Thursday, April 18, 2024

Government votes down gang-funding ban bill

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A bill sponsored by Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown would have banned public money being given to gangs. Photo supplied

The Government has voted down a bill sponsored by Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown that would have banned taxpayers’ money being given to gangs.

Brown’s Public Finance (Prohibition on Providing Public Funds to Gangs) Amendment Bill had its first reading in the Parliament on April 6.

It would have prevented public funds from ending up in the hands of gangs through entities run by or associated with gangs being able to legitimately access money through the Proceeds of Crime Fund.

The law does not currently prohibit an organisation run or administered by, or associated with, a gang from receiving public funds from the Government or its agencies.

Controversy over public money being given to gangs arose in mid-2021 when it was revealed a North Island chapter of the Mongrel Mob received $2.75 million from the Proceeds of Crime Fund to run a methamphetamine rehabilitation programme.

The move was slammed by the National and ACT parties as well as the NZ Police Association.

The first reading of Brown’s bill continued in the Parliament on April 13, where several Labour Government MPs spoke against it.

Labour MP Kieran McAnulty said the debate is not about whether gangs are good or bad.

“Everyone is recognising that gangs do behaviour and cause harm in our communities, and nobody supports that.

“We recognise there are many people, over various generations, for decades in this country, have suffered under the behaviour of gangs. The question is how do we stop that?”

McAnulty said in the absence of context or information, funding the Mongrel Mob meth rehabilitation programme “seemed a bit unusual”.

“However, when I … was informed this was a programme based on one the previous National Government implemented in conjunction with the Salvation Army, focused on gangs, that was effective, that worked, I thought, actually, this makes sense.

“Because here we have an opportunity to support a programme that clearly, or one might think, has bipartisan support, is based on a programme that worked, that targets those that are in gangs, that has proven results.”

Speaking in reply, Brown said the principle of the bill is about saying taxpayers’ money should not be going toward funding gangs.

“What we’ve seen under this Government is an absolute explosion in gang numbers, a 40 per cent increase in gang membership, and New Zealanders see every single day the impact of that increased gang membership on their daily lives.

“We see the crime which is getting committed on our streets, the drug dealing which is taking place, the firearm offences which keep increasing, the drive-by shootings.”

Brown said the Government knew deep down that providing funding to the gang was the wrong decision.

“They know it wasn’t what New Zealanders wanted, and they know public money shouldn’t be going to gangs.

“But they’ve bought into the narrative that they want to work with gangs, despite the fact they know the harm they are causing in our community, and New Zealanders will not forget what they are doing.”

The bill was then voted on.

It received 43 votes in favour from the National and ACT parties, but 77 votes opposed by the Labour, Green, and Maori parties, and was defeated.

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