Submission on the Maritime Crimes Amendment Bill

Committee Secretariat Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Parliament Buildings Wellington

August 2016

Maritime Crimes Amendment Bill

“Terrorism” is a term that features so prominently in this Act that that term itself, “terrorism”, becomes the real focus of the bill.   – Section 4 of the bill introduces a new crime of “maritime terrorism”.  All of the crimes described as terrorism are already illegal under other acts so there is no need for this bill in terms of crimes and punishments, or in terms of activism and heroism. The probable motivation for that focus is tied up with the nature of the term itself.   “Terrorism” has meant anything one has wanted it to mean in practice, often tied to politics and governance, and any attempt to precisely define it will bog down in that mire.  It is that mire which is gripping the western world and the main purpose of these changes is to promote that mire.


Protest – the right to political protest, that is, with the intention to influence governments or private entities, is guaranteed. Politicians do this, also.  But some means employed may be legislated to be illegal and there are criminal penalties in the law.  Non-violent direct action has long been a method of activism and heroism and it has always been recognized there is a possibility of being convicted of breeching those laws.  But this bill goes much further.  Those holding power have long been looking for an opportunity to crack down on dissent and this bill, taking advantage of the influence of 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath, shows how openly they are determined to proceed in 2016.

Here is an example of how this bill openly promotes the mire described in my first part: It is important to know that it is already illegal to cause damage to a ship or anything else; it is already illegal to intentionally cause injury or to act recklessly on the sea. It is already illegal to threaten to injure or kill someone, it doesn’t matter where you are. This law says that it is terrorism if you do any of those things with the motive of trying to influence the government. So if you damage a ship because you had a bad time on the last cruise you took, that may be a crime but not terrorism. But if you damage a ship because it is carrying out widespread illegal fishing, doing oil drilling or helping to fight illegal wars then that is terrorism!


Freedom of speech – Even to talk of such non-violent direct action damage would now be deemed illegal as terrorism.

Here is an example: This law would make it illegal for you to say that you were going to spray paint the side of the US warship visiting New Zealand with the words “NO WAR” because they could say you were trying to influence the government not to host US warships. You don’t even need to do it! The penalty: 14 years in prison.

Freedom of speech needs to be defended not attacked.


Nuclear free law – In Section 4B it seems to state that it is not a crime to transport a nuclear weapon if the transporter, or party receiving the weapon, is a State Party of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and if the action doesn’t breach this treaty. “A person does not commit an offence against subsection (1)(c), as it relates to a nuclear weapon, or against subsection (1)(d) if—. the thing that is transported is under the control of a State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the resulting transfer or receipt of the thing is not contrary to the State Party’s obligations under that Treaty…”

This is in breach of our nuclear free law.


Getting the attention of people susceptible to violent impulse – There is no more sure way to get the attention of those tending toward violent acts than to create an atmosphere of irrationality, often with clear injustices.  This bill has that look about it, as described in the previous sections of my submission.   Therefore this type of  bill as law would be more likely to promote terrorism wherever introduced than prevent it.  This aspect of the political / cultural situation in New Zealand and globally requires more discussion than is feasible here.


Summary – The bill is politically motivated and designed to promote the fear laden/mired in mud use of the term “terrorism”. Secondarily it is designed to prohibit dissent.  If there is any real attempt to deter acts of violence, it is buried under the first two making it counterproductive.


Richard Keller


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