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PM's Presser: Not Bullying, Firing & Not Freeing

The PM Is Not - Not Bullying, Not Sacking & Not Freeing


Prime Minister’s Press Conference Tuesday, April 05, 2004
By Kevin List

The PM is not.

Not bullying the Pacific Islands, not sacking Tariana Turia (yet), and not definitely not freeing Ahmed Zaoui from penal incarceration anytime soon.

While the beginning of the PM’s conference dealt with local regional matters it was good to learn that foreign affairs are also being well looked after. According to the PM Foreign Minister Phil Goff will be having a word with Condeleeza Rice while on his travels on Thursday, the same day President Bush's National Security Advisor is scheduled to give evidence under oath to the 911 National Commission.

At which point the questioning commenced.

Dealing with accusations that NZ and Australia have been bullying Pacific Island nations into trade agreements the Prime Minister was in no mood to debate the finer points of Professor Jane Kelsey’s recent report entitled "Big Brothers Behaving Badly".

Rather the report was shot down in the same way a crippled messerschmit stranded over Dorset during the Battle of Britain would have been.

“Obviously we dismissed it out of hand”, the PM riposted to a query from TVNZ's Mark Sainsbury. Her swift uppercut was quickly followed with a vicious groin twist accusing Professor Kelsey’s recent ink spillage of having, “no merit whatsoever”.

It was good to know that there was to be no bullying, New Zealand wanted access to markets, but, “no-one forces anyone into any trade agreements”, the PM said.

Shortly after the PM moved on to numerous statements containing phrases like ‘regional organisation’, ‘initiate some action’, and, ‘more proactive’, giving the media the cue to move on.

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

Our troubled foreshores and seabeds were where the conference next journeyed. And upon landing in the increasingly turbulent low tide zone, the media wanted to know (as they have for months) whether rebel Associate Minister Tariana Turia will be keel hauled if she crosses the floor, or will she just miss a couple of nips of Helen’s rum?

When pushed about what should happen, the PM first spoke hardily and heroically about her own career in politics and of being forced to vote for screeds of legislation she hadn’t agreed with.

“I’ve been here for 22 and a half years and I’ve voted for plenty of things I didn’t agree with”, she said.

The impression this left was that if Helen Clark could stand up and support legislation such as flogging off all our state assets in the Prebble/Douglas years, it was a bit soft for Turia to be crying over a few spilt customary rights.

When pressed for specifics on Turia’s fate as an Associate Minister, the PM referred the assorted multitude back to statements made the previous week, urging them to "look at the transcripts". But subsequent reports in the media appear to indicate that most media cannot recall that at last week's presser Ms Clark refused to give a clear statement on what would happen to Turia.

Upon contacting the PM's office this morning Scoop learned that the particular transcript we ought to be focussing on is actually NewsTalk ZB's Paul Holme's IV with the PM from last Monday Morning.

"Paul Holmes Q: And if she crosses the floor?
Helen Clark A: Well that will cause her considerable difficulties.
Q: She will be sacked?
A: Well it will cause her considerable difficultuies.
Q: It will cause her to live without her warrants?
A: That is almost certainly the case."

I.E. there is a teensy weensy bit of wiggle room left for Tariana Turia to keep her warrants if she crosses the floor. But not much.

Meanwhile the latest news from the Labour caucus meeting this morning is that Turia is not yet planning on declaring a position on the bill, seemingly in defiance of suggestions from the PM during the Presser that she, like Damien O'Connor before her, ought to seek permission from the caucus.

*********

A little more flaming naptha was thrown on Tariana's troubled waters when some stirrer mentioned a recent speech from Ms Turia defending hip-hop travel grants and presumably a recent $26,000 grant to study the ‘urban artform’ by a social worker.

At this point the assembled media was enlightened by the PM about this cultural phenomenon. "Hip hop is an enormously popular form of contemporary music and New Zealand has an international reputation for the quality of its musicians".

The PM then pointed out that unfortunately none of those quality beat magicians had ventured around the world. Instead a self confessed hip-hop novice (according to post-trip comments) and close relative had managed to scrutinise the cultural roots of hip-hop. Ms Clark's remarks suggested that while she had no problem with hip-hop perse it was just that the CEG was an inappropriate source of grants for funding in this area.

*********

Asked about the growing number of complainants alleging sexual misconduct within the NZ Police force and their need for representation the PM brought up the subject of Cave Creek.

The Cave Creek disaster was alluded to as an example where providing representation was needed and, “it’s important that people who make complaints are represented”.

Meanwhile someone who the PM may prefer had no legal representation is detained Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui.

Last week, thanks to Mr Zaoui’s lawyers, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security was forced to hop off into the sunset. This meant the proceedings surrounding Mr Zaoui have been denied the services of at least one kangaroo. But joining in with the general spirit of how the Government has chosen to handle the case is now the Solicitor-General.

Within the legislation concerning security risk certificates is a section detailing how a person may get out of jail. Section 114(O) says that a person held under a security risk certificate may be released from either a prison or from some ‘other premises’. This issue was raised in the latest editorial from the Magazine that has been doing the running on this story (See… Listener editorial - April 10-16 2004)

Asked about this point the PM said she was sticking to the advice of her Solicitor- General. "The Solicitor-General has looked at this from every angle and it is not possible to detain (Mr Zaoui) in anywhere but a penal institution,” she said.

But given the reference to both penal institutions and “other premises” in the legislation one can only wonder whether the Solicitor-General’s last view of the legislation was from upside down on the opposite side of the page.

"I don’t intend to give you any further legal advice than that, although I can say a great deal of time was spent on looking at it and that was the conclusion that was drawn and to date the lawyers haven’t gone to court with a writ for habeus corpus for his release which may indicate that they have drawn the same conclusion."

Further complicating matters is the answer to a recent written question from the Minister of Immigration (No. 2512).

2512 (2004). Richard Worth to the Minister of Immigration (12 March 2004):
Does the New Zealand Immigration Service have an operational instruction dated 10 December 2003 which states that persons who are a threat to national security may be detained at the Mangere Centre?

Hon Paul Swain (Minister of Immigration) replied: The New Zealand Immigration Service Operational Instruction dated 10 December 2003 states that consideration can be given to requiring residence at the Mangere Accommodation Centre for refugee status claimants. This can be considered if there is a clearly identified risk of a refugee status claimant criminally offending, absconding or otherwise posing a risk to national security or public order.

Asked about this the PM disavowed all knowledge, "Well I’m not aware of that advice. The advice I have is that the law is pretty specific….", and then swiftly vacated the podium.

And thus the press gallery was left secure in the knowledge that New Zealand is not a bully, enjoys a spot of hip-hop, and only righteously and lawfully imprisons asylum seekers who dare throw their passports down the bog.

*** ENDS ***

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