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PM's Presser: Passports, Refugees & Pulling Plugs

Prime Minister’s Press Conference 29 March 2004


By Kevin List

Citizenship, Totalitarianism and National Security –
‘Disappointed that a private cabinet meeting has become public’

Yesterday's weekly Prime Ministerial press conference got off to a tepid start as Helen Clark reeled off a list of upcoming legislation concerning income tax and road safety. But things quickly heated up when Clark was quizzed about the supposed leaking of controversial draft legislation concerning citizenship proposing:

  • New Zealand citizens having their citizenship revoked if they are seen as a presumed threat to ‘national security’;
  • Pushing New Zealand residency eligibility out from the current three years to five years;
  • Ending the automatic right of children born in New Zealand of foreign parents to citizenship.
  • In regard to these proposals Clark skirted past the more controversial first point and concentrated on addressing the latter two in her replies to questions.

    It was intimated that this legislation was vital if maternity wards throughout New Zealand were not to be overrun by hordes of pregnant persons of foreign appearance.

    Also, in Clark’s opinion ‘three years was too short’ a time to gain citizenship and she approved of pushing out this time limit.

    On the more tricky aspect of revoking fair dinkum Kiwi’s citizenship, Clark was more eager to express ‘disappointment’ at Progressive Deputy, Matt Robson allegedly alerting the media to what has been called draconian and totalitarian legislation than to explain what was really planned.

    With lips curled downwards, Clark intimated Mr Robson may not get his eyes on contentious legislation for a while. It would seem that a certain progressive MP with Australian heritage may even be a prime candidate for the Clark government to test its new legislation.

    One interesting question not brought up was: if one’s passport was revoked for national security reasons, where would person who is alleged to be a threat to security go to complain? The Inspector –General of Intelligence and Security?

    The current Inspector-General Laurie Greig may gain some new business besides current client Ahmed Zaoui. That is providing he hasn’t been dismissed for bias by the High Court before the new legislation is passed (according to current legislative timetable October 2004).

    ************

    Tariana Turia and the Seabed`and Foreshore question
    ‘A desire to deal with good faith’

    A further MP ostensibly within the government but acting up is Tariana Turia.

    Many political pundits are picking Turia to cross the floor over the seabed and foreshore spat.

    But when push came to shoving (Turia) out of cabinet the PM was not willing to provide the media with their requested soundbite that Turia would be 100% out should the expected floor crossing occur.

    However odds of cabinet exile were hinted at, and bookmakers could give short-odds that Lianne Dalziel may get some company in the political wilderness should Whanganui's finest set out on her long walk.

    ************

    Project Aqua’s demise
    ‘We are not in an era where Government’s legislate for public works’

    By the time of the Press Conference at 3.30pm Project Aqua had been well and truly reduced to think big rubble by the dam busting bomb of the Resource Management Act.

    In her comments on the shock announcement, Clark surmised that it may be time to investigate alternative means of generating electricity such as wind farms.

    ************

    Social Entrepreneurs and Community Employment Grants
    ‘Some grants were odd, to say the least’

    Whereas Project Aqua and the citizenship efforts had been handled like a New Zealand number 11 batsman facing the new ball, Clark was well padded up for the furore over social entrepreneurs.

    After an employment grants scheme sent a hip-hop novice around the world to basically ‘chill-out’ it became open slather for Act and National. $26,000 dollars of hard earned taxpayer money may have disappeared and New Zealand MC’ing had shown no particular statistical improvement, they railed.

    Clark was not impressed either, in fact she appeared to be as shocked as Rodney Hide would have been had he discovered a Maori Television Service executive had claimed a ‘happy meal’ from the taxpayer without proper documentation.

    Today Clark was here to make sure government departments ‘stuck to their knitting.

    Clark said ‘social entrepreneur’ grants were currently frozen and have been for some time. In fact the Minister responsible had been reviewing the scheme since last August and the assembled throng was left in no doubt that the chance of a Death Metal research scholarship to Norway isn’t likely anytime soon.

    However why exactly this information hadn't been forthcoming when Rich first raised the issue remains something of a mystery.

    ************

    United High Commissioner for Refugees’ Visit and Refugee Quota’s
    ‘Logistical arrangements

    Yesterday's audience with the Prime Minister rounded off with Prime Minister Clark giving gracious consideration to New Zealand’s obligations as an international citizen.

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had paid New Zealand a quick visit, and Australia had just upped their refugee quota. Clark mused about whether New Zealand should follow suit.

    A more appropriate question would have been, can New Zealand even meet the quota it has now?

    Set at 750 refugees, for some time the official policy for New Zealand governments (both National and Labour ) has been to aim to come within either + or – 10% of that magical figure. In other words a minimum number would be 675 of the world’s displaced and dispossessed. Last year New Zealand managed just 604, nearly 20% beneath our quota.

    The reason given for this spectacular undershoot by Clark was ‘logistics’, though just what the logistical hiccups have been remains to be discovered.

    ***** ENDS *****

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