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PM's Presser: Of Hikois, Tariana Turia and Nukes

IN THIS EDITION: When Is A Hikoi Not A Hikoi - Tariana Turia And The Prime Minister 'The Relationship That Wasn’t' - And - The New Nuclear Nats & Dying Laughing

Prime Minister's Presser 3 May 2004-05-04

Of Hikois, Tariana Turia and Nukes

By Kevin List

When Is A Hikoi Not A Hikoi

This Wednesday a "Hikoi" protesting the Government’s first draft of the seabed and foreshore legislation will descend upon Parliament. The Prime Minister queried both the motivation and indeed the etymological correctness of calling this protest a Hikoi.

In 1999 The Prime Minister had engaged with the protest march against the policies espoused by national administrations throughout the 90s; the Hikoi of Hope. In 2004 the Prime Minister was hopeful she would not be engaging with the current Hikoi.

"This one to my mind isn’t so much a Hikoi as a daily demonstration with people bussed into. People have the right to peaceful dissent and they are exercising it."

Earlier yesterday the Prime Minister referred to various sections of the Hikoi as "haters and wreckers". This had caused some offence, and seemed as the Prime Minister might say "a bit rough" on many of those involved.

In her press conference the Prime Minister was able to more accurately pinpoint who these "haters and wreckers" were – evidently not the Quaker contingent.

"I refer specifically to the people that do the annual Waitangi production and appear to be bringing that (the Waitangi protests) to Wellington, and I say that with some feeling.
There are sincere, decent well motivated New Zealander’s who are on the march. I don’t agree with them but they are entitled in a free and democratic society like New Zealand to express their views."

A certain standard of behaviour was expected by the Prime Minister and various outrages were then listed regarding protests at Waitangi. The throwing clods at Dr Don Brash was left off the list however.

"One would hope it’s not the standard of behaviour we see at Waitangi, where this year Mr Harawira boasted about giving people ‘the bash’. Now when I walked through the Marae at Waitangi there was a person brandishing a knife I understand… I had a Minister who was bitten and another who was hit. Later in the day the New Zealand flag was assaulted."

The Minister of Maori Affairs was likely to meet with the protesters, Ms Clark said. For her part the Prime Minister preferred to meet New Zealanders who were less likely to indulge in slanging matches with her.

Question: Why would you have the time to meet Shrek the sheep but you wouldn’t take time to talk to a group of New Zealander’s concerned about legislation.

Answer: Shrek was good company.

Earlier attempts at engaging in discourse regarding this vexed issue seemed to have perturbed the Prime Minister

"When you have a crowd screaming with respect to beaches ‘they are ours’ and not open to any reasoned or logical discussion, you come back to the Waitangi scenario, and my predominant reaction to my endeavouring to be a bridge to that particular element is, why bother."

The Prime Minister also implied that many of the protestors may not have read or understood the legislation.

The legislation itself has of course not yet even gone to a first reading, and that is expected on Thursday. After this the Bill will go through the Select Committee process where presumably a number of changes may yet be made. Whether these changes will have the effect of further inflaming or placating the marchers on the Hikoi remains of course to be seen.

Over the past few weeks with the media largely fixated with Tariana Turia and whether she would leave the Labour party (she has now), most niggly points in the actual legislation seem to have been somewhat overlooked. The Prime Minister said some senior figures in Maoridom had been given the chance to study the proposed legislation.

"What I’m saying is that there has been an opportunity to have a reasoned dialogue regarding what the legislation actually does."

But fortunately for everyone’s soundbites, any attempt at analysing the legislation was jettisoned in favour of concentrating on a good old fashioned political bust-up.


Tariana Turia And The Prime Minister 'The Relationship That Wasn’t'

For the last few weeks the Prime Minister had been emphasising the fact that Tariana Turia has been with the Labour Party for more than seven years. The implication has been that you didn’t work with someone for seven years without getting to know them.

What has been left out of the Prime Minister’s views on her colleague prior to 30 April 2004 - and Turia's long walk - has been that Tariana Turia is ‘duplicitous’.

Of course this knowledge may have only been gleaned since Turia announced her resignation last Friday, but there were some inklings going back to Turia’s decision in February to abstain.

That, said the Prime Minister, was the first of a series of three outright acts of duplicity which have occurred since February. We now know that when she said abstention, she never meant abstention, she meant just to string it out.

"Then on 5 April with the legislation being tabled in the House later that week on 8 April I phoned Ms Turia and I advised her that I had said at the press conference that I expected Caucus would give permission for her not to support the Bill, but that she would not be able to hold her ministerial job if she crossed the floor.

"That evening on the phone she advised me that if that was my intention she would be leaving Parliament and causing a by-election and there was then a short discussion about what would happen to the house and car at that point. I must say that I was somewhat surprised the next day at the Labour caucus she argued that she needed more time to read the bill.

"Then on Monday last week she went on Radio Waatea. She told Willie Jackson that she would be crossing the floor and that she would be joining the Hikoi. I then made it clear that those were actions that would lead to me acting. That led to a late night meeting in my office where she said she needed more time to think. Retrospectively I don’t think that was even true. "

On whether fellow Maori Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta would follow Turia’s example and possibly join a yet to be formed Maori party?

"I prefer to take people at face value. And I have been speaking directly with her.
There are plenty of voices out there saying that a party formed around a single issue couldn’t be durable."

And the actual state of the legislation’s progress?

"The Bill will be debated next week. The Bill will go through a full Select Committee process. Hearings will be had to consider the evidence, deliberate and make decisions and come back. Now that’s the parliamentary process."


The New Nuclear Nats & Dying Laughing

Aside from the Seabed & Foreshore and Tariana Turia the only other significant subject to come up in the prsser was National and Don Brash's new allegedly anti-anti nuclear stance. Here was an issue that the PM was decidedly more comfortable with.

Ever since Bill English managed to shoot both feet off and accelerate greatly his demise as Opposition leader with comments regarding changing New Zealand's anti-nuclear stance the National Party has been somewhat reticient on their current policy regarding weapons of mass destruction popping by for a quick 'visit'.

"This may have something to do with the fact that the chord supposedly struck so sweetly by Dr Brash with his Orewa speech may turn into a rather bum note should National cross from race to international relations.

"I understand that Dr Brash intends to go to Washington at around Queen's Birthday period, and I think he should be upfront about what he intends to put on the table behind closed doors.

"I note that he said on radio this morning that while he had a personal view on the matter he was not expressing it. I understand that he hasn’t been backwards in expressing (to American delegations who come to New Zealand ) that if it were up to him the ban would be gone by lunchtime.

"Removing that clause from the legislation would be seen internationally as New Zealand backing down on the policy held to by New Zealand Governments of all shades for 20 years. A policy that in my view has brought New Zealand considerable international respect for being prepared to strongly articulate it’s position on nuclear issues.

"To amend the law and not change the policy, if that is a serious proposition from the National Party, we will die laughing. "

*** ENDS ***

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