Sedition Verdict Gives New Meaning to 'Helengrad'

Peter Cresswell's picture
Submitted by Peter Cresswell on Thu, 2006-06-08 11:57

Another nail in Liberty's great coffin: A man has been charged and convicted of, wait for it, sedition. TV3 report here.

Not in the nineteenth century, but today. Not in time of war or great conflict, but in the "benign strategic environment" that is the South Pacific. Not in a third-world banana republic -- not in a Kafka-esque, Eastern European Soviet hell-hole -- not even in Mugabe's Zimbabwe -- but here, today, in Auckland's District Court. Convicted of sedition for an act of vandalism in Sandringham Rd eighteen months ago that was accompanied by five -- count them, five -- five leaflets scattered down Ponsonby Rd early one morning that tried to explain the vandalism, and invited NZers to "commit their own acts of Civil Disobedience" in opposition to the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

It's not exactly Michael Collins or Lord Haw Haw, is it? It's not even John Minto or Mike Smith.

But for those actions, a jury this afternoon found one Tim Selwyn guilty of an intention to "bring into hatred or contempt, or to excite disaffection against" the Queen or the government and to incite "violence, disorder, and lawlessness." In other words for vandalising the PM's electorate office, and then boasting about it, Mr Selwyn now faces two years in prison. Not for simple vandalism, for which he's already been properly convicted. But for sedition.

Now, note too that this charge has not been brought under the Prime-Ministership of William Massey, nor under that of Robert Muldoon -- nor even under the wartime Prime-Ministership of Peter Fraser -- but in peacetime under the leadership of Helen Elizabeth Clark, who herself just over twenty-five years ago was engaged in her own acts of vandalism and civil disobedience up and down Sandringham Rd and various other streets around the Eden Park of 1981 that was then 'occupied' by a Springbok team. The same Helen Clark who then appeared to value open and vigorous debate -- even with flour bombs, broken glass and lengths of four by two. The same Helen Clark who herself was once said to value the civil disobedience of Henry David Thoreau, of Martin Luther King, of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

How easy it is to become a dictator.

Free speech and open political expression were once considered a great value by Helen and her ilk. Free speech and the right to the free expression of political views were once something supported by the left. With one or two noble exceptions however, blogger No Right Turn heading the list, not one has raised a decent voice in opposition to this case. It seems that free speech as a left-wing value is dead. Carry out the coffin. And then shoot the pall-bearers.

As No Right Turn has noted before, the legal definition of sedition is so broad as to criminalise virtually any criticism of the government. If today's political opposition were doing their job properly, they should themselves fall guilty under the Act. Not likely today, however. And not one word either in opposition to this case from any of today's supine, brain-dead, morally-castrated, principle-free opposition.

A sedition trial is rare. So rare most people can't even remember the last time a troublesome political opponent was tried for the offence. The only thing stopping prosecution under this Act was the odium in which cases of sedition were held. With this case and this verdict however -- and with very little opposition -- it now seems the 'trial balloon' has been a success, and the way is clear to threaten all manner of political opposition.

And who in all fairness could now rise up in protest?

It's hard to express the necessary outrage at this verdict. For political debate in this country, it is chilling. It is a clear, frontal assault by the executive on political expression in this country -- and the judiciary has just handed Helengrad an outright victory. I would like to call on all of you to rise up in protest at this outrageous abuse of state power. I would like to, but I can't. The law doesn't allow me to.

That's how chilling it is.

As former Labour Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer said back in 1989, "Libelling the government must be permitted in a free society." It is apparent from today's verdict that the label 'free society' to describe this country would from this time on be erroneous. And how many people really do give a shit about that.

Ake! Ake! Ake!

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Free_Speech

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Fantastic commentary,

Ross Elliot's picture

Fantastic commentary, Peter.

So, now the precedent has been set. Let's just see how it'll be used...

Sedition's a nasty little concept anyway. How many of he Founding Fathers were guilty of it? Damn good company to keep, I say.

Free speech as a lefty cause was only a convenience, anyway. They used it as long as it suited their purposes, and those purposes are nearly met--the attainment of an unwarranted jurisdiction over us.

The left are the new conservatives. Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.

NB: and how dumb are NZ lawyers? Did they challenge this under the Bill of Rights? Probably not, and it's quite likely the Sedition Act exempts itself from those very inconvenient provisions, anyway.

He already copped to the

Duncan Bayne's picture

He already copped to the vandalism with the axe; the sedition trial was an entirely separate matter, related to the pamphlets he left at the scene.

The Axe Man

Rex Wilkinson's picture

I bought a property on the west coast and once when I was away in ChCh somebody put bullet holes in the van I was sleeping in.They may have been making some sort of political statement but so far as I,m concerned thats going too far and any threats to one's life or the sugestion that your trying to threaten a life's going too far.The axe left at Helen's electrol office to me was going too far and the idiot deserves some sort of punishment.As to wether or not it should be defined as sedition makes no difference to me either way attacking property or person with an axe is the behavior of an idiot.

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