Gordon Campbell on Judith Collins, crime and poverty

Usually, populism is associated with Winston Peters and his regular tweakings of community prejudice about race and immigration. Just as predictably, Police Minister Judith Collins engages in the same process of liberal baiting. It is just the way that a certain brand of politics gets done. Law’n’order and the criminal poor have always been a reliable source of public concern. Not that Collins is much interested in the difficult, time consuming process of identifying the causes of crime and devising solutions. Trolling the electorate is much easier, and generates far bigger dollops of personal publicity.

Collins made her dismissive comments about the links between poverty and crime in response to a question from the floor at yesterday’s Police Association annual conference.

Ms Collins was challenged at the Police Association’s annual conference in Wellington today by a delegate, who said poverty was making law enforcement harder.

The delegate said his officers had been very busy with gangs, which he said were often filled with people who had experienced poverty as children.

Not her problem. Collins replied :

“I see a poverty of ideas, a poverty of parental responsibility, a poverty of love, a poverty of caring.”As the MP for Papakura, she saw a lot of those problems in south Auckland, she said. “And I can tell you it is not just a lack of money, it is primarily a lack of responsibility….In New Zealand, there was money available to everyone who needed it, she said. It’s not that, it’s people who don’t look after their children, that’s the problem.

“And they can’t look after their children in many cases because they don’t know how to look after their children or even think they should look after their children. I know that is not PC, but, you know, that’s me.”

Yep. That’s Judith. Not PC. Fearlessly blaming the poor for their lot. In fact she is very cleverly blaming only some of the poor – the criminal few. Most poor people are law abiding, despite the grinding effect that poverty exerts day in, year out – and the way that it blights lives and opportunity, intergenerationally. Most parents, rich or poor, love their kids and will make sacrifices for them. Only a relative minority of people resort to crime. Unfortunately, those on the centre-left who decry the impact of income inequality and poverty can easily overlook the efforts of the virtuous poor, who are – often – the immediate victims of the criminal minority, and may well resent being tarred with the same brush.

Paradoxically then, that’s why Collins’ message could well be welcomed in parts of south Auckland. To the poor but honest majority, Collins may seem to be on their side. Her remarks will also be embraced by the older, New Zealand First crowd who like to hark back to the poor-but-honest days of their parents. In fact, the poverty of 2016 is vastly different in nature and effect from the poverty of the 1950s and 1960s, a golden time when jobs were plentiful and social mobility really was society’s reward for hard work. However, the jobs – in manufacturing in particular – that once provided an escape route from poverty have now largely disappeared. Social mobility is less likely, today. Collins knows this. Cynically, she chooses to live in denial and – in her desire to blame the poor for their plight – she has over egged her claim that the social welfare net currently provides an income that’s adequate for everyone. That’s a ridiculous, deeply offensive claim.

So…it is infuriating to have to explain to a senior Cabinet Minister about the social harm caused by endemic poverty, but here are a few useful pointers for Collins :

There is a higher rate of mental illness in the poor than in the rich. Poverty can lead to high levels of stress that in turn may lead individuals to commit theft, robbery, or other violent acts. Moreover, poverty may lead to an actual or perceived inferior education, which would cause youth to count on less access to quality schools, jobs, and role models, decreasing the opportunity costs of crime and increasing the probability of youth spending time on the street associating with gangs.

One could go on. None of this means that being poor is a “get out of jail free” card. No one – not even the most woolly jumpered liberal – says that. No one claims that poverty provides an absolution for criminal acts. Yet to fearlessly leap to the opposite conclusion as Collins has done – and claim that everyone in New Zealand, every current beneficiary, is receiving an income that enables them to live adequately, is bizarre. Can Collins be so devoid of imagination that she cannot appreciate what it might feel like to look at your children and know in your bones that this country is happy to systematically deny them the opportunities for education, employment and chances of happiness that other kids across town automatically receive, merely by the accidents of birth? That’s enough to make anyone angry.

Sure, some people will channel that anger into a drive to escape the shackles of poverty and a few even make it out, or at least their children might. On the other hand, a relative minority will succumb to that anger and lash out – in socially destructive and self-destructive ways – at the forces that perpetuate poverty. Those that do pay the price.

Collins would prefer to (a) force the poor to continue to display superhuman patience and resilience and (b) bring the full force of the state down on the criminal poor. There is a third option, if society really wants to rid itself of the cancer of poverty. We could, for starters, try to reduce poverty (and eliminate child poverty altogether) by running an economy in a way that promotes employment, advocates for adequate wages and benefits, builds affordable housing etc etc.

Yet it is hard to see that option being embraced by a government that seems more than happy to live in denial. It denies there is a housing crisis. It believes it impossible to measure the extent of child poverty. Now – courtesy of Judith Collins – it seems willing to deny that poverty exists at all. Or, if it does, that there is any link between poverty and crime that’s worth worrying about. That’s Judith. Fearlessly living in denial.

The Vent

The effects of poverty – and the impulse to escape it – have been a driver of black music from soul to reggae to hip hop. This classic song by Big K.R.I.T doesn’t claim to be the best, but it does convey something of the effort and the intergenerational sadness involved in making the effort, day by day, to rise above …

I put my problems in a box beside my tightest rhymes
Under lock and key, buried deep off in my mind
And when it gets too full and I can't close the lid
I spaz on my family and my closest friends
Trade my materials for a peace of mind
I am so close to heaven, hell, I just need some time
Who cares about life and the highs and lows
Maybe I should write another song about pimps and hoes
Cars and clothes, idol gods, golden calves, Louis scarves
I do this for the love and it’s free of charge
I don’t need jail to be behind bars

13 Comments on Gordon Campbell on Judith Collins, crime and poverty

  1. One weird thing about these comments from Collins is that they actually rebound on her and those who think like her. In some ironic postmodern fashion she pulls the very trap door from under her own feet and instead of the finger pointing outwards it comes back at her like a boomerang. So “a poverty of ideas, a poverty of love, a poverty of responsibility and a poverty of caring” become a brilliant summation of her absolute moral, intellectual and political poverty that lies at the centre of Collins’ bankrupt world view.

  2. Im sisgusted by hwr remarks especially at a policw conferance to the people that know whats going .this wonan should be sacked immediatly and im starting a petition for that purpose .maybe its time the gov got real and stopped the huge tax on petrol and cigarettes that effect the poor far harder

  3. The evil Collins is trying to confuse poverty of the soul( she may well be afflicted with )with material poverty. Material poverty that in most of the cases in NZ are mostly causes by the Crown’s unfair central banking economic system,the Crown colonizing debt slaves, claiming and controlling resources, selling public owned and national assets to foreign corporations and of course the govt’s gone-to-the-dark-side “social welfare and ACC” schemes that now cut people off assistance and legal entitlements and create poverty.
    Collins is right in that the people in power are living in a poverty of the soul, they do not even know how to govern or care for the people of New Zealand.

  4. Nicely stated Gordon.
    The hollowing out of blue collar opportunities and the unwillingness to publicly acknowledge it fuels impotent rage from some of the affected.
    It’s a global phenomena which automation can only exacerbate. Our existing capitalist model has absolutely no current way to acknowledge or accommodate it. That’s not a political statement, but a statement of fact. Those displaced workers will simply never, ever retrain, reskill, reintegrate end masse, and no amount of free markets or competition will ever change that. We need to acknowledge the reality to begun looking for an accommodation ( as I don’t believe a solution exists ).

  5. Collins plainly said the problem turned on a “poverty of ideas”. Hullo Judith, Hullo, and what are your ideas? Firstly for properly defining the problem and then for solving it.
    The biggest and saddest elephant in the room – and there are a number of them – is the issue of Maori poverty and its linkage to crime. This is, repeat, a very sad issue for Maori. One issue feeds of the other though I am not saying all Maori are criminally minded. Many law abiding Maori unfortunately are affected by the results.
    The Maori culture, language and gene pool over generations has been polluted and corrupted by so many factors it is difficult to know where to begin. Are gangs the new tribes? Is all Maori crime gang related? Who knows? Are Maori immersion schools the answer? I think not – I have some anecdotes on that subject. Is Maori educational failure a language or inter-generational issue? My view is that language is the basic issue there.
    That covers some of my thoughts on the first main driver of the crime and poverty rate. The other main driver of crime and poverty, separately, is straight out inequality. That is a big broad subject but the simplest explanation is lack of economic opportunities.
    Would a general amnesty for some of the lesser crimes see the prison population reduced and many prisoners given the opportunity, jobs and support permitting, to turn their lives around? I think that is known as forgiveness. Does Judith Collins know the meaning of that word? Bill English might be able to use some of his budget surplus to further educate the socially poor – forget about tax cuts.
    Gordon, I take issue with your claim that Collins makes some appeal to NZ First supporters. I have always regarded the word “crowd” as a pejorative term when used in the context you have chosen. I am an NZ First voter for the simple reason that on balance I have found more decency and honesty over all in their politics. As always we do not quite see eye to eye on everything – but again it is all about sifting out the pros and cons.

  6. @ Andrew you are incorrect, we have a central banking model.
    Instead of creating money itself the Crown nz Govt borrows it with interest from the banking cabal. This banking cabal also own most of the worlds resources, corporations,media, run wall st and control the economy.
    There is no ” free market” in this economic model. How can there be when one group of the 1% controls the market.

    Stop the widespread ignorance of stop blaming ” capitalism” when we have not even had the concept “capitalism” but rather an market oligarchy. The money lenders own, regulate themselves and control the market.
    The money lenders that created the legal entity known as the “Crown” are also the ones pushing this labor replacing technology, “smart” and automated technology.
    This is part of their “poverty creation scheme” and the globalization agenda.
    Poverty of the soul is a bigger problem in govt and in the minds of those people that seek to find happiness from gaining more material wealth (at the expense of those who haven’t enough).
    Of course solutions exists!
    But if you get spoon fed imaginary problems and media buzz words you will feel hopeless, not think for yourself and be lost in media propaganda.
    Isn’t the ‘poverty of the soul’ in places of power, policies and decision making a bigger problem for as a society?
    Without the affliction, making us forget who we are, we would naturally share without the need for acquiring more.The need for (to eat) MORE is one of the causes of obesity.
    So the bigger problems are being covered up and ” Child this and that” “Child obesity and Child poverty ” are media buzz words used to misdirect attention.

  7. Collins is planting the idea associating poverty with “crime” .
    But not with crime of fraud, stealing and selling the people of NZ’s assets, not the bigger crimes.
    Not organized crime.

    Those who creates money from nothing (but debt) and loan money with interest to the Crown nz govt through the debt of the people in order to to ” govern” them obviously control the economy.
    The Crown’s minister is distancing herself from the NZ economic system (which is indeed a central banking system), ignoring the austerity measures of cutting social welfare.
    When we talk about poverty they govt does not want us to at Govt ministers on their high salary AND taxpayer funded meals and booze that they should be paying for.

  8. Do we look for any accountability at the Crown’s “Ministry of Social Development” for the development or rather breakdown of a society that is not a human( kind caring compassionate)society. It is a corporate society.
    Can the MSD’s not providing function and stated duty, not providing access to legal entitlements( housing, money for food), treating people that should be treated as ” clients” like criminals create negative social outcomes?
    Symptoms of the societal breakdown include crime,insider trading, material poverty in a country with abundant resources for all.
    If we cannot see that the corporate mantras that the govt chants are not the songs of the human heart, if we cannot see we don’t need or want what they tell us we want how can we see how far away from human beings we have strayed under their misguided “leadership”.

  9. Collin’s is saying material poverty comes from something other than 1)not having money available to everyone who needs it?!!
    Collins and the other ministers are either complete ignoramuses or are lying. As due to the govt’s “austerity ” measures, corporate cuts and policy changes within the now toxic culture of the social welfare system money is obviously not available to all who need it .That would be end of material poverty.
    And that solution to material poverty would come from having a human soul. Not a soul in poverty, not the soul poverty of being estranged from itself, identified completely with a corporate belief system.

  10. Actually the most telling phrase in her response to the question from the floor was her (self) refernce of being “not PC”.

    The “PC” reference reveals a lot about the utterer.

    It is an epithet (meaningless in itself) but emotionally threatening to anyone who might disagree with the user.

    Collins is a lazy iliterate.
    Definitely fit for purpose as a Minister in a National government.

  11. I think her ignorance is the problem.
    Ignorant this is how the merchant bankers like their govt ministers.

    @PP They have speech writers you fund for illiteracy, the use of “PC” was purposeful used to pretend that PC Collins is not a political whore(or PC). Nothing the govt ministers say is worth hearing anyway (unless you enjoy the comedy of lies, hypocrisy and bullshit.)

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