(First published in the Curmudgeon column, The Dominion Post, August 17.)
TWO YEARS ago, journalist and former ACT MP Deborah Coddington was crucified for an article she wrote in North & South magazine about Asian crime in New Zealand.
The Press Council upheld complaints against Coddington largely on the basis of her failure to place Asian crime in the context of an increasing Asian population. Her critics used this omission to attack the credibility of the entire article. Inevitably, she was accused of being racist.
It’s worth recalling the furore over that article as reports of large-scale Asian crime continue to surface. Recent weeks have seen a procession of Asians parading through the Auckland courts following what police describe as one of the largest drug busts in New Zealand history.
Methamphetamine worth more than $6 million has been seized, along with $750,000 worth of ContacNT (the core ingredient in methamphetamine), more than $400,000 in cash and 21 firearms. Police also claim to have busted a sophisticated money-laundering operation.
Only weeks before those busts, an Auckland court heard details of how two Asian drug syndicate leaders laundered nearly $20 million through the Sky City casino, which they used as an office for planning “P” deals. They were sentenced to jail terms of 18 and 15 years.
In the same week as the second of those men was sentenced, a Vietnamese student in Christchurch was jailed for importing heroin in a condom that had to be removed from his bowel by surgery. And while all this was going on, three Chinese men were charged in connection with the death of 18-year-old student Jiayi Li, $6 million worth of pure methamphetamine was found in the luggage of Taiwanese “tourists” arriving at Auckland Airport, and Chinese police detained a man suspecting of fleeing to China after fatally stabbing an Auckland taxi driver.
Does this mean all Asians are criminals, or that they are predisposed to crime? Of course not. The vast majority come to this country with no criminal intent and become hard-working, law-abiding citizens. A third-generation Chinese New Zealander from a market gardening family was quoted in this paper recently as saying modern Asian criminals made a mockery of his forebears’ hard work and respect for the law.
I believe Coddington has largely been vindicated. But she was so fiercely denounced in 2008 that it would take a brave journalist to tackle the subject of Asian crime again.
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YOU have to feel for Joe Karam. He has spent years of his life and a very large sum of money campaigning on behalf of David Bain. When a High Court jury in Christchurch returned a not guilty verdict last year he must have thought he would at last get his life back – but not so.
Contrary to all expectations, the acquittal didn’t end the debate over David Bain’s role in the deaths of his family members. If anything, quite the reverse.
So now Mr Karam, far from withdrawing from the public arena in triumph, finds himself fighting the old battles all over again. Dominion Post photographer John Selkirk’s recent picture of him slumped on the floor of the Radio Live studio, head in hands after a torrid debate with talkback host Michael Laws, said it all.
Now Downstage Theatre is showing a play, The December Brother, which subjects the Bain killings to yet another examination. Regardless of where you stand, it’s easy to understand Mr Karam’s exasperation when a Dom Post journalist phoned to ask what he thought about the play. “You go and have your salacious fun with it and good luck with you,” he said before hanging up.
This is surely not what Mr Karam and his team anticipated when they celebrated David Bain’s acquittal 14 months ago. It just goes to show there’s nowt so contrary as folks.
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THE MINISTRY of Education has released a report that shows more than 50 percent of New Zealanders now hold a tertiary qualification, and that we’re studying at more advanced levels.
This is being touted as evidence that we’re getting smarter – but are we? The fact that more people are acquiring degrees and diplomas may simply highlight the phenomenon known as credentials creep, whereby careers that once required only practical skills and on-the-job experience now demand formal academic qualifications.
Credentials creep has been great for the educational establishment. It has enabled polytechnics to turn their backs on budding hairdressers and panel beaters and re-invent themselves as pretend universities. And it has provided careers for countless people who were nondescript practitioners in their chosen occupations but who now teach others: second-rate academics running second-rate courses.
The result is that academic qualifications have been degraded to the point where workplaces teem with technically well-qualified drones and dullards. I’m with the British writer Desmond Bagley, who once said: “If a man is a fool, you don’t train him out being a fool by sending him to a university. You merely turn him into a trained fool, which is 10 times more dangerous.”