PM's Presser: Zaoui & The SIS (Part 2)
Prime Minister’s Presser 26 April
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. (And we also have some comment on a story she probably did read.)
In August 2003 the Refugee Status Appeals Authority (RSAA), an independent tribunal which operates as a commission of inquiry, declared Algerian asylum seeker and inaugural security risk certificate recipient, Ahmed Zaoui, to be a bona fide refugee ( See.. REFUGEE APPEAL NO. 74540 .pdf). Some nine months after this decision the Prime Minister, perhaps inspired by National’s Immigration spokesperson Wayne Mapp’s recent criticism’s of the RSAA, decided to take a few pot-shots herself.
In regard to an independent tribunal, the Prime Minister, speaking to Newstalk ZB talkback host Larry Williams, asserted that the RSAA
“Chose for its own reasons, to simply dismiss out of hand (Zaoui’s) French and Belgian convictions." Without calling oral evidence in any way Clark asserted, “They just pronounced that they didn’t like their verdict and they then moved to give Mr Zaoui refugee status.”
Asked in the New Zealand Herald, 26 April 2004, about the RSAA decision and Zaoui’s convictions in France and Belgium the Prime Minister stated:
“That’s a very good point. They took what Zaoui’s advocates said, and that wasn’t balanced by listening to the case of those who found against him.”
Given, the criticism levelled at the ‘evidence’ provided by the Security Intelligence Service ( See.. REFUGEE APPEAL NO. 74540 .pdf pages 192-200) for which Clark is the responsible Minister, and her recently reported comments it seemed certain the prime Minister would have at least had a peak at the RSAA decision. However this was not the case.
Question: "In relation to your comments on the RSAA decision on Zaoui, have you read that decision? And when did you read that decision, if you have in fact read it?"
Answer: I’ve taken advice on the RSAA decision.
Question: But you haven’t read the it (the RSAA decision) yourself?
Answer: I don’t read most decisions of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority. In fact I can’t remember ever reading any. I take advice on them; there are only so many hours in the day.
So there you have it. The Prime Minister has received advice from quarters unknown and has taken it upon herself to besmirch an independent tribunal of which former Immigration Minister, Lianne Dalziel, stated.
“New Zealand can have full confidence in the determination process (the RSAA) represents.”
Perhaps the Prime Minister was too busy being kept abreast of ‘new’ exposes in the Zaoui saga from the New Zealand Herald’s ‘international espionage correspondent’ Catherine Field. For those ready to lap up the next Herald ‘bombshell’, reliable sources inform us that Zaoui’s defence lawyer in the Belgian trials, Gilles Vanderbeck is mystified by quotes attributed to him.
Evidently Vanderbeck informed the Herald’s ‘espionage correspondent’, Catherine Field, that ‘media coverage did interfere with legal proceedings’. The Herald reported Mr Vanderbeck as stating that media coverage did not interfere with Zaoui’s trial.
The Prime Minister was today able to reassure the New Zealand public, that by June 8 2004, New Zealand would once again have a watchdog keeping a beady eye over the various intelligence services. Till Justice Paul Neazor (Solicitor General at the time of the Rainbow Warrior Bombing in 1986 " The Solicitor General Mr Paul Neazor, Q.C., indicated to Judge Gilbert that the Crown was prepared to accept a plea on the lesser charge of manslaughter as, with the evidence available it could not be established that Mafart and Prieur were personally responsible for the placing of the explosive devices on the Rainbow Warrior, nor that they intended anyone should be killed or injured.") moves into the position recently vacated by Laurie Greig these non-scrutinised agencies will hopefully behave themselves.
In reaching the decision as to who would be the next Inspector-General the Prime Minister took advice from Solicitor-General Terence Arnold as to a suitable choice.
Interestingly in a ‘isn’t it a small world after all’ kind of way – and seemingly especially in the world of Solicitor Generals - the Deputy Solicitor-General, Karen Clark is the Crown Counsel acting on behalf of the Security Intelligence Service. Another Deputy-Solicitor-General is rumoured to be busily preparing the Crown’s case for keeping Ahmed Zaoui locked in prison rather than moved to the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre. Finally the Solicitor-General, Terence Arnold, was responsible for the Government’s legal opinion that under Section 1140 of the Immigration Act 1987, there was no place other than a penal institution for someone issued with a security risk certificate.
As a result of the last Inspector-General’s ill-fated dealings with the media, the Prime Minister hinted that the new Inspector-General may get a media liaison person (Spin-Doctor).
‘I don’t think it’s been satisfactory that the Inspector-General didn’t have any obvious point of contact to raise any concerns about how to deal with the media. The overall arrangements for backing up Mr Justice Neazor will take that into account.’
The Prime Minister also rather un-sportingly implied that various recent embarrassments may have been connected with the efforts of the Bolger and Shipley administrations.
‘I inherited Mr Greig and the location of the Office and the way it was resourced. What has happened has now led me to look at all that again and see that more suitable arrangements are put in place.’
What was certainly not volunteered was that Clark assisted Bolger in choosing Greig in 1996. Also since late 1999 the buck has stopped with Clark, as Prime Minister.
The new arrangements concern moving the physical location of the Office. The rationale behind this shift concerned ‘perceptions’.
These are the same kind of ‘perceptions’ that can occur after the last Inspector-General rang the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary in a bid to handle unfavourable media reports concerning the Security Intelligence Service.
‘I want it (the Office of Inspector-General) out of Prime Minister and cabinet. Because although the reality was that there was no contact between me and him. The reality is that perceptions can be unfortunate and it is better that it just shifts.’
A Nice Swerve
When faced with further haranguing regarding the unfortunate exit of the last Inspector-General the Prime Minister ducked and weaved like Muhammad Ali circa 1966.
Question: ‘Do you think Justice Greig’s departure, and the manner of that, damaged the Office (of the Inspector-General) in any way?’
Answer: ‘I think it is important that Justice Neazor now has the servicing that he needs to do a job to the high standards that he will want to set. And we need to ensure that the servicing is there.’
At present the Prime Minister who is also the Minister in charge of the Security Intelligence Service takes the lead role in choosing the Inspector-General.
‘That’s set by statute and I don’t see that changing. But it is done on a bi-partisan basis. Had I gone to Dr Brash and Dr Brash had said ‘look there’s just no way I can accept this’ obviously I wouldn’t be recommending the appointment.
It is not certain what the ‘minor parties’ views on this very ‘First Past the Post’ appointment system are.