Congratulations on your seventeen years of publication.
In these 17 years, you have become a mainstay on New Zealand’s ethnic media stage – well done!
As a Member of Parliament, I have particularly enjoyed how Indian Newslink has grasped the concept of news stewardship.
It has been wonderful to see that you have kept successive governments and bureaucrats honest – you have held them to account on behalf of the Kiwi Indian community and this is how it should be.
This is not all you do, however, and this is what has made Indian Newslink top class – you instinctively share the news of our community.
You have a winning mix of politics, news and human interest stories.
Let me now turn to some important issues concerning public safety.
If there was any doubt about the government’s lack of support for New Zealanders, one just needs to look at Law and Order – Corrections and Police – the portfolios which oversee our safety.
The actions of the government are clearly taking New Zealand in a direction that does not reflect the cliché ‘Safer Communities together.’
Let us take a walk through some of the government’s decisions:
If we look at policing, New Zealand First is astounded that the government even considered amending the Police Act to allow the Police to charge for the vetting service that they provide.
Parliament has passed the Policing (Cost Recovery) Amendment Bill and hence New Zealanders will be paying a fee for this core Policing activity.
The SERCO failure
The government have been calling it, ‘Cost Recovery’ but it is clearly profiteering.
Corrections is an absolute debacle:
The decision to continue allowing SERCO to run some of our prisons when the report issued recently indicated that fight clubs existed within the Mt Eden Corrections Facility and probably other prisons.
There is evidence of rampant staff shortages within SERCO run prisons.
New Zealand First has long held the view that SERCO should be using the same staff to prisoner ratios that the Corrections Department use. This is because they are there to keep both staff and prisoners safe.
SERCO’s record proves their ‘dynamic rostering model’ is a failure.
New Zealand First have never been keen on private-run prisons, especially by foreign-owned companies and SERCO have proven us right.
Then there is a lack of investment in software that would fix the blunders with prisoner release dates. Few years ago, when I was a Senior Corrections Officer, we used pencils, calculators and spreadsheets to calculate release dates!
The blunders are enough to be a huge embarrassment for the government and Corrections Department and it will be New Zealand taxpayers who would meet the cost of probable compensation payments.
It is imperative that the government comes up with money immediately for new software and training so that Corrections staff can do their job properly.
If that is not enough, the government should be recruiting and training New Zealanders to run our prisons, not bringing staff from overseas.
The government says that we need experienced officers but foreign workers are not experienced in running our prisons, so that is a lame excuse.
There is a complete lack of cultural knowledge with the foreign recruits and besides, this is taking jobs away from New Zealanders.
Victims at risk
The government has also missed the point with electronic monitoring of offenders. New Zealand First has no problem with using this for non-violent offenders, but the evidence suggests that the system is flawed and victims of crime are put at undue risk.
There have been over 15,500 breaches of monitoring under the National government’s watch, each costing the tax-payer approximately $2500.
The serious breaches have come about because the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing.
New Zealand First believes that we need to fix this; therefore, we drafted an amendment to the Bill that was shot down by the Corrections Minister and only time will tell that New Zealand First is right.
We have warned the government of the dangers of lack of effective and timely communication amongst various law enforcement agencies.
It is about the safety of our communities and that comes first.
Mahesh Bindra is a Member of Parliament on New Zealand First Party List.