fact knew nothing about it and had never been there. I named a few of the members and he went a bit quiet. Hell’s Angels is also wholly, or almost wholly, a white gang. So the claim that this bill is aimed at Māori gangs is absolute and utter nonsense. Perhaps Ms Turei, during her next call, may wish to refer to Rooter Johnson, Smasher Harris, or whoever is a Māori and a member of those named gangs.
But I get on to the guts of the bill. As I said, I am afraid I cannot agree entirely with my colleague Mr Bridges, or, I am afraid, with my colleague Mr Borrows. There are a number of things wrong with the bill. It will not make a noticeable difference to the criminal activities of gangs. It will not, sadly, make much difference to their presence in Wanganui. I have to say, in all fairness, that I agree with the point made by Ms Mackey and others—and, again, I feel rather bad about having to say this—in relation to the killing of the young fellow with the wrongly coloured hoodie: the bill is likely to cause, and not to solve, that kind of confusion.
The bill is a measure of the desperation of the Wanganui community. They have had enough. As a society we have been frozen in the headlights, like a possum or a deer, for 30 years, over what to do. Norm Kirk—well before Mr Hughes was born, I suspect—said he was going to take the bikes off the bikies. It did not happen, so we have had the problem since at least 1972.
DAVID GARRETT (ACT) : I came to Parliament believing in the parliamentary process, that the executive did not, in fact—as the cynics say—dictate everything, and that the debate in this Chamber was actually meaningful. Since I have been here people both inside the Chamber and outside have laughed at that naivety and told me not to be silly, that I was right in the first place and it was all irrelevant, and that what happened here was all hot air and did not much matter. Well, who would have thought it? I have discovered that the Wanganui District Council (Prohibition of Gang Insignia) Bill has proved that the parliamentary process—and by the parliamentary process I mean this House—is relevant. I have been listening not just to this debate but to the earlier debates, and I have spoken in all of them, and sensible things are coming from almost all sides of the Chamber.
There are lots of arguments both for and against this legislation that have merit. On one hand, the people of Wanganui have clearly indicated their desire for this bill—more than 65 percent of them—and that is worthy of respect. I believe that while I was absent from the Chamber someone told Mr Boscawen, my colleague, that we were the libertarian party. Well, we are not. We have a libertarian wing, but we are the party of choice, so we respect the choice of the people of Wanganui. We promote freedom of speech. Many in our party are almost obsessed, I will say, with freedom of speech, but freedom of speech has limits. People cannot yell “Fire!” in a crowded theatre. People cannot walk down the street with certain things on their T-shirts or they will be arrested. It has nothing to do with gangs. These groups—gangs, or whatever—are criminal organisations whose purpose is intimidation. Much of the recent debate has completely neglected the part of the bill that requires gangs to be identified as being criminal.
But there are problems of interpretation. I am a lawyer. There are problems in defining “insignia” and problems in defining “display”. All of those things are there. We could spend all night on the pros and cons, and the yin and yang. Members opposite have—with fairness and justification—asked where we stand, because we have created a little confusion. In fact, I will take responsibility and say that I have created some. I said at the outset that we were going to listen to the debate. I am afraid I have to say that what Mr Borrows, whom I respect greatly, thought was the coup de grâce—the story of the young man killed because he wore a red hoodie—in fact deeply disturbs me, and I am afraid that in all conscience I have to say that what the Labour members have said about that issue rings true.
So where does the ACT Party stand on this bill? Well, we stand right here. We are listening. It has been a very vigorous debate—probably not quite as vigorous as here— in our caucus and in our party. I am going to be honest and perhaps again prove my naivety and my newness, and say that much of what I have heard tonight from members opposite makes sense. Much of what I have heard from the National side has always made sense. So I wish to keep listening. I think our caucus wishes to keep listening and to discuss and debate what is being said, because the parliamentary process has proved itself in this debate not to be irrelevant, not to be hot air, and not to be controlled by an executive or someone else. Mr Chair and fellow members, our position is this: we will vote in favour of the bill at this Committee stage, but that does not presuppose that we will support the bill at its third reading. The only way we can continue to listen to the contributions from all sides is to vote in favour at this stage, and that is what we will do.
July 31 in history
7 minutes ago