I already put together a Storify detailing the first half hour or so of events today in the House. Basically, PM John Key responded to questions about NZ citizens being held on Christmas Island with repeated accusations that the Labour party is supporting rapists. The Speaker held that this was not offensive and did not need to be withdrawn, because the measurement is not whether one member is offended but whether the House is offended. Apparently, the House is not offended by a member accusing the Opposition of supporting sex crimes. This prompted a large number of Labour and Greens MPs to walk out – according to Nathan Simms (@5WinstonSmith5) this was the biggest walk out since Muldoon claimed that Moyle had been stopped by police while gay cruising. That event took place when homosexuality was still illegal, in 1976.
There are some tweets in there regarding a few of the minor crimes detainees were convicted of; here’s a story with more detail about a couple of cases.
At the end of Question Time everyone came back in and Chris Hipkins filed a motion for a vote of no confidence in Carter as Speaker. Unfortunately, since you have to file a motion, even a single objection is enough to block it, and of course National did not allow the vote to be held.
Ironically enough, after this MP Tracey Martin called for an urgent debate regarding police inaction on a group of teenager boys posting photos of them committing sex acts on drunk and underaged girls (I don’t think I need to get more specific than that), which was also denied. By National. Twitter continued in this vein by listing other reasons Key’s accusations were highly hypocritical – defunding of rape crisis centres, for example, or Kelvin Davis’ own history of fundraising for victims through sponsored charity walks.
Personally, my position is staunchly that even if all 40 Kiwis being held on Christmas island were criminals of the worst sort, it wouldn’t matter. They served their time and have been released from jail. They should not still be held, whether in a Correctional facility (which Christmas Island is not) or a detention centre. It’s an abuse of human rights.
And it’s an abuse that is still even worse than what refugees there are suffering. What I very much hope is that if anything comes of the Kiwis being held there it’s that the media starts to pay more attention to the conditions. It’s not that we haven’t had serious eye witness evidence to these camps before, but the way the media in almost any country focuses so intently on the local connection to any situation (a hundred people die and we pay attention to the one Kiwi who hasn’t lived here in 20 years who was nearby at the time, etc), maybe, just maybe, having Kiwis in these camps will make it more real for people. Because we really have a strong moral obligation to call Australia out on this shit and instead we’re pandering to them – partly because they’re our bigger neighbour, partly because they’re in between us and most refugees. Politics and cowardice.
And then compare John Key’s behaviour to that of the actual Kiwis in question, as reported in the Herald of all places. (There’s an autoplay video there you’ll have to turn off.)
The unrest began with upset refugees asking officials what happened to refugee Fazel Chegeni, whose body was found on Sunday following his escape from the detention centre on Friday. “They just wanted straight-forward answers, and weren’t given straight-forward answers,” Mr Hohua said.
The hated ERT were sent in, he claimed, and jostled with the refugees. Mr Hohua claims that one ERT member challenged one refugee to a “one on one” fight.
“That’s when us 501s [convicted criminals with cancelled visas] got involved,” he said. “You can’t f***ing do that. Who are you? You know. We didn’t get involved, as in, throw any punches, but we made sure that he wasn’t going to touch the refugee, or any of them were going to touch the refugee. Refugees don’t fight. Refugees just yell and scream and argue and get beaten up for it.”
I’m pretty proud of the people who are working in defense of refugees – whether they be NZ citizens with criminal convictions in the camps or people like Kelvin Davis and the ordinary people going to protests and speaking out. It almost makes up for how fucking disappointing the government is.