Thursday, March 03, 2005
It is therefore with the greatest of caution I now suggest that to execute George Hawkins - for example, by hanging him and placing his head on a spike in the centre of the parliament chamber - may not be the best possible move at the present time.
Since the idea is so radical, and so at odds with the spirit of the moment, I will be entirely clear: I believe, and with some degree of determination, that Mr Hawkins should not be killed at all. No, not even as a human sacrifice in honour of the new Speaker of the House.
Before I present my reasons for this, I wish to emphasise that I am not some ignoramus who does not understand the arguments - some of them very sound - for the proposed abbreviation.
Firstly, there are suggestions of diminishing of public confidence in the 111 emergency system. Whether this is more due to actual major problems with the system or to media and opposition scandalmongering is clearly immaterial. Responsibility for any perceived crisis must be sheeted home to the relevant Minister in the goriest possible manner.
Judging by recent reports, 111 calls may have a failure rate as high as one in 25 000. Little wonder, then that many suspect systemic failings - how could it happen by chance? Even I, clearly ready to fly in the face of public opinion, would not dare to suggest that such a rate might be normal, or even surprisingly good. The undeniable fact is that, compared to absolute perfection, the performance is pathetic.
Though it's remarkable they do even that well, considering that, as far as I can gather, 111 staffers spend most of their time ignoring critical emergencies while smoking P and impregnating single mothers.
These facts do indeed call out to every godly soul for the immediate termination of Mr Hawkins. All the more so because the few crime reforms the Government is now proposing, such as the Prison Riots (Restoration) Bill and the Defining Practically Any Picture As Child Porn Bill, will not improve the functioning of the 111 system in any way.
And now we discover that - on that same Minister's watch - the crime rate has been allowed to descend to a level wildly out of touch with what the people of New Zealand and the Opposition benches think it is. There is universal agreement that the police minister's function is to combat the public perception of crime. If that means freeing up a few police from pursuing actual criminals, then so be it.
In this task, George Hawkins has failed and should indeed pay the severest possible price.
And still further misdirection of resources appears: he persists in allowing police officers to spend measurable amounts of time doing traffic work. This waste of police time (is that not a crime, Mr Hawkins?) is spuriously justified on the grounds that many, many more people die and are injured on the roads than due to crime.
This ridiculous comparison will earn him no sympathy. I myself would far prefer to die trapped in the burning wreckage of my car than shot in an aggravated robbery, and I know any reasonable person would feel the same.
His performance in parliament, I humbly submit, may be considered less damning. Though he has clearly been singled out as the weakest link and hides the resulting dread of parliamentary questions poorly, those who decry him for this may be missing some crucial points.
Firstly, as with any other playground, the members of the House do need someone to bully.
Secondly, in some respects his behaviour has been of actual benefit to our Government which, since opposing it appears to be sedition, I can only support.
For example, one effect of Mr Hawkins' demeanour is to enhance the impression that those Opposition MPs pursuing their just case against him are doing something akin to kicking a puppy.
And, with a less tempting police minister, National and ACT, instead of concentrating on law and order at a time when police numbers and successes are rising, the crime rate is dropping and prison terms are getting longer, may have chosen an election-year issue on which they have a leg to stand.
But this, though we may agree it offers no reason to kill him, is not, I admit, a reason we should let him live.
The wheels of liberty must be greased from time to time with the blood of martyrs - having been said by an American founding father, this must logically be true. But, unparalleled and evil though his crimes may be, there are reasons George Hawkins should nonetheless be permitted to see the sun rise. These rest not with him, but with ourselves.
However strong the case for teaching Mr Hawkins the hemp fandango, I submit that the destruction of any human life has a brutalising effect on the executioners, and indeed society in general, that should not be discounted. To punish in that way would be to bring us, as it were, to the level of the parliamentarians we are trying to eradicate.
In fact, I cannot bring myself to advocate a general policy allowing any political executions. It would obviously have no deterrent effect - MPs are not know for considering the consequences of their actions, and even the most thoughtful are unable to project them more than four years into the future.
Also, if we allow the execution of one Minister, albeit for undeniable and multifaceted incompetence, it is the beginning of a slippery slope. We may one day execute a politician who is capable of giving the impression of being a good use of space, or conceivably even people, such as violent criminals, who are not parliamentarians in any way - a practice internationally condemned as cruel and barbaric.
I therefore suggest that we merely flog George Hawkins daily. Should this prove to be a breach of his human rights, the taxpayer shall have first dibs on any compensation he wins. While I consider this an admirable solution, some may find it too lenient. If that opinion prevails, I propose the more sadistic option of making him continue answering opposition questions until the next election.