Clowns have always been a part of any circus but are seldom seen plying their comic trade these days. I think they have perhaps opted for greater job security, increased remuneration, and less arduous working conditions and now hold jobs in the public service.
Along with around a hundred others from the district I travelled to Whangarei for the hearing of the Kaipara District Council vs Bruce Rogan. It was to be a representative case which would affect the 200 or so ratepayers currently subject to Kaipara Commission litigation. The result will also set case precedent for those protesting ratepayers, of which I am one, yet to be subject to such litigation.
Security was tight at the entrance to the court building. I was asked if I minded being searched. I said that I did. The security guard told me I would be denied access to this public building if I did not forgo my right to privacy. I could see no point in argument and acceeded to his request. No weapons of mass or minor destruction were detected and I was admitted.
The court had not made any provision to accommodate those being represented. Eight hundred years after the magna carta formalised a citizens’ right to face their accuser there was no room for the masses of accused in the courtroom. Nor was there, in these days of cheap accessable communication technology, any form of audio or video link to allow those party to the proceedings to be party to the proceedings. It seems government department negligence that has dogged this historical and ongoing fiasco has not stopped with the ombudsman, the Serious Fraud Office, the Department of Internal Affairs and the Office of the Auditor General but now extends to the Ministry of Justice.
The answer is ‘no’
After much ado the 12 seats in the jury box were made available to the public. Now all seats were filled excepting a single spare seat at the press bench. I took possession of it and awaited proceedings. However a vigilent member of the court security team spotted me and asked to view my press accreditaion card. I didn't have one. Security cited a court order which I asked to see but which could not be produced to bar anyone else from entry.
I was asked to leave so I made my way to the public counter, working my way up through a bevy of functionaries to speak with court manager Kevin McCartain. I gave him a copy of the Mangawhai Focus opened at 'Worzel's World' bearing my photo and my name. I also presented my gun licence with another photo of the same person – me. His answer was no.
Look, I reasoned, if being part of the press were a punishable crime there is enough evidence here to convict me, not only beyond reasonable doubt but beyond any doubt whatsoever. I added ‘it's only common sense, there are people stacked out in the hallway, and there is an empty seat which I can legitamately fill?' His answer was still no. The reason I was eventually given was the old SS one, ‘I'm just following instructions'. As for those in the hallway, a court functionary who really should have been too embarrassed to speak advised everybody to take turns.
When Judge Keith de Ridder at last entered the court 20 minutes after the scheduled commencement time Council for the defence made application to bring in additional seating. The judge dismissed this as 'a matter for court security’.
Along with clowns, every good circus has an elephant. There has been much argument, many words, and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent arguing whether this or that is legal. The elephant in the room is ignored. No-one on either side has ever been stupid or brave enough to claim that the ongoing servicing of illegal and unethical debt arranged in secret and foisted upon ratepayers who neither knew nor consented of it is fair, just, or right. Commissioner Robertson dismisses this as historical irregularities yet even highly conservative estimates indicate that this debt will burden Kaipara ratepayers for many decades into the future.
The hearing was scheduled for two days and being unable, due to contractual obligations, to attend the following day, I decided to give up my seat to someone who was actually involved. On exiting I noticed the security apparatus sitting in a corner under a dust cover, there was no guard at the door.
I did however spot one heading towards the toilet. 'Excuse me,' I said, indicating the now complete absence of any security. 'Do bad guys not bring weapons into court after morning tea time?' my sarcasm did not escape him. He looked embarrassed. 'Er, we're under-staffed,' he mumbled and disappeared into the loo.
It occurred to me that were I a terrorist, homicidal maniac or a ratepayer sufficiently disgruntled to resort to violence, I could whip down to McCoy & Thomas, gun licence and credit card in hand, purchase a repeating shot gun, some ammo and a duck hunting licence and return to clear the court of turkeys and a sitting duck or two. Quite possible.
It was but a passing thought. Clowns, strongmen, midgets and bearded ladies need not be feared – it is the puppeteers pulling the strings who need reigning in. And I suspect the fortune teller's lying.
Instead, I left the circus, bought fish and chips and headed back to a home that is allegedly thousands of dollars in rates arrears.
Along with clowns, every good circus has an elephant… The elephant in the room is ignored. No-one on either side has ever been stupid or brave enough to claim that the ongoing servicing of illegal and unethical debt arranged in secret and foisted upon ratepayers who neither knew nor consented of it is fair, just, or right.