Wearing The Ban On Your Sleeve

Holy Mother Marmite, New Zealand is 0-fer-3 this week. First they denied a visa to a much-needed doctor because he was a health risk. Then the Advertising Standards Authority and the Salvation Army ambushed the makers of the drink "Cocaine" for legitimizing the White Lady.

And yesterday, in an attempt to curb gang violence, the NZ Parliament passed a law banning insignia and patches in public places:

Parliament last night narrowly voted through a member's bill from Whanganui MP Chester Borrows that allows the district council to make bylaws banning all gang insignia, except tattoos, from public places.

Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws said he would ask the council to enact bylaws as soon as possible. He expected the provision would be rolled out to other councils as many mayors had told him they wanted similar powers....

The law allows the council to designate public areas where gang patches and other insignia identified with certain gangs cannot be worn.

The targeted gangs are the Mongrel Mob, Black Power, Hells Angels, Magogs, Mothers, Nomads and Tribesmen, but the council can add others.

Fines of up to [$1,181] will be imposed for breaching a ban, and police will have the power to seize patches and other insignia.

The law only applies to the Whanganui district (the country has 56) but it's a Kiwi first. It also opens up the door for similar bans across the country. Thanks to the law, officials in other districts are now vocally considering bylaws banning patches and insignia.

New Zealand politicians tend to be pretty zealous when it comes to making statements to the press. Wanganui Mayor/columnist/radio personality Michael Laws has a reputation for political rebellion and is known for being very, er, verbose (he also has a reputation for resigning from Parliament in disgrace). He called the act:

a triumph for decency and democracy. This has huge implications for New Zealand. I can't tell you how absolutely thrilled I am.

Don't worry, though. The head of the Libertarianz party, Richard McGrath, responded in kind:

"The outlawing of gang insignia is clearly at odds with the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990 which states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form...

"The other change New Zealand needs is to...replace [the Bill of Rights Act ] with a constitution such as that proposed by the Libertarianz Party, which offers ironclad protection of individual rights."

"Ultimately, the best way to deal with gangs is to wipe out the incentive for joining them in the first place...With enforcement of property rights, with constitutional guarantees to allow New Zealanders to act in self-defence using adequate retaliatory force, with the financial undermining of gangs by legalising the sale of recreational drugs, and by locking up criminals and forcing them to compensate their victims, the attractiveness of gangs to young people would be significantly diminished.

The gang violence is a serious issue, but banning someone who sews their heart to their sleeve is the wrong approach. It'll be interesting if rival Kiwi gangs take a cue from their Australian counterparts and band together against government action. There is one positive aspect of this ban: it's slightly less ridiculous than the Kiwi's Hoodie Scare, which prompted proposed bans, a weird awareness day, and an even weirder anti-awareness day.

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  • Mister DNA||

    As un-libertarian as it may seem, I could get behind a ban like this in the US, provided police departments were included among the dangerous gangs.

  • anarch||

    What principle excludes national flags from the ban?

  • Bronwyn||

    So does this mean I need to un-send my job application to that NZ biotech company?

  • hmm||

    Any country that is afraid of something they call "bikies" deserves to live in fear. Or is it the Kiwis that call them bikies? They all look and sound the same.

  • ||

    Don't you mess with our Marmite, Fonzarelli!

  • ||

    If NZ is not the new libertarian homeland - where is?

  • Mister DNA||

    hmm,

    It's the Aussies who call bikers "bikies". They also call a vagina a "map of tassie".

    But it's not fair to criticize them for being afraid of something called "bikies" when we (one of our major cities, at least) are afraid of something called a Lite-Brite.

    It logically follows that a leather vest featuring a coloful Lite-Brite patch is the most frightening thing on earth, especially if an photo of it has been taken on a teenager's cellphone and posted to facebook.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    Won't someone think of the Boy Scouts?!?

  • ||

    Jemaine: It doesn't matter what country someone's from, or what they look like, or the color of their skin. It doesn't matter what they smell like, or that they spell words slightly differently...some would say, more correctly.

    Sinjay: Yeah...

    Jemaine: Let me finish. I'm a person. Bret's a person. You're a person. That person over there is a person. And each person deserves to be treated like a person.

    Sinjay: That's a great speech. Too bad New Zealanders are a bunch of cocky a-holes descended from criminals and retarded monkeys.

    Jemaine: No, you're thinking of Australians.

    Bret: Yeah, that's Australians.

  • Libertarianz Party||

    I can haz Bill of Rights?

  • Mike||

    Any law advertized as a "triumph for decency" is a bad idea.

  • DavidF of Oz||

    Thanks Episiarch, thanks for the slap down. The Conchords also had an episode when one of the boys accidentally went home with an Aussie girl and didn't realise her nationality till the next morning.

    Hilarity ensues.

    But seriously the gangs in Kiwi are hardcore. They are a lot more prevalent than the ones in Oz and are more violent and intimidating.

    I'm Libertarian but consider the right to walk the streets without fear is pretty important, too.

    On the other hand the gangs first response should be to drop the patches and wear coloured bandannas or armbands.

    Lets see the pollies start banning red hankies or green kerchiefs...

  • Naga Sadow||

    DavidF of Oz,

    A gun my friend. NO ONE is tougher than a Glock. I don't care how much you work out, who you hang out with, or what you've done in the past, the Glock will always win in such situations. I'm extremely thankful I've never felt so threatened that I had to even show it.

    Oh, and DRINK!!!

  • DavidF of Oz||

    Nice link Naga.

    I'll admit I felt a bit awkward using the "but" in there, it felt a kinda mealy mouthed.

    One point about your Glock is that the US has a gun culture (I'm not knocking it) but in Oz and NZ we don't. Even before the 90's gun laws it was extremely uncommon for city people to own guns.

    Even if the laws were repealed there would never be a boom in gun sales for self defense.

    Another point of having a gun culture is that there is a lot of institutional knowledge about handling guns and how to treat them. We don't have that.

    Its like cars. We are all taught to be careful around roads and how to behave sensibly behind the wheel. But a guy from the New Guinea highlands doesn't have that knowledge and a crash course in the basics won't cut it.

    So I don't think an armed population is a solution for us.

    Incidentally Kiwi police don't carry guns.

  • JB||

    ok...'libertarianz' is just so much cooler. I am now going to use that.

  • ||

    The Conchords also had an episode when one of the boys accidentally went home with an Aussie girl and didn't realise her nationality till the next morning.

    Best. Episode. Evar.

    "It's like an evil version of our accents."

  • ||

    A gun my friend. NO ONE is tougher than a Glock. I don't care how much you work out, who you hang out with, or what you've done in the past, the Glock will always win in such situations. I'm extremely thankful I've never felt so threatened that I had to even show it.

    Handguns are illegal in NZ, Naga. You can keep one at a shooting club though, I think. I'm pretty sure you'd never be allowed to "concealed carry" any gun either.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Here is an article about the NZ gangs. Interesting first couple paragraphs:

    Crime ain't what it used to be in a town like Christchurch. Back in the day there was Sweaty Betty and her 24/7 poker game out in Opawa. But the casino and the liberalisation of gaming laws put paid to the illegal bookie trade and gambling dens like hers.

    Prostitution was another good underworld racket spoilt by legalisation.



    Then it goes on to talk about the gangs and drugs (meth) trade. Hmmm. I wonder if there's something they could do. Something they've tried with other consensual "crimes" that would stop drug violence in its tracks. Hmmm.

  • Brad Taylor||

    The worst thing about this (well, apart from its curtailing of freedom of expression I guess) is that three of the five MPs from the ACT Party, the self-described classical liberal party voted for it.

    I'm not sure why people think New Zealand is a libertarian paradise. We're as paternalistic as anyone down here and the free-market reforms of the '80s have been significantly reversed.

    We do currently have a guy holed up in a house with guns after shooting a cop during a routine marijuana raid, so some of us are willing to protect our property. The public reaction hasn't been too favourable, however.

  • ||

    But seriously the gangs in Kiwi are hardcore. They are a lot more prevalent than the ones in Oz and are more violent and intimidating.

    I'm Libertarian but consider the right to walk the streets without fear is pretty important, too.


    I'm sure that taking away their insignia will cause they gangs to reform their violent ways, and make the streets much safer.

  • hmm||

    NO ONE is tougher than a Glock


    Colt 1911 is tougher than your tupperware gun!!!


    (that was stupid gun rivalry and sarcasm)

  • Salvius||

    bylaws banning all gang insignia, except tattoos, from public places

    So, this law would be a positive boon to tattoo artists, then. I had no idea they were such a powerful lobby in NZ.

  • jersey||

    I'm extremely thankful I've never felt so threatened that I had to even show it.

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