ACT gang rhetoric 'back to the 1960s'

By Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

ACT has a grand plan to limit gang members' freedom by introducing a new law and order policy that will prohibit members from associating with each other and introduce electronic monitoring to stop those on benefits from buying alcohol and tobacco. ACT says it's about having an "honest conversation" but critics say Act is out of touch with reality. 

It's the crackdown everyone expected. So much so that community advocate, Eugene Ryder says it's "the same old rhetoric" that said "take the bike off the biker" in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The ACT policy would mean that gang members would receive their benefit in the form of an electronic card that would track and restrict spending on alcohol, gambling, and tobacco.

“The children affected by gang criminality are not at fault and deserve support, Act spokesperson, Karen Chhour says. "This policy tips the balance towards the child and away from crime."

But Ryder says it could lead people to find other alternatives to buy those products. 

ACT says children are a priority but calling them "gang children" in its press release is a step too far, says Ryder who believes that phrase ostracises communities. Asked about the appropriateness of the tag, leader David Seymour said he would be"happy to discuss the language" if a better alternative was offered.

Gangs have been at the front and centre of debates lately, with both National and  ACT questioning a koha given by the chief human rights commissioner at a pōwhiri hosted by the Mongrel Mob Kingdom and calling out Greens co-leader Marama Davidson for meeting with gangs. 

Seymour believes Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern's "kindness" is something to answer for “Gang numbers are up 50 per cent after four years of Labour’s ‘kindness’ approach. We’ve watched as patched gang members have taken over our streets like it’s them and not law-abiding taxpayers who own the place,” Seymour says.

Ryder says the rhetoric coming out of Parliament on gangs will have a negative effect on children, saying that what children will hear is "society turning against their parents," and children would not warm to that societal thinking. 

ACT MPs are continuing the "Honest Conversations tour" where they will be gathering feedback and sharing their policies.