Politics, it is said, makes for strange bedfellows. Common causes lead to groups such as Christian temperance organisations and organised criminals both agreeing in the 1930s that prohibition of alcohol was a very good thing.
That concept was so exemplified by the various people speaking at the Hikoi Rangatiratanga Freedom From State Surveillance Rally held in QEII Square on July 9. It was a Sunday. It had nothing else to do, so I turned up and along with a couple of hundred other people, I watched and listened.
Graeme Monk – Stand Up New Zealand Inc
I arrived at the protest just as Mr Monk was starting his speech. He’s convinced that the reason that photos taken for drivers licences are stored digitally is so the government can identify people in crowds easily.
He claimed that a New Zealand passport will get its holder into any country in the world, but it won’t get the holder recognised as a driver.
Steve Able – Wild Greens
The best bit during Steve Able’s speech was when he mentioned that there were surveillance cameras around QEII Square and invited people to have a look around for them, so throughout his speech there were all these people looking around for cameras. One guy was pointing out what he was sure was a camera on the old Post Office building, but then it flew away, not unlike a pigeon.
Someone in the crowd, possibly an old person, or maybe a drunk person, yelled out something that was rather unintelligible, and Mr Able, ever the diplomat, responded, “kia ora”.
Maire Leadbeater – Auckland City Councillor
Cr Leadbeater bragged about her criminal record. She was arrested for trespassing on the spy base at Waihopai. She didn’t really have much to say, other than she generally supported the rally. Good on you, Mai.
Ni Hake – Ta Moko Campaigner
As hippies sipped coffee from the nearby Starbucks, Ni Hake took to the mike. As far as I understand it, the Ta Moko campaign is a group of Maori who object to their moko being digitally captured. The Treaty of Waitangi guarantees Maori possession of the things that are precious to them, and for a moko to be digitally captured is taking a bit of it away from them. Or as Hake put it, “When moko goes into a database it gets translated into binary figures and I see that as a disturbance.”
In a moment of oratorical brilliance, Hake said in reference to the government, “Which part of no don’t you know? Please tell me. I’ll come to your place and… tell you.” Subtle.
He then brought on a woman whose name I didn’t write down, but she had her car impounded because she was using what was essentially a homemade drivers licence. The crowd started out fairly supportive of her, but there was a definite feeling that if you’re going to make your own drivers licence, then you have to be prepared for that sort of thing. She also objected to her fingerprints being kept on record and saw that as a breech of the treaty. She droned on for so long that she was given a hurry-up warning.
Then mini-mega star activist Tama Iti was brought on. He has a moko but interestingly enough provided a solution for moko wearers who wished to get a photo licence without having their moko digitally captured. He said a fellow he knew had worn makeup to cover over his moko when he had the photo taken. Oh well, problem solved, then.
Barry Wilson – Auckland Council Civil Liberties
Mr Wilson was well-prepared and was a good speaker. However, he referred to New Zealand as being like “Communist Russia”, which he appeared to be referring to in the present tense.
By this stage I had lost count of the number of times that various speakers had mentioned “big brother”.
Brian Kirby – Grey Power
Whilst not speaking on behalf of Grey Power, Mr Kirby did make some good points about the licence’s impact on the elderly. However, like Tama Iti, he ended his speech with an amusing anecdote that kind of negated what he’d been saying.
An old lady had contacted him because she’s had her licence taken off her. She drove over to his house to discuss it, and managed to knock down some fence posts upon both entering and leaving his place.
Ian Wishart – Writer and Publisher
Next up at the podium of protest was the man whose publishing company Howling At The Moon brought us all those something-is-very-wrong books. Mr Wishart said, “legally you are still a serf, legally parliament is your sovereign”.
He also noted that, “we’re all in this waka together.”
Nandor Tanczos – Green Party List MP
Then the even bigger mini-mega star Nandor took his turn. He is a really good speaker. He’s vibrant and full of life and even if one doesn’t agree with what he says he’s interesting to listen to.
Tanczos asked: “Do we want to live in a police surveillance state? Or do we want to live in an eco-nation?”
He said that the rally would be noted by those in power, and that it was a powerful shout-out to the government. He also sent out big ups to the crowd.
Saffron Toms – Auckland University Students Association
There was some doubt as to the identity of the AUSA speaker. I had identified her as Saffron Toms, but then someone said they knew Saffron Tom and my picture of her looked nothing like her. Then I got an email from another person who said they were there and it was her. So I’ll assume that the AUSA representative was indeed Saffron Toms.
Ms Toms, clad in black flares and a tight yellow t-shirt with “Goodies” emblazoned across her bust had something to say, but I’m not sure she really knew what it was.
She didn’t appear to be very well prepared and came up with clunky sentences, such as, “he asked the friend of mine’s partner..”
She starting talking about the power of students, and how HART (Halt All Racist Tours), the protest group best known for its anti-apartheid protests during the infamous 1981 tour of the South African rugby team in New Zealand. Toms stated that HART “contributed really strongly to the abolition of apartheid in South Africa.” I wonder if Nelson Mandela and the ANC are aware of this? I felt a bit embarrassed for her.
Then she started a bitter rant about voluntary student union membership and how when the AUSA go to the university administrators asking that a fee increase doesn’t happen, they’re told as they are not representing all students any more their demands aren’t as strong. So to take that metaphor a step further, should all New Zealanders be required by law to join an anti-drivers licence movement?
Carol Leader – Ordinary Citizen
Ms Leader took some sort of legal action against the government to do with the licence. She said that when she first read the application form, “my heart sank lower and lower and lower”.
She also offered this as a metaphor: “Because we have invented buckets to carry our water, there’s no reason to bury our head in it.” I’m not too sure what she meant by that.
Then the emcee of the day, whose name I didn’t catch, invited people to come up on stage and cut up their licences. Three people did this. There was also a guy up there who had placed white dots on his face, which was supposed to represent something.
One fairly common theme was along the lines of “I was issued with a “lifetime licence” and mine says it expires in 2035, but now the government is saying that it’s illegal for me to drive with it!” The first time it was amusing, but after almost every speaker trotted it out, it was beginning to sound like a teenage girl crying “but you said you’d love me forever…”
It seemed everyone who spoke had a different reason for thinking that the licences were bad. The licences were too expensive, gave the government too much power, were unfair to old people, were in violation of Te Tiriti, were too costly for poor people, were a sign that New Zealand has become a police state and were a violation of our basic civil rights.
So after two hours the sun was behind the big black building 1 Queen Street where the Land Transport Safety Authority is located, casting a cold, wintery shadow over the Square, chilling the audience. The crowd of assorted hippies, old people and interested bystanders moved on, probably most of them carrying a drivers licence.
Photos From the Day
It’s a digital image of my drivers licence. Gosh, if this fell into the wrong hands I could be in big trouble.