Richard Harman had a chat with Judith Collins about the prison bed announcement.
Yesterday Corrections Minister Collins announced that English had approved a $1 billion prison building spree.
She said the plan provided for 80 extra beds at Ngawha; 245 at Mt Eden and 1500 at Waikeria.
So what went wrong?
“The difference – apart from that the fact that we are locking up more meth amphetamine people for longer – is that the bail laws have changed,” she says.
“That is a big difference but added to that we know what is coming down the track with the family violence issues.”
Wearing her other hat as Police Minister she says that since the police began campaigning to get people to report family violence they have seen their callouts to family situations jump from 65,000` to 110,000 a year.
“So we’re going to get more of this; it’s going to get worse till it gets better.”
There is a general expectation from the public that “proven” recidivists are better off behind bars. How many chances do they need to prove to society that they have grown up? Sadly, the courts aren’t handing out more or longer sentences, but the parole board is keeping those that we have inside from walking straight back out.
Most notably, of course, is her recent statement to the Police Association conference in which she argued that poverty by itself was not a cause of crime.
It almost sounded like Crusher Collins of old; at war with the liberal left and not giving an inch.
But it pays to remember where she comes from. Though her Papakura electorate embraces some of Auckland’s most bucolic lifestyle properties, it also covers a depressed length of the southern motorway suburbs.
“ I see so many people who don’t have a lot of money who are good parents.
“To say crime is caused by poverty, child poverty — utter rubbish!
“It’s so insulting to people. It’s like saying you are poor therefore you will be a criminal.
“No, you won’t. You have choices.”
But crime can strike disproportionately in poorer areas. She is aware of the complaints of the People’s party in Auckland about crime being directed against immigrant families who own dairies or liquor stores.
She says the Police are starting to work with these business people to show them how they might be able to reduce their likelihood of being attacked.
But ultimately the answer will be more police.
And they are on the way.
“The Prime Minister and I have been working on this since June,” she says.
“It’s not just about numbers it’s about what you do with them.”
Will the numbers be released before next year’s Budget?
“It would be worth more than my Ministerial warrant to pre-empt the Prime Minister.”
So the announcement is ready to go?”It’s up to the Prime Minister.”
All of which means, of course, is that the announcement is ready to go but that such is the political sensitivity over law and order and the potential gains that can be made by being seen to address it that Key is obviously holding on to the announcement until he can make maximum impact with it.
That might be around the Mt Roskill by-election where Labour has identified law and order as a major issue within the migrant community there.
But it’s a reminder of just how political the two portfolios that Collins holds are.
As she herself says, if you get either of them wrong, then that could be catastrophic for the Government.
It’s been a remarkable comeback. And it doesn’t like coming to an end any time soon.
Not remarkable at all actually. Collins was chewed up and spat out because of a political hit using a leaked document that ended up with Collins losing her warrant, but having to be brought back, and Key having to write a letter of apology to me personally to prevent defamation and a Privacy Commission prosecution.
When it came to the Dirty Politics hit, Key didn’t stand staunch and dumped a good minister. Form varies but Class endures. New Zealand hasn’t seen the end of Judith Collins yet.