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PM's Presser: Brash & Law'n'Order, Spies & Cabinet

PM's Presser: Dr Don, Law'n'Order, Spies & Reshuffle


Prime Minister's Press Conference 5 July
By Kevin List

In This Edition:
National Leader Don Brash's Law and Order speech

Toughening Up Sentences Already
DNA Testing
Costings
Private Prisons
Parole

New Roles for Labour's Maori Caucus Members
Cultural Diplomacy
Conviction Of Israelis For Passport Fraud/Theft

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National Leader Don Brash's Law and Order speech

After another appeal to the "person in the street'" from National leader Don Brash - this time on the vexed topic of Law and Order – most of the Prime Minister's press conference yesterday revolved around various topics raised in Dr Brash's speech.

Dr Brash's speech implied that policy makers were wrong and the public was right when it came to law and order issues. Whilst stressing the need for (even) longer prison sentences, more prisons (preferably private) – no parole etc. Dr Brash was alarmingly vague on either where his ideas had worked overseas, or how any of his policies were costed. Also, whilst convinced on the merits of more prisons, Dr Brash admitted to having little idea about how additional police might keep crime at bay.

"To be honest, there is no way, as an opposition politician, that I can pretend to know precisely how many additional police will be required as part of the package of measures which my Government will adopt," he said.

Toughening Up Sentences Already

In reply to Dr Brash's vision for the future the Prime Minister re-iterated what Labour was doing at present regarding law and order.

There have been a series of Acts of Parliament during our term, which have given substance to toughening up. There is tougher sentencing law, tougher sentences for the worst offenders. There is less bail available. It is estimated that a thousand fewer people will get bail this year over …against year 2000. There are tougher parole requirements, no longer automatic release on two thirds of sentence, which is what enabled [RSA parolee murderer] William Bell to get out in the past. In addition this Government spends about two hundred million dollars more on police than was spent in 1999 and employs more than 450 extra police over and above 1999 [figures].

DNA Testing

In reply to questions regarding DNA testing raised by Dr Brash - "Under National, every person arrested will also be DNA tested. And if they are convicted, then their DNA will be added to the DNA database."

We have extended DNA testing to criminal suspects down to a level of burglary and car theft. We have legislation before Parliament dealing with serious sex offenders and continued supervision. We have extended preventive detention. I think there is a very strong record on cracking the whip on law and order.

I understand the Select Committee did have a good look at it in regard to extending it [DNA testing] as far as it did. I don't have a closed mind on that. A decision was taken at the time to go as far as burglars and car thieves. The question is how much further would you reasonably go.

I don't think cost would be a consideration. Capability, capacity would be an issue. But I think the substantive issue would be how far down the hierarchy of crime would you want to go? Do you want to go to the kid that nicked the milk money?

Costings

Answer relating to costings in Dr Brash's speech

We thought the costings were a bit light. If you estimate that as a result of some of these proposals you could virtually double the prison population you could be looking at another 10 prisons – 200 million dollars a piece – and then you've got the operating costs which would probably amount to another three Billion dollars over ten years.

Private Prisons

Answers relating to questions regarding why Labour opposes private prisons.

The fundamental objection that Labour has had to private prisons is that we think the coercive power of the state is one that we think the state should exercise.

It is not around cost because I don't really think it [the private prison system] is necessarily any cheaper at all.

Parole

Answers relating to issues around National's proposals to abolish parole, "as we know it".

It has to be remembered that with the re-write of the Parole Act the criterion of safety of the community was made one of the overriding factors

Many people argue that parole is part of the menu of sentencing because it allows for controlled release. I imagine that is why most countries have stuck with some form of it. For the very worst offenders the judge can provide for a minimum period before parole which is far in excess of even two thirds of the sentence. Which is why William Bell with a life sentence for murder has a minimum sentence of no parole for thirty years.

I don't know what research he [Brash] has done. But as I say most people would advise I would think that parole is part of the menu of sentencing. Most people would also advise that the prospect of parole can be an incentive for people to reform. For some people it could change their lives, as a result of prison and parole could be seen as an incentive to that.

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New Roles for Labour's Maori Caucus Members

Youth Affairs Minister John Tamihere was given responsibility for the new Department of Building and Housing.

I think as one of Cabinet's lawyers... the job he is getting is very well suited to his talents. He tells me one of his biggest jobs was as a solicitor to the Housing Corporation. This new department deals with the regulatory and dispute resolution side of the housing and construction area. It is a vote of confidence in his ability.

I was desirous of moving Mita Rirunui into the health area where Ms Turia had been active before.
I saw the need for someone to put more full time effort into Maori education and Mahara Okeroa has a very impressive background and record in education.

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Cultural Diplomacy

We will be drawing up a strategy of where New Zealand's key interests are, and if we are seeking to advance them, what events are there in those places where cultural diplomacy might help promotion of New Zealand.

For example next year there is an expo in Japan. It may be well be that that is an appropriate place for the symphony orchestra to be. So that is the way we would look at it - do you have a specific promotion going in around tourism, trade whatever? Which cultural product do we have that would best suit that market?

Creative New Zealand does it for aesthetic reasons and personal and professional development of the artist and group. This [cultural diplomacy] is saying there is a specific function aimed at projecting New Zealand to audiences as part of a general New Zealand promotion.

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Conviction Of Israelis For Passport Fraud/Theft

You will recall that when Jim Sutton summoned the ambassador [of Israel] he asked for an explanation. None has been forthcoming.

Nothing more will be said until after the sentencing.

After July 15 there will be more to say.

***** ENDS *****

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