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Scoop Images: PM Meets The Media At Premier House

Prime Minister Helen Clark stopped briefly to talk to reporters on a range of issues, on her way into a special scene-setting Labour Caucus meeting at Premier House today.

“The real agenda of those behind the protests is to question the legitimacy of the Crown. That’s not a debate I will engage in,” said the Prime Minister, commenting on the actions of 200 odd protesters at Waitangi Day celebrations at Waitangi yesterday.

She expressed no regrets about her absence from Waitangi, saying she was appalled at the rudeness of protesters storming into a church service in the Treaty House grounds.

Miss Clark congratulated Likud leader Ariel Sharon on his victory in the Israeli Prime Ministerial elections. Questioned about the possible detrimental effect of his election on the Middle East peace process, Miss Clark said Mr Sharon “has a past, but he also has a country that wants peace and security.”

Miss Clark said National’s criticism of Associate Labour Minister Laila Harre for “taking sides” by appearing at a Waterfront Worker’s Union picket line in Nelson was a bit rich. “It’s always clear what side they are on in industrial disputes. The Government’s actually engaged with all sides.”

Miss Clark joked that she was “shaking desperately,” at the prospect of a reinvigorated National front bench, with new Deputy Leader Bill English committing to a Jenny Shipley led National Party until the 2002 election. She indicated she wasn’t convinced National’s leadership woes are behind them, anticipating staring across the house and seeing the uncomfortable body language of strained relationships, as she has done before.

She said the Labour caucus would have a leadership vote, as it traditionally does in its first meeting of the second year of a term, but said she did not expect any challenges.

Miss Clark said that the circumstances that surrounded last September’s government/business forum in Auckland, with the drumming up of opposition to the Government’s policies by business leaders in the lead-up, have changed, and that will see a different focus for the upcoming forum in Christchurch. She said she anticipated the Christchurch forum would be focused on policy details and fresh ideas, with a lot of debate on research and development.

Michael Cullen makes an entrance

John Tamihere arrives, armed with clipboard

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