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The operative word

By Steven | October 3, 2012

How often do government Ministers tell us that they never comment on “police operational matters”? And for good reason: countries where police are at the beck and call of politicians are police states.

But in relation to the Dotcom/GCSB matter, we have our Prime Minister telling us that the police’s investigation is a “political stunt” and a “waste of time”.

What if the police take this as a not-very-veiled indication of what the Prime Minister wants the outcome to be?

What if the police conclude that no further action should be taken - won’t the public be forgiven for wondering whether they have been influenced by the PM’s comments (even if in fact they haven’t)? After all, the government holds the purse strings for the police budget and appoints the police bosses.

That’s why we have a constitutional principle that government ministers don’t comment on police operations. I think the PM should shut his cakehole about this.

Topics: General |

10 Responses to “The operative word”

  1. Graeme Edgeler Says:
    October 3rd, 2012 at 11:58 am

    And so should Russel Norman, if he actually wants people to believe this isn’t a political stunt.

  2. ross Says:
    October 3rd, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Graeme,

    Russel doesn’t have the power that Key has. Surely he is allowed to speak publicly about government agencies that engage in illegal spying?

  3. Professor Says:
    October 3rd, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    No, no, no.

    The PM told us that Greens taking a complaint is to police is a political stunt.

    Greens taking a compliant to police is not an operational matter of police, it is an operational matter of Greens, and therefore qualifies as political stunt.

    Anyway, why are you buying into this? Surely this Goon-show embarrassment to the entire nation is not something any self-respecting lawyer ought to be dipping his wick into.

  4. Steven Says:
    October 3rd, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Hey Prof,
    The implication of Key’s words is that the complaint itself should not be treated seriously. (How about that “waste of time” remark?)

    Graeme,
    I’m inclined to agree with Ross that an opposition spokesperson has much more latitude to comment on the operations of the police, even when they’ve laid the complaint themselves. It doesn’t raise constitutional concerns, at least not to the same extent.

  5. Andrew Geddis Says:
    October 3rd, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Can I also point out that John Key has “form” on this issue?

    http://www.pundit.co.nz/content/necessitas-non-habit-legem

  6. Steven Says:
    October 3rd, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Yes. Sorry, meant to link to that.

  7. Graeme Edgeler Says:
    October 4th, 2012 at 12:31 am

    I’m inclined to agree with Ross that an opposition spokesperson has much more latitude to comment on the operations of the police, even when they’ve laid the complaint themselves. It doesn’t raise constitutional concerns, at least not to the same extent.

    I’m not talking about constitutional concerns.

    Russel Norman has made a complaint to the police. John Key has called that complaint a political stunt.

    As if desiring to prove John Key right, Dr Norman then is quoted in various media calling on the police to interview the Prime Minister. If you want people to think you are serious about your complaint, and want them to think that it is not a politically-motivated stunt, then this is a stupid thing to do.

  8. ross Says:
    October 5th, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Graeme

    Well, police should interview Key. He’s already misled Parliament by disclosing information which has been shown to be false. Norman is well within his rights to say what he wants from police. However, we can be fairly confident that police won’t lay any charges.

  9. adamgoodall Says:
    October 5th, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    I was having this argument with a friend on Twitter around the time Norman was calling on Key to ’support the complaint’ - if Key had supported that complaint (or, at the very least, saying “I support the police investigating Russell’s complaint if they choose to and will accept their decision/findings” or something like that), would that have been an infringement on that constitutional principle? I personally see it as something that would have been so non-committal that it couldn’t be seen as actually commenting on the complaint/investigation in any substantive way, but is that the actuality?

  10. Steven Says:
    October 18th, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Adam,
    I’m inclined to agree with you.

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