Freedom is a word that is bandied about a lot in this country and we are constantly told how free we are in New Zealand. And for the most part that is correct, although we need a little context here.
Obviously we have more freedom than, for instance the poor sods unlucky enough to have been born in Kazakhstan. As if it wasn’t enough having Sacha Baron Cohen making a mockery of them, they are not allowed to do any mocking themselves; at least not if it involves mocking their glorious President, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Not only has this man held elections recently in which he claims to have captured (good word under the circumstances) 95 percent of the vote, but he has also had critics dispatched very swiftly. One opposition leader recently allegedly shot himself in the back of the head....twice! Presumably his first shot didn’t do the job properly and he still had the presence of mind (even if his brains had just been blown out) to try again.
And just in case any other upstarts decide to make any less than flattering remarks about President ‘Nursie’, he has passed a ‘Father of the Nation’ law which makes it a criminal offence to publicly question the honour and dignity of the president. Although how this mad despot can possess any dignity or honour to impugn in the first place beats me.
So to return to my point; we don’t have to contend with that sort of crap. But that is still no reason for us to drop our guard because many of our freedoms are being eroded on an ongoing basis.
Take for example the suggestion from our own glorious pres, er Prime Minister JiangQi who wants to send the cops, navy and air force in to deal with the Greenpeace protesters who quite reasonably don’t want Brazilians carrying out seismic surveys with a view to sucking oil out of our coastline.
Hey Johnny, last time I looked it wasn’t against the law to protest, and anyway why is it always left up to members of the public to do this stuff because our no ‘nads pollies are too fixated on feathering their own already considerable financial nests?
Another freedom that’s being eroded in New Zealand is our freedom of speech. Just last weekend singer Tiki Taane was arrested and chucked in the cells in Tauranga for singing an (admittedly stupid) song by NWA called Fuck The Cops during his set in the Illuminati Club, ironically. He was singing it when the cops came in to check the place out, and they obviously took it pretty personally. Not Tiki’s smartest move, but nonetheless it wasn’t hurting anybody and the actions of the cops will just encourage more youngsters to become alienated from the boys and girls in blue. The dimwits who carried out the arrest are bound to lose the case and will have negatively impacted upon police and youth relations.
But what the Tauranga plods did was just small potatoes to what Justice Hammond has just done to publisher Vincent Siemer. Siemer is the man who has been accused of and jailed for allegedly defaming Vector director and Korda Mentha boss Michael Stiassny. Now from my observations, Mr Siemer might be a little reckless, although if I was in his position and had lost a bundle through what he claims are the actions of Stiassny, I might be a bit touchy too.
However what really bothers me about this case is the fact that Hammond was allowed to sit in judgement upon it. It is clear that he had serious conflicts of interest as he knows Stiassny well and even Stiassny is alleged to have boasted about what a good friend of his Hammond is. When challenged by Siemer about his suitability to sit in judgement in a case where Staissny was the plaintiff, Hammond claimed he had no previous involvement with him. But when it was able to be proven that he actually had been working with him for seven months in an earlier case the Supreme Court via justices Blanchard, Tipping and McGrath issued a minute saying the judge had “not accurately recollected the Paragon litigation in which he had been involved as a High Court Judge when he said that it was before Mr Stiassny became involved.” They concluded it was fanciful to suggest the judge should be embarrassed by this or that he should not be allowed to sit on the case.
Now call me a cynic, (and no doubt many will), but that just sounds to me like weasel words issued from three members of the brotherhood to protect the arse of another member of the brotherhood.
But the rot doesn’t stop there. Hammond also refused to allow Siemer to conduct his own defence and he was refused leave to appeal the court’s decision finding him guilty of libel and fining him $920,000; a decision the court reached in a ‘closed’ hearing.
Siemer laid a complaint with the Judicial Conduct Commission over his allegation Hammond had a conflict of interest, but that has apparently gone nowhere for the last two years.
Justice? I don’t think so. And you’d have to say our freedoms are looking decidedly less than we’d like to think they are.