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PM's Presser: Israelis, Torture & Don Brash's Lunc

PM's Press Conference Monday 10 May 2004
coverage from Kevin List

Israelis, Torture & Don Brash's Lunchtime

The following remarks come from New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark at yesterday's post-cabinet press conference.

Issues covered included air travel in the Pacific, angry Israelis, the Israeli spy passport case, US prisoner torture in Iraq & NZ's Iraq deployment.

Also covered were National Party Leader Don Brash and his "gone by lunch" remark, here discussion also dealt with National Party Nuclear Policy and Foreign Affairs Policy formulation and National Party relations with MFAT.

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Air Travel In The Pacific, Aid & And The War On Terror

New Zealand and Australia obviously have aid budgets and part of best practice in international aid these days is focussing on good governance and that gets into these kind of areas: Good administration, effective border control. It is also clear that other major donors in the Pacific have a big interest in the Pacific being able to comply and doing as much as they can on the counter-terrorism front.

We don’t expect the pace of international rule making to slow in this area. New rules have been coming out of the UN, the Security Council…out of the US with its particular requirements. The basic message is we have to keep up. These things are going to happen. What we want to do is make sure that the Pacific isn’t left behind and disadvantaged economically by not being able to step up to the new bench marks.

If places can’t meet the international civil aviation organisation requirements then they don’t get serviced. That becomes very serious. So with the ICAO requirements they have until 01 January 2006. That isn’t long. So I think the roundtable is very timely and I must stress the pacific countries are sending very senior representatives and they are taking it seriously.

“If you don’t meet international requirements set by ICAO you run into a lot of difficulties and that is why we are doing new things with baggage screening for example at domestic airports.

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Regarding The Israeli Official Allegedly Insulted By Customs

Question: An Israeli who has launched a scathing attack, saying New Zealand border officials seem to regard all Israeli’s as either spies or drug dealers. Are you aware of the situation?

I am aware that Customs intends to release a statement later today and I understand that they will say that their version of events differs quite radically from that of the person who has complained from Australia. They say that the pair were not travelling on diplomatic passports. They say there is an official government passport that public servants may travel on and it’s possible they could have been on those. But they would be treated by New Zealand border control officials as if they were standard passports.

There will have been a reason why these particular individuals were drawn aside. But from the account I have from Customs they absolutely deny it was a three hour interrogation. They say there was precisely one hour and twenty five minutes in the Customs search area.

The Officer also denies saying that all Israeli’s were drug dealers or spies.

Regarding Any Links With The Israeli Spies Passport Prosecution

I really can’t comment now. We have a case before the courts in Auckland and we will consider I imagine a whole lot of things in the wake of that.

Question: Have you had any official communication from the Israeli Embassy in Australia or the Israeli Government over the most recent complaint.

We haven’t yet had – not only a satisfactory explanation – we haven’t had any explanation.

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Regarding Iraqi Prisoners Being Tortured

Like everyone who has commented it is very, very shocking. And to be completely fair to the Government of the United States and Britain, both the President and Prime Minister have expressed their shock and abhorrence.

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Regarding NZ's Army Engineers in Basrah, Iraq

The position remains (what it has been) from day one that they will stay as long as they are able to get out and do their work.

I’ve seen accounts from the National Party that it should have simply put its hand up because three of its close allies were off to war in Iraq. I’ve now seen other statements that perhaps this wouldn’t have been the brightest idea.

I think it is absolutely critical that New Zealand evaluate its foreign policy options on the basis of its own principles, values and policies.

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Regarding National's New ‘Nuclear Policy’

We are aware that Dr Brash intends to go to Washington around about Queens Birthday time. He should fully set out what he intends to put on the table there.

Question: When you were Opposition Leader were you … did you expect that any conversations you had with the Americans say, you were expected to disclose?

Absolutely, and can I say that when I met foreign officials and was travelling offshore
and generally here in New Zealand I was accompanied by MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) Officer’s. When I was leader of the Opposition and undertook in four of the six years I held that position official overseas travel I always firstly sought the permission from the Prime Minister, which was required, and secondly worked very closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade with Don Mckinnon’s full agreement to get a programme which would help advance New Zealand’s interests. That even went to the extent in 1998, as I recall, of going to Laos on Don McKinnon’s request because he said people hadn’t been able to go there in recent times and would I go. So we actually worked quite closely to advance New Zealand’s interests and at no time can I recall ever having a programme that didn’t do that.

The National Party in Opposition have taken a rather different view they have generally refused to allow MFAT to be involved in the drawing up of their programmes and to be present at their meetings. They’ve opted for very little facilitation at all. That always suggests to me that some mischief is afoot.

I first heard about this trip not directly from Dr Brash, who didn’t appear to be aware of what the rules are, but a letter has now come, from recollection it did not seek facilitation. As I say their (the National Party’s) practice has been to go solo and not to involve MFAT. In my view that is a great mistake.

It was a very clearly understood rule when I was the Leader of the Opposition that in order to access support from MFAT offshore and in indeed to have the money released by Parliament that the leader of the Opposition should advise the Prime Minister and the expectation was that it would be official travel facilitated through MFAT.

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Regarding MFAT And National Party Administration

The message has often been that they’re not wanted.

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Regarding How Don Brash’s "Gone By Lunch" Statement Reached The Govt

That was a report of a meeting Dr Brash had. That says you shouldn’t say things behind closed doors you are not prepared to defend in public.


ENDS

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