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PM's Presser: Seabed & Foreshore (Part 1)

Prime Minister’s Presser 26 April

Introduction

The thousands of soldiers who died and were maimed in two world wars would certainly have been consoled to know that their sacrifice was not in vain. Those Kiwi’s & Ockers, the ANZACs, who gave their all defending democracy and press freedom would have been comforted to know that with all the vexing questions facing New Zealand, members of the fourth estate considered it worthwhile questioning the Prime Minister about potential 'streakers'. The possibility of disrobed hooligans affronting the Prime Minister's gaze was somehow connected to ex-sports star and general larrikin Mark Ellis.

When not dealing with such vital issues, the Prime Minister managed to find time to answer some questions; on the fate of Tariana Turia and the seabed and foreshore ( again) and the new SIS Inspector-General (Justice Paul Neazor).

It was also revealed that despite the Prime Minister’s recent critical comments concerning the Refugee Status Appeals Authority decision granting Ahmed Zaoui refugee status, she hadn’t actually bothered to read the decision.

Tariana Turia and the Seabed and Foreshore Legislation (Again)

For weeks now at her weekly Press Conference questions have been hurled at the Prime Minister, like javelins in an Olympic type event, regarding Tariana Turia, and Turia’s stance on the seabed and foreshore legislation. Further volleys of queries have been lobbed grenade style at the Prime Minister's feet regarding the fate of the errant (Associate) Minister should she cross the floor and whether Turia’s (Associate) Minister’s warrants will be withdrawn. And this week for the most part the Prime Minister donned a shield of ‘No comment’ or ‘Wait till tomorrow’ as a defence against the Tariana Turia/Seabed and Foreshore inquisition.

Causing some consternation was the fact that Turia had only a few hours earlier given a radio interview in which she had very clearly stated her position on the impending legislation. Rather than defence the Prime Minister opted for offence in this particular case.

‘I expect she’d do her colleagues the courtesy of telling them what she’s going to do. I really don’t have any further comment on it today’

With Wairarapa MP Georgina Beyer back in the fold, the Prime Minister was now only faced with potential rebellion from Nanaia Mahuta and Turia.

‘We have factored the two of them out of our decision making. We factored them out some time ago. That’s why I said on the fifth of April that I expected a motion would be put giving permission for people to cross the floor. It’s not the intention of the Labour Party to drive people out over this issue…It’s become irrelevant how they vote.

Pushing the issue well into the future was the possibility that; should Turia vote against the legislation (likely); then lose her (Associate) Minister’s warrants, would she then force a by-election? (Possibly). Running with that stream of thought the question that surely no-one in New Zealand could guess the answer to was asked…

Would a by-election, in Turia’s seat, trouble Labour at all?

The Prime Minister kept the assembled throng and the nation guessing as to whether a sitting Labour MP resigning and sparking a by-election would trouble the Labour Party.

‘I don’t want to discuss that’, she said.

Further questions about the intangible nature of the Prime Minister’s feelings on the issue where then asked. When quizzed if the issue had been ‘frustrating’ the Prime Minister replied.

‘I find the whole business since the Court of Appeal decision frustrating. It gave rise to expectations that were completely unrealistic and it also gave rise to views and opinions that simply couldn’t be substantiated.’

The Seabed and Foreshore and Opinion Polls

A further source of frustration may have been the possibility that the fallout from the Court of Appeal/High Court) decision had damaged the Labour party’s poll ratings

“I think that the focus on what are broadly termed race issues has been a problem and they are difficult and complex issues. In Government we don’t have the option of not dealing with them or just chucking rocks at them. We have to do something about the issues. We have a Bill coming to Parliament next week that deals with the issue, and I would put it to you, deals with it in a way that most people are reasonably comfortable with’

(continues….)

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