Quote of the Day – Rodney Hide

Rodney Hide comments on Simon Power’s attempts to remove the right to silence:

“I regard the right to silence as a fundamental right, as well as freedom of speech, and I’m shocked that a centre-right Government is proposing to remove it.”


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  • Richard McGrath

    Rodney Hide is absolutely right – removing the right to remain silent equals abolishing freedom of speech.

    A few months back, I advised a police officer at a random breath alcohol checkpoint that the right to remain silent meant I did not have to say my name into the sniffer device. He agreed. I was offered the choice of speaking into the sniffer or having an evidential breath alcohol down at the station.

    As I was on my to visit a patient in a rest home in my work as a GP, I chose to take the path of least resistance and spoke into the device, which of course showed up no alcohol.

    A few years ago a colleague in a nearby town was stopped at a checkpoint at midday while driving from his medical rooms to the hospital, and simply refused to speak into the sniffer. When he alighted from his vehicle, locked it up and left it in the middle of the main street, and started walking in the direction of the hospital, he was crash tackled, arrested, handcuffed and locked up in the local police cells. When he pointed out that a woman in labour in the maternity ward was expecting him to deliver her baby some time soon, he was released and taken up to the hospital.

    There needs to be serious consideration given to banning the stopping of innocent motorists at checkpoints without reasonable grounds for suspecting drink-driving, or compensating them for wasted time. I suggest an immediate payment of $10 to the motorist be made if there is no alcohol found by the sniffer.

  • I agree with Rodney Hide on this. This *is* fundamental, not trivial.

    In my view it’s such a significant change to our ‘constitutional’ rights it should require a super majority of Parliament — not just scape through by the votes of retiring minor party MPs.

    From my blog:

    One evening a little while ago I was driving home and encountered a Police ‘booze bus’ breath-test checkpoint.

    Cars queued up in a funnel pattern set up with cones and flashing lights … when it was my turn, the police officer reached in through my car window, held the breath screening thingy in front of my face and said:
    “Please say your name and address.”

    I replied (into the machine) “You don’t really want my name and address, you just need enough breath for a sample.”

    This was not well received.

    “Look here. It’s the law that when a police officer asks for your name and address, you must supply them,” he said sternly and scanned the display of the breathalyser.

    “Well yes,” I said. “That’s if the question is being asked as part of an inquiry. Not just when you need some breath for a blood alcohol screening device.”

    He looked at me hard.
    He looked at my car and who else was in it.
    He looked again at the reading on the breath-testing thingy.

    Then he frowned at the queue of cars building up behind me, thought about it, and waved me on without another word. …

    – Peter