Thursday, May 30, 2013

Disproportionate and stupid

So, the government has considered refusing to renew the passports of student loan debtors:

Yesterday appearing before the finance and expenditure committee, Dunne was asked if he had considered going so far as to refuse to renew passports.

"The issue has been considered," Dunne said.

"No firm decisions have been reached on that. There are some obvious potential advantages.

"There are also some disadvantages about what you might describe broadly as human rights issues - the rights of New Zealanders to a passport, but it certainly has been looked at, yes."

No shit. Effectively it would deny freedom of movement - including the right to leave New Zealand, and by implication their right of residency in their host nation - from these people. While that right is subject to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society, that's a very high bar in this situation. How high? Currently the government only claims the right to cancel or refuse to issue passports on the grounds of national security (and that requires an actual case, not just suspicion). Those powers have been used just once in twenty years. Applying them to student loan debtors would be grossly disproportionate.

...not to mention stupid. The existing policy of threatening to arrest student loan debtors at the border already risks turning ex-pats into permanent exiles. I can't think of a better way of cementing that process, of getting them to renounce their citizenship and become permanent citizens of another nation, than to threaten to remove their passports.