Further to my previous post on Labour making constitutional changes, we just had another major one pushed through. Labour has passed the Police Bill (hat tip: Tumeke!), a bill which is probably well intentioned and has a lot of stuff the police certainly like the sound of.
BUT, this bill also:
- Lets the Prime Minister appoint the Police Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner
- Places the Minister of Police under the authority of the Prime Minister
As Bomber says:
Meaning the Police are answerable to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister hires and fires those who run the policy, it is a closed relationship that does as my co-blogger points out “invites political manipulation, under-performance and ultimately corruption”.
Once again this seems a minor change to law. What is really wrong with the Prime Minister being in charge of the Police? Someone has to and she is democratically elected after all. But when this Act is passed by a Prime Minister who has been investigated by the Police more than any other Prime Minister in the history of the country, who each time have declined to prosecute claiming it is “not in the public interest”, it becomes a bit suspicious.
When it comes at the same time as Labour is planning to abolish the Serious Fraud Office (currently independant of the police and not under the control of the Prime Minister), which is currently investigating the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and move its powers over to the Police (where they would be under the direct control of the Prime Minister now), it becomes still more suspicious.
When it comes after a long string of questionable constitutional changes by Labour, and is rushed in before they leave office, it becomes very worrying.
Now if the Prime Minister were to do something illegal or undemocratic, whether minor (say, speeding or blocking handicapped parks), moderate (such as financial fraud, such as what Mr Peters is currently accused of), or major (such as deciding we aren’t going to have an election after all), who could do anything about it?
- The Police and the SFO, who could investigate, would be under her control.
- The court system is under her control (through judicial appointments), and may be unlikely to rule against her.
- The Governor General would probably not interfere, they are ultimately controlled by the PM.
- The final safeguard, which you never wish to need, is a military coup. But the military is small and poorly equipped.
I am not suggesting that the current PM will choose not to call an election this year. But we have safeguards around the government for a reason. The more these safeguards are eroded, the more risk we have of some PM, sometime, doing something like this. Hitler was democratically elected, and should be a strong reminder of the need for these safeguards which Labour is systematically removing.