Much to thank Wil­liamson for

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

Writ­ers Al­dous Hux­ley and CS Lewis (of Nar­nia fame) both had the mis­for­tune to die on Novem­ber 22, 1963 – which meant their deaths got to­tally over­shad­owed by the as­sas­si­na­tion of Pres­i­dent John F Kennedy on the same day.

In sim­i­lar fash­ion, a cou­ple of news sto­ries wor­thy of ex­ten­sive cov­er­age were swamped by last week’s me­dia fix­a­tion on Paku­ranga MP Mau­rice Wil­liamson. Fair enough, on one level. Wil­liamson’s in­ter­fer­ence in the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in­ci­dent in­volv­ing a Na­tional Party donor fully de­served the me­dia’s at­ten­tion.

Yet since New Zealand has cho­sen to sell its ci­ti­zen­ship to wealthy for­eign bid­ders – many of them main­land Chi­nese look­ing for a bolt- hole to stash their money – we can hardly be sur­prised if the buy­ers come to ex­pect the best in af­ter-sales ser­vice from our politi­cians.

All the same, Im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand must have been thank­ing its lucky stars that the me­dia was dis­tracted from pur­su­ing an­other im­mi­gra­tion-re­lated scan­dal – the ban­ning of the rap group Odd Fu­ture from this coun­try in Fe­bru­ary.

Im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand’s ra­tio­nale was that Odd Fu­ture posed a risk to pub­lic or­der, trace­able to a rowdy con­cert in Bos­ton in May 2011.

At the time, the ex­pla­na­tion didn’t jibe with how Odd Fu­ture had been given visas and per­formed in Auck­land in 2012, with­out in­ci­dent.

Last week, it emerged that this year’s ban had been viewed in­ter­nally as some­thing that could be man­aged to Im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand’s ad­van­tage.

In emails re­leased un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act, depart­ment of­fi­cial Karen Ur­win wrote: ‘‘Given that this group’s in­tended ap­pear­ance al­ready has the lobby groups up in arms, our deny­ing them en­try will un­doubt­edly gen­er­ate some me­dia in­ter­est (shades of Mike Tyson).

’’How­ever, I think we have the op­por­tu­nity to spin this into a good news story for im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand.

‘‘There is also the strong pos­si­bil­ity that the group will make some very pub­lic (and of­fen­sive) protes­ta­tions, but in my view this will only serve to re­in­force the ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of our de­ci­sion.’’

A depart­ment col­league com­mented: ‘‘Thanks, Karen. Fun times. I think you’re right. This is a good story for im­mi­gra­ton New Zealand.’’

Ap­par­ently, rights to free­dom of speech were a less im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion than the pub­lic re­la­tions op­por­tu­ni­ties.

So­cial De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Paula Ben­nett also had rea­son to feel grate­ful to Wil­liamson.

In Fe­bru­ary, chron­i­cally ill ben­e­fi­ciary Sarah Wil­son had writ­ten about her mis­treat­ment at the Work and In­come of­fice in Nel­son.

Her blog be­came an in­ter­net sen­sa­tion, and a ral­ly­ing point for people who had ex­pe­ri­enced sim­i­lar treat­ment from Work and In­come.

Last week, Ben­nett vis­ited the same Work and In­come of­fice and – in­cred­i­bly – largely put Wil­son’s ex­pe­ri­ence down to her ill­ness: ‘‘We work with some people who are at the most chal­leng­ing and dis­tress­ing times in their lives and their per­cep­tion of how they’re dealt with can some­times be not per­haps the re­al­ity if they were in a dif­fer­ent frame of mind.’’

Wil­son said she felt ‘‘ gob­s­macked’’ by Ben­nett’s com­ments, adding that women’s ex­pe­ri­ences are of­ten be­lit­tled to si­lence them.

‘‘Yes, Paula, I am stressed. No, I am not in­ca­pable. My ill­ness does not af­fect my brain, and my per­cep­tion is en­tirely co­her­ent,’’ she wrote.

In a nor­mal week, both sto­ries would have re­ceived front page treat­ment. Lit­tle won­der Ben­nett said she felt ‘‘ in­cred­i­bly sad’’ about Wil­liamson’s demise.

De­moted: Mau­rice Wil­liamson lost his min­is­te­rial po­si­tion.

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