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PM's Presser: A Wide Ranging Discussion

PM's Presser: A Wide Ranging Discussion


By Kevin List

In this edition:
Saudi Arabia, terrorism and the safety of New Zealand citizens
Historical claims of patient abuse in NZ mental health institutions
Dr Don Brash's Trip To The United States
Upcoming D-Day Commemorations
High oil prices
TV3 BSA appeal decision
Budget Advertising Campaign

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Saudi Arabia, terrorism and the safety of New Zealand citizens

- PM's answers relating to MFAT travel warning

At this stage it [Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade travel warning] is not the level of travel warning that you see for Iraq…In Saudi Arabia it’s a pattern of terrorist attacks. The foreign affairs warning as I understand reiterates that people should defer other than essential travel. It hasn’t said don’t go there which is the level of warning that exists over Iraq.

It [the travel warning] will be kept continually under review but is probably appropriate where it is at the moment. One has to thionk fairly seriously before one advises everybody to leave…When you get shocking incidents like the one which occurred over the weekend, people will ask themselves is it a place they want to be and have their family in. Of course we have many New Zealander’s working in Saudi Arabia, good salaries, good jobs, but at times like this people start to re-evaluate.

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Historical claims of patient abuse in NZ mental health institutions

- PM's answers relating to the possibility of Government liability stemming from claims of abuse from former inmates of New Zealand institutions.

Well that has [the claims of abuse] been referred to Crown law and the Attorney-General [Margaret Wilson]. We are investigating 62 claims which have been filed and I understand Margaret Wilson will have a statement out later today probably. What she will say is that until the Crown has completed that investigation it cannot make any decision on whether an inquiry would be appropriate.

- In relation to a comparison with the outcome of the claims relating to Lake Alice.

I think that would be jumping well ahead. At the moment the Government is in the process of investigating 62 claims. We are not in the position to say there is a comparison.

In the case of Lake Alice there was a procedure entered into which didn’t see people having to be dragged through the courts because there clearly was a substantial element of abuse involved. The claims do not all involve Porirua is my understanding so it’s a more complex than the claims affecting one institution.

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Dr Don Brash's Trip To The United States

- PM's answers about Dr Brash’s trip and the fact he will not be accompanied by MFAT officials. [link to Goff’s conference]

There’s always been a budget for the leader of the Opposition. People use it in different ways.

I’m happy that the Leader of the Opposition, whoever it is, should be able to travel and inform themselves of events offshore.

The practice of his predecessor [Bill English] was not to accept that sort of assistance [being accompanied by MFAT officials].

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Upcoming D-Day Commemorations

- PM's answers about her planned trip to Normandy for the D-Day commemorations which are to be attended by US President George Bush.

I expect to be able to say hello to most people who are there including President Bush.

It’s essentially a commemorative occasion. Often there are things that you want to talk to people about, specific bi-lateral issues. But we’re not going with an agenda on Iraq.

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High oil prices

- PM's answers about current record high oil prices.

It obviously doesn’t help to have instability in a major and generally pro-western oil producer. And oil prices now are at a pretty high level by modern standards to the extent that the dollar has been rising a little and that cushions it. But it does add to input costs right across the economy.

- PM response to question on whether high oil prices have prompted a rethink of roading spending.

The government is actually proud to take the decision to put an extra 1.6 billion dollars over and above pre-existing expendiuture into Auckland’s land transport system, and that of course is not only about motorways it’s also about an investment in public transport.

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TV3 BSA appeal decision

- PM's answers about yesterday's BSA appeal decision in her favour and substantial costs award to her and her press secretary.

It goes straight to the lawyer. That’s the essence of costs it covers the legal bill.

The complaint of course went in on behalf of the Labour Party. It was never going to be publicly funded.

It was important to draw a line on what was fair and what wasn’t. I’m satisfied with the outcome as I said when the High Court brought down the decision a few months ago. I have long since put it behind me. I expect that TV3 will read the statement about the findings and that will close the chapter.

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Budget Advertising Campaign

- PM's answers about the planned $21 million advertising campaign to explain changes in the budget.

These changes around family income all need to be applied for. You don’t apply for family support you don’t get it. You don’t apply for your accommodation supplement you don’t get it. There’s a series of changes coming in over a three year period. Unless you reinforce the point that people should ring and find out whether they are entitled to, and how they apply you will get a low take-up. This kind of package in effect amounts to very targeted tax cuts for a proportion of the population…that’s why you have to have an information campaign.

My understanding is it [the media campaign] is very much around information as to how to apply and how to access. In terms of promoting the great benefits of a package like that. That’s left to specifically political funding.

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