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PM's Presser: Spies, The CJ, Think Tanks & Zaoui

Spies, The Chief Justice Sian Elias, New Think Tanks & Zaoui


Prime Minister's Press Conference 26th July 2004
By Kevin List

In This Edition:
Israelis And Intelligence
New New Zealand Public Policy Think Tank
Justice Sian Elias's Comments To British Parliamentary Committees
Zaoui's Place Of Detention And Diplomatic Cables Concerning His Case

************

ISRAELIS AND INTELLIGENCE

Questions relating to reports in an Israeli newspaper claiming that there was a request from Israel to keep the recent passport fraud case involving Israeli citizens out of the courts. During the first five minutes of the press conference the Prime Minister repeatedly asserted that she never commented on intelligence matters, whilst managing to explain the government's position on the matter.

"Well, as you know I never comment on intelligence matters. What I have made clear from the outset is that the government having solid grounds to believe that these people were acting on behalf of intelligence agencies from Israel. I made it clear that the normal judicial process should be followed."

"With the precedent in Canada that eventually they [Israel] actually did acknowledge we are now some three and a half or more months on from when the explanation and apology was first asked for and I think Israel is well aware of what our requirements are."

"Certainly our position was from the outset that the normal court processes should follow their course."

"I am not going to comment on anything to do with any approaches that may or may not have happened. I have seen speculation in the media around that. I am simply not entering into that. What I am saying is that it was apparent to the government and its agencies from an early point that there were solid grounds for believing that these men were intelligence agency people, working on behalf of intelligence agencies and that the normal processes should be followed."

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NEW NEW ZEALAND PUBLIC POLICY THINK TANK

Questions relating to the emergence of a public policy think tank, the New Zealand Institute. The New Zealand Institute's Chief Executive is former New Zealand treasury advisor Dr David Skilling.

"I welcome public policy think tanks. I think it is positive to have debate about policy issues and certainly David Skilling, who appears to be a keen researcher in this one, comes with a reputation from the public service. I think the effort to set it up should be welcomed."

"I don't think they [public policy think tanks] start out to be politically partisan. Of course any views that you take on public policy issues will end up being closer to some peoples than others. It remains to be seen where their views are positioned."

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JUSTICE SIAN ELIAS'S COMMENTS TO BRITISH PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES

Questions relating to statements made by Chief Justice Sian Elias to British parliamentary committees in mid-May and reported recently in the Dominion Post. Justice Elias's comments to a number of separate British parliamentary committees related to the issues involved in setting up New Zealand's Supreme Court. The media coverage of Justice Elias's speech in New Zealand (late July) focussed on comments Justice Elias had made regarding funding issues and also the Supreme Court's title.

"I felt having ploughed through the Dominion article on Saturday that by and large these were pretty minor administrative issues that didn't really deserve the attention that had been given to them. Of course there is a difficulty when judges air those sorts of issues publicly because it must invite a response because otherwise the government stands accused of under-resourcing the [Supreme] Court. And then it obviously isn't proper for judges to engage in an ongoing debate as indeed the Chief Justice's statement makes clear today. Having issued her letter she states she will make no further comment. That is why I think the best rule is not to go down that track.

"I think that the workload of the Court was always going to be very light at the beginning. It remains to be seen whether this top 'Court of Appeal' will get more work than the Privy Council in London did from New Zealand, because it is more accessible. We will work on the assumption that the workload will build up over time. We believe it is adequately resourced and of course those issues really don't need to be aired on the front page of a newspaper.

"I think the name is of no moment whatsoever."

# # # # #

Answers relating to whether the Supreme Court should be funded from the Ministry of Justice or whether the Supreme Court should have a 'stand alone' budget.

"For ever and a day the servicing of the judiciary has been done through a government department. There is nothing new in that the novelty would be if it was not done through a government department. The same kind of criticism could be directed at the judges having to go and bargain with the Minister of Finance directly. The Chief Justice's suggestion seems to be that they should have a line item in the budget themselves but that would put them in the business of haggling with the Minister of Finance. That could be seen to have greater implications for loss of independence than the Ministry of Justice representing their needs.

"Everyone knows how much money it [the Supreme Court] is getting down to the small details. That is what Estimates processes are about."

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ZAOUI'S PLACE OF DETENTION AND DIPLOMATIC CABLES CONCERNING HIS CASE

Questions relating to whether given the finding by Justice Paterson that whilst a person subject to a security risk certificate must be detained throughout the process that theoretically the detention does not necessarily have to be in a prison.

"Under part IVA of the Act, a person subject to a security risk certificate is to be mandatorily detained but that detention does not have to be in a prison."
- Paragraph 85 (a) Reserved Judgement of Justice Paterson, 16 July 2004

Question: As of 16 July 2004, is it theoretically possible for the government, specifically Paul Swain to transfer Ahmed Zaoui to Mangere Refugee Centre, provided security measures are made?

"I really wouldn't take that inference from the High Court judgement of a couple of Fridays ago. The judgement was quite clear that detention is detention. I think there would be considerable difficulty with seeing the Mangere Refugee Centre, which is primarily there to receive refugees designated as some sort of security grade prison."

Question: But the question was theoretically?

"I am not accepting your theory."

# # # # #

Questions relating to Scoop (25th July) and Listener (July 31- Aug 6) articles which assert that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs solicited diplomatic condemnation of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority decision granting Mr Zaoui refugee status. Among the claims in the articles is the assertion that New Zealand officials received the Belgian Diplomatic note in early March. The New Zealand Herald's Paris based correspondent, Catherine Field, was aware of the Belgian Diplomatic notes existence by at least early April. However a spokesman for the Prime Minister claimed that the Prime Minister knew nothing about this third person note in early April.

"A spokesman for the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, said yesterday that she knew nothing about the Belgian document and could not comment"
- NZ Herald April 3.

Question: Were you aware before the New Zealand Herald broke the story that MFAT was sending diplomatic cables regarding Mr Zaoui and the RSAA decision?

"I've been well aware that the government has been trying to get a clear picture of how offshore judicial authorities dealt with Mr Zaoui. There is nothing secret about that and indeed I think if you go to MFAT yourself, you will find that they advised foreign governments when approaching them that what they told them would be likely to end up in the public arena. So it can hardly be a deeply secret plot?"

Question: But you stated you weren't aware of the Belgian cable on April 3.

"Don't throw dates at me please. The Zaoui thing has been going on for 18 months."

**** ENDS ****

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