Justice summit and “unless we’re willing to decolonise”

Green MP continues to attract attention on Twitter. On Tuesday she said “We can’t fix our justice system unless we’re willing to decolonise. That begins with handing the mic over to tangata whenua.”

Someone else asked the obvious question: What does willingness to decolonise mean?


It means acknowledging this prison industrial syndrome existed before colonisation.

I have no idea what she means by that.

It means prioritising Māori tikanga at every level so tangata whenua have the outcomes they deserve in health, education, employment…Mostly, that they get to say what those systems looks like.

Certainly Māori should have a say in what health, education, employment systems should look like, but those systems have to cater for all New Zealanders – better for Māori for sure, but for everyone else too.

Ghahraman wasn’t the only person referring to colonisation.

Sio is an Labour MP (who migrated to New Zealand from Samoa when he was eight years old).

Sure, the effects of colonisation need to be considered amongst all other factors in which (some) Māori are adversely affected.

But decolonisation?

This was mentioned by two speakers at the justice summit. Newsroom: Systemic concerns outlined at justice summit

Former police officer and Te Puea Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis…

…spoke about “the big brown elephant in the room” which had in the past been ignored but was now front and centre.

“I have to say I’m extremely encouraged by the language that you’re using, the audacious position that you’ve put yourselves in, and the direction – tena koutou.”

Dennis said one of his concerns was the lack of a consistent strategy by and for Māori across the entire justice system, setting “terms of engagement”.

“We’re talking about a 30-year system focused on punitive and colonial attitudes and now we’re saying we need to change that – this is not going to happen overnight, it will take time.”

Laura O’Connell Rapira, the co-director of ActionStation…

… said the campaign group had carried out a survey on Māori perspectives of the justice system, with 90 percent agreeing that structural racism, colonisation and intergenerational trauma were the reasons for their over-representation in the prison population.

“It speaks to the need for systemic change, really transformative change, and my hope is that is what comes out of this hui because it’s been called for pretty much my whole life from Māori communities.”

Associate Justice Minister Aupito William Sio agreed that colonisation was an issue that could not be ignored, but warned there was no quick fix.

“We’re talking about a 30-year system focused on punitive and colonial attitudes and now we’re saying we need to change that – this is not going to happen overnight, it will take time.”

Justice and prison systems largely based on British systems certainly have flaws and need to be improved, as do outcomes for Māori – not just involving crime, but their whole family and social systems, including education, employment and health.

But the current system can’t just be replaced. It somehow has to be improved, and Māori  need to play a significant role in how that is done.

Talking about the effects of colonisation is important, but  I don’t think that throwing potentially divisive terms like decolonisation into the discussion help. We all have to work together on this, an us and them attitude is unlikely to fix anything.

However as Māori   are a big part of the justice problems, they need to take prominent roles in looking for solutions.

Learning from the past is fine, just blaming the past is unlikely to lead to positive change,.


Twyford versus Bennett on release of information

Pressure was maintained on Paula Bennett yesterday over the revealing of one her staff to a journalist that Te Puea Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis was under police investigation.

Phil Twyford asked her questions in Parliament yesterday about it.

[Sitting date: 15 June 2016. Volume:715;Page:6. Text is subject to correction.]

6. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Social Housing: What time and date was she first aware that her staff member had released or was going to release information about a Police investigation into Te Puea Marae Chairman, Hurimoana Dennis?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing): At just before 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 14 June, I was stopped on the bridge and asked questions about whether a staff member had leaked information about Mr Dennis to the media. After 2 p.m. I asked my staff to investigate whether there was anything in the allegations. I had two questions in the House and concentrated on them, while leaving my senior staff to investigate. At approximately 3.20 p.m. yesterday one of my staff confirmed to me that they had spoken to a Television New Zealand journalist about it the week before.

Phil Twyford: Why did her staff member want the journalist to know about the police investigation?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The staff member has informed me that she was talking to the journalist in light of a meeting that I had on Friday morning with Mr Dennis. She informed me that as an aside, at the end, she did discuss those issues with him, as has been canvassed. She assures me that it was not the intention for it to be a smear campaign against Mr Dennis or the marae.

Phil Twyford: Did she talk to her staff about the information that came up in the meeting with Hurimoana Dennis; if so, why?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I had a full brief with three or four of my political staff members on the meeting that I had with Mr Dennis. Yes, it did come up, about the investigation.

Phil Twyford: Why did she discuss the information about the police investigation with her staff?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: It was just in the context of the whole meeting. I had gone through the meeting from start to finish, and, as a consequence of that, that is why it was raised—in that context.

Phil Twyford: Was the staff member who joined her for the meeting with Hurimoana Dennis at a Mount Eden cafe the same staff member who passed the information about the police investigation to the journalist?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am unwilling to confirm or deny whether or not it was the same staff member because I think it might identify them, and I do not think that is fair.

Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: A point of order has been raised, and I need to hear it in silence.

Grant Robertson: The Minister did not invoke a public interest clause there. Mr Twyford is not asking for the name of a person—simply whether or not the person who was in the meeting with Ms Bennett was the same person who spoke to a journalist. I do not see how that could identify a particular person, one way or the other.

Mr SPEAKER: I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 193/3, which talks about an issue of commercial sensitivity, national security, and privacy. In this case I think that test has been met.

Phil Twyford: Will she take responsibility for the culture in her office that allowed a staff member to think it was OK to leak details of a police investigation to a private citizen?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: There is not a culture. As I have said, it is unacceptable and it should not have happened.

While I don’t agree with frequent demands for resignations – if everyone resigned when opponents demanded it there would be no one left – this has been awkward for Bennett and hasn’t looked good at all.

NZ Herald: Paula Bennett refuses offer of resignation from staff member over marae leader leak

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett has refused an offer of resignation from the press secretary who told a journalist that a marae leader was under police investigation.

Ms Bennett today faced further questions about the leak, which she said was a “grave error of judgment” by her staff member.

Pressed by Labour MP Kris Faafoi during a scheduled appearance before a select committee in her role as State Services Minister, Ms Bennett said she had no idea the information had been passed on, until confronted by media yesterday afternoon.

“I do not think that she tried to deliberately smear. I do not think that she was trying to deliberately undermine anyone, and I think it was in the context in a conversation about something else, and then at the end it came up.

“She deeply, deeply regrets it. And I can’t apologise enough.”

Despite some claims of the Minister’s complicity there is no evidence that Bennett was involved in a deliberate outing or smear of Dennis, so it remains at this stage a poor decision by one of Bennett’s staff (who apparently has apologised and offered to resign) that reflects poorly on her Minister.

Unless something else emerges the dust will probably settle on this now, but some of that dust has settled on Bennett’s chances of rising further in the political ranks.

One interesting aspect of this is that the issue was raised by a journalist who was told about the police investigation by a staffer – presumably a PR staffer who may well be an ex journalist.

Neither of them have been named or identified.

Paula Bennett with more problems

Minister of Social Housing Paula Bennett had a bad week last week, but this week doesn’t look any better for her.

Regardless of whether one of her staff revealed to a journalist that the chairman of a marae was under police investigation with her knowledge or not this is looking bad for Bennett.

Stuff: Paula Bennett’s office accused of smearing chairman of Auckland marae helping homeless

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett’s office has been accused of smearing the chairman of a marae helping the homeless, by informing media about a police investigation into the man.

On her way into the debating chamber, Bennett confirmed she was aware of a police investigation into Te Puea Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis, a police inspector and national Maori strategic adviser for NZ Police.

Bennett said Dennis had informed her of the investigation at a meeting last week, but she had not asked about the nature of the allegations against him.

“I have heard that there is an investigation currently…I don’t really know any details about it and I didn’t think it was my place to go into that.”

Asked by RNZ whether her office had made unsolicited calls to journalists, informing them of the investigation, Bennett said she was unaware of any calls and “wouldn’t expect that to be happening”.

In a statement later on Tuesday afternoon, Bennett said she had asked her staff about the allegations, with a staff member confirming they had “briefly” discussed the investigation with a member of the media, as they presumed it was public information.

“My staff member very much regrets this error and has apologised to me and I accept their assurances it won’t happen again.

“I have made it clear that it was not appropriate.”

Bennett said she had called Dennis to apologise in person.

Opponents now claim that Bennett has thrown her staff member under a bus and she should resign, or the staff member should resign, or both should resign.

Regardless of whether it justifies any resignations or not this does not look good for Bennett at all.

Bennett looks like she has been handling the homelessness and emergency housing issue very poorly.

Perhaps she should stay clear of the Prime Minister in the the vicinity of buses.