PM's Presser: Enough, Polls, Iran & NZ Troops
PM's Presser: Enough, Polls, Iran & NZ Troops
Prime Minister's Press Conference - 24 August 2004
By Kevin List
Enough is Enough Rally
Some hours before the press conference a crowd opposing ostensibly the Civil Union Bill and the allegedly liberal views of the current Government protested outside Parliament. The rally titled 'Enough is Enough' was organised by the Destiny Church and its political offshoot Destiny New Zealand.
Estimates varied regarding numbers, however most agreed that somewhere around 7000 Supporters of the 'Enough is Enough' rally and nearly 1000 counter demonstrators attended the lunchtime forum for strongly held views, hakas and cross-dressing. Sadly for fans of classic American motorbikes, the religious leader of Destiny, Pastor Brian Tamaki, left his hog at home.
Answers related mainly to what the Prime Minister thought about the 'Enough is Enough' rally and the status of the Civil Union Bill, which is now before a Select Committee after its successful first reading in Parliament.
"As I walked down to lunch on the second floor I did see a crowd gathered but I didn't stop."
On Brian Tamaki's offer to help the government with a 'healthy family policy' as reported by the Dominion Post:
"I'm surprised he's asked. Because I recall four years ago that he commented that having two New Zealand women leaders at the time was a sign that New Zealand was falling for the work of the devil."
On the demonstration in general:
"It's a free world. People are entitled to apply to the Speaker of the House to hold a demonstration. There were people with another point of view out there. There's a Bill before Parliament – that's life, that's democracy, that's politics!"
"I think we should reflect on the fact that it is a school day. Children are expected to be at school."
"I think that people came with a point of view. At one end of the spectrum it is a very extreme point of view, but they are entitled to express it."
On the prospects for the Bill in Parliament:
"It [the Civil Union Bill] certainly got a healthy majority through the first reading and I think it will be one of those Bill's which will be fairly low in the margin. At the moment I'd say it is on course to pass. I wouldn't expect a huge majority."
On demonstrators views on abortion:
"It's always better in my view for people to be well informed about contraception than to opt for an abortion. The law provides for an abortion on certain grounds and not everybody likes that -but it is the way life is."
On Destiny NZ's chance of gaining a foothold in Parliament through their political wing:
"They'd have to crack the five percent margin which is quite a high threshold."
On the level of turnout for the protest:
"I had seen predictions that it would reach ten thousand and it [the march] didn't appear to be anything like that."
The Latest Polls
Answer relates to the fact that Labour has caught up and surged ahead of National in the long distance political marathon.
"I don't think the polling picture all year has been necessarily a weak one. There's been one poll which has consistently put the National Party rather higher - but others have been more in balance. I think, to put everything into perspective, people at the moment are feeling that New Zealand is on the right track. The economy is obviously doing very well by comparison with most other western countries . Unemployment is very low. And I think that the Government gets some credit for running a reasonably steady ship
The Iranian Foreign Minister's Visit
Iranian Foreign Minister, Seyed Kharazzi, this week visited New Zealand. Mr Kharazzi met with the Prime Minister as well as Foreign Affairs (Goff) and Disarmament (Hobbs) Ministers. Much of the questions related to concerns expressed by various countries (including the United States) that Iran is concealing a nuclear weapons programme. New Zealand presently sits on the 18 member International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)board.
"I think his visit is important because Iran's nuclear programme is occupying a lot of time with the International Atomic Energy Agency at the moment. We have been on the board of that for the last couple of years, so New Zealand has been quite involved in the debate. That may well be the reason why the Iranian Foreign Minister has chosen to come to New Zealand, at this time."
"We have at a diplomatic level kept a dialogue with Iran about its nuclear programme. Of course we are aware that Iran's senior leaders have given assurances that their intentions are to develop a programme for peaceful purposes only. However, you would have to be concerned at the length of time that it has taken for the IAEA to be able to get to the bottom of what Iran is actually doing. Two months ago the board of the IAEA asked Iran to accelerate its co-operation to resolve the central question; which is whether it [Iran] has an enrichment programme?"
"We will be using the opportunity of the Foreign Minister's visit to stress that we think it is absolutely critical that they comply rapidly and in full with the requests being made of them."
"I think it's very important that countries like Iran don't get isolated from dialogue with other countries. We happen to have some issues about the nuclear programme. We'd have a number of issues we'd always put on the table - the human rights front obviously.
If New Zealand, small though it is, is saying co-operation with the IAEA is really important then that counts for something."
Answer relates to the alleged atomic enrichment program supposedly conducted clandestinely by Iran:
"While there is unanswered questions there is always cause for concern"
"The purpose of the diplomacy around this is to try and get an agreed path forward with Iran working with the IAEA. There has been some huge effort put into that. The British, French and German governments have worked enormously hard on this. All [these] countries must carry a lot of clout internationally. It has been important that we support those efforts."
NZ Defence Force Personnel Serving in Iraq and Afghanistan
Answers relate to when exactly the New Zealand Defence Force personnel serving in Iraq will be returning and whether or not there would be any further military involvement after the NZ Defence Force engineers based in Basra return. New Zealand's military commitment in Afghanistan was also traversed.
"They are not too far off coming back. They should be home somewhere about mid-September."
"The timing will be probably be dictated by when they are scheduling the aircraft to come through and getting the whole extraction operation underway."
"With the engineers we always made it plain that it was a six [months] plus six [months]. We confirmed the second six months some time before they were due to go. There hasn't, to the best of my knowledge, been a specific request for them to stay longer because people knew that we set a deadline on it from the start."
"We've got successful deployments in Afghanistan. At some point we'll say – do we do more? Those are still very much open questions."