Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Immigration Bill Reported Back

I was struck some days ago by this passage from the maiden speech of Lady Manningham-Buller in the UK House of Lords

I have weighed up the balance between the right to life – the most important civil liberty – the fact that there is no such thing as complete security, and the importance of our hard-won civil liberties. Therefore, on a matter of principle, I cannot support 42 days' pre-charge detention. I do understand different views and that there are judgements honestly reached by others, and I respect these views.

Struck of course because Lady Manningham-Buller was so recently head of MI-5, and because it is so much in agreement with my own notions about the appropriate response of Western societies to the serious but persistent and usually manageable threats of terrorism.

The issue is rather different but I am struck also by the fact that the purpose of the new Immigration Bill (of which I have only recently become aware despite its advanced progress through the House) is to "manage immigration in a way that balances the national interest, as determined by the Crown, and the rights of individuals."

It doesn't seem to me that the Bill achieves this in its security related provisions.

Not when it allows for the arrest of non-citizens "suspected by an immigration officer or member of the police of constituting a threat or risk to security" and subsequently their indefinite detention under endlessly renewed warrants of committment. When charges are brought they can be based on secret evidence to which the accused will have no access and the defense is to be mounted by special advocates who cannot communicate with the accused after they have seen the totality of the Crown's evidence in the case.

I'm no lawyer and the security of New Zealanders is not my responsibility but these measures seem hugely out of proportion. There are many other issues with the Bill although I am relieved to find that it is now consistent with the treaties we have signed opposing torture.

If I stay this angry about the Bill I may have to vote for a party that opposes this legislation in the House.

On this issue read No Right Turn and Gordon Campbell.

I'd be happy to consider any serious defense of the Bill.

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