The biggest political story so far of 2019 has been the astounding audacity of the State spying on citizens, but the most important aspect of that story is in danger of being ignored.
The denial of any wrong doing by Simon Bridges as Minister of the agencies most responsible for the worst offences, is simply not believable and must be hounded by the Press Gallery, because holding the powerful to account on an abuse of power as politically unacceptable as this is supposed to be their first concern.
Former National Party ministers are being forced to defend the activities of private investigators under their watch, saying they didn’t know about any unethical activity.
The State Services Commission delivered a damning report into the use of companies like Thompson and Clark to carry out surveillance on protestors, activists and other members of the public, as well as inappropriately close relationship between investigators and some public servants.
The Commissioner described the way some agencies allowed some New Zealanders to be targeted by investigators as an affront to democracy.
…so this is an affront to democracy? And who was running those agencies who did the most egregious abuse of democracy power?
Two agencies for which National Party leader Simon Bridges had ministerial responsibility in the last government featured in the report – the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Transport Agency.
It found Thompson and Clark was portraying so-called “issue motivated groups” including Greenpeace, the Green Party and iwi groups, as security threats.
…well, well, well. National’s up and coming at the time heir apparent, Simon Bridges was running those departments?
What was Simon’s most important role in charge of those agencies? The law protecting oil companies from deep sea mining protests.
One of his more notable public gifts, however, was the legal expertise he deployed in the framing of the legislation prohibiting seaborne protests aimed at impeding oil exploration in New Zealand’s territorial waters.
That expertise was a long time in the making. Bridges learned the lawyer’s trade here in New Zealand, at Auckland’s Law School, and then among the dreaming spires of Oxford University. In the course of his training, Bridges studied not only how the legal system works, but also what the Rule of Law is intended to protect. As a keen student of history, he must have known, even as he proscribed them, how important the rights of the citizen have always been to the proper functioning of a democratic state.
That Bridges was willing, coolly and efficiently, to curtail New Zealanders’ protest rights, would not have gone unnoticed by his political patrons (among whom were John Key and Steven Joyce). They had set him a test – and he had passed it with flying colours. In order for Bridges to become a successful statesman, his political peers needed to be convinced he had it in him to put his most cherished ideals to the sword without flinching.
That, too, would have been a factor in Simon Bridges’ successful campaign to become the National Party’s twelfth leader.
It is one thing to have the accent of a “petrol head” from West Auckland: more important by far, however, is how well a leader of the National Party is able to speak the language of power. That New Zealanders know much more about the former than the latter is proof of just how little political reality they are expected to bear.
…let’s not forget the manner in which Bridges met with oil interests to increase penalties against deep sea oil protestors and remember it was done secretly and quietly behind the scenes…
Last week, documents released to the Labour Party revealed that Government Ministers Steven Joyce and Simon Bridges had met with oil giant Shell to thrash out a back-room deal to criminalise protesting at sea.
There’s nothing new here – it’s called crony capitalism and it’s something that the John Key Government does well. It’s his bread and butter. You take a company – in this case New Zealand Inc – and you use it to line the pockets of your mates.
Yet, it seems that in a desperate attempt to show that the Government is wagging its own tail, Simon Bridges has been caught out misleading Parliament. Originally telling Parliament that he had had no contact with oil companies about the controversial law changes, it has emerged that he had met with Shell just weeks before making his draconian decision.
No details of that secret meeting have so far been released, but at a previous meeting with Government, Shell expressed their concern about offshore protests. Simon Bridges then presented to Cabinet that: ‘the upstream oil and gas industry has sought a more robust government response to threats of, and actual, direct protest action’. A month later it was passed in to law.
…so let me see if I can get this completely straight.
Simon Bridges secretly meets with oil interests to ram through a new law prosecuting deep sea oil activists and misleads Parliament about that meeting, all the while his very agency who is pushing through that law change is committing unethical spying actions against Greenpeace, the Green Party, the MANA Movement and local Iwi protesting possible oil pollution.
Yet Simon Bridges knew nothing about that spying?
How believable is it that Bridges becomes suddenly so ignorant when it comes to the day to day applications of those civil rights abuses?
That’s authoritarian at worst and squeamish at best.
Bridges had no problems with crafting civil rights abuses after meeting an oil corporation but didn’t like how the sausage got made?
Is that what passes for Leadership in the National Party these days?
At least Judith Collins would not only acknowledge oil interests influence over legislation, she’d boast about it and fire any state employees who weren’t spying on environmentalists, Iwi and anyone who subscribes to the Rialto channel.
The other explanation of course is that the Agency knew exactly how far their boss wanted them to go.
No one needed a paper trail.
Bridges set the standards by doing exactly what he did.
Pretending to not know the operational details of that type of politics is simply not credible and the Press Gallery needs to put that criticism to his defence directly and continuously.
It’s just not believable that Bridges…
1 Didn’t know what was happening.
2. Didn’t see what standard he was personally setting by secretly meeting oil interests before crafting civil rights eroding legislation that was in those interests favour.
…this latter point needs to be grilled onto him. Allowing him off the hook for behaviour of his agency that he himself was personally conducting is hypocrisy at best and Machiavellian denial at worst.