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PM's Presser: Civil Unions And Mr Zaoui's Bail

Prime Minster's Post Cabinet Press Conference – December 6 2004
Civil Unions And Mr Zaoui's Bail


By Kevin List

In this edition:
- Civil Unions Spark Religious Ructions
- Pubs And Clubs About To Become Smokefree
- Will Ahmed Zaoui Get Bail After Two Years Penal Detention?
- The Douglas White Report Regarding John Tamihere

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Civil Unions Spark Religious Ructions

This week the Civil Union Bill returns for its committee stages and third reading. It is expected the controversial legislation will pass by a slim majority later this week. Over the weekend a letter was read out at Catholic Churches opposing the legislation.

Answer relates to an amendment proposed by National Justice Spokesperson Richard Worth amendment proposed by National Justice Spokesperson Richard Worth and whether the Prime Minister considers Mr Worth's amendment is worth considering?

"No I don't – it is [Mr Worth's Amendment] a copy cat measure of a similar amendment which was tried by a junior Tory MP in the House of Commons. I note in the House of Commons the proposal was rejected by 381 votes to 74. The House of Commons went on to pass their legislation in this area – the Civil Partnerships Bill – by 389 to 47. It got the royal ascent on 18 November and the first civil registrations are expected next year. [The UK amendment] was roundly rejected in the House of Commons and I think that those that have made up their mind to vote for this Bill have made up their minds to vote for it pretty much as it is."

Answers relate to the Catholic Churches opposition to the Civil Union Bill

"I have enormous respect for the Catholic Bishops and there would be many, many issues on which we would see eye to eye. We happen to have a very clear disagreement on this one. It is my view that there is no way in which enabling those who cannot marry under the law to have a civil partnership – there's no way that demeans marriage at all. I can't accept that as a valid judgement. As I say, I'm often in agreement with the bishops, but not on this one."

"They are entitled to make their views known to the members of the Church but I think that when people come to vote they weigh up a lot of things. I think uppermost in their mind will be the wellbeing of their family and household levels of unemployment – are living standards going up? I don't think this issue is going to be uppermost in their [the voters] minds."

Answer relates to whether there is more nastiness entering the arguments surrounding the Civil Union Bill.

"Having been here for 23 years and seeing many a conscience issue debated I think it is running true to form. As the final vote nears the lobbying gets more intense from both ways – but by this time people are normally pretty settled in the opinion they have in Parliament.

"I don't really want to predict margins. I think the signs are that it will pass. Certainly I will be voting for it but I don't think it is useful to speculate on margins."

Answers relate to Don Brash's change of conscience regarding the Civil Union Bill

"That's for him to reconcile with his conscience because up until only a very short while prior to that change of mind he's been adamant that his conscience was his conscience and he'd exercise it. So I think the stance will have disappointed a lot of people that had taken him at his word."

"Your conscience is your conscience and normally views around these issues are formed over a period of time."

Answer relates to whether or not the Civil Union Bill should have gone through the House at the same time as similar legislation which will not come to the House's attention till early next year.

"Not at all - this is a stand alone measure. This is the only area of the law where the Government is not moving to eliminate discrimination. Lets be clear - the Marriage Act still discriminates - it does not allow same sex couples to marry. That is significant enough for the way of responding to that…to be stand alone legislation."

Question: By not allowing gay marriage are you still discriminating?

"We are still discriminating that is quite clear. That is why the Civil Union Bill has been brought in to provide a way for those with loving and committed relationships to give them a legal form and the Bill of course opens that up to either same sex or opposite sex partners."

Answer relates to the possibility of holding a referendum:

"It seems now that everything that is hard fought in the House the opponents on the losing side want the matter to go to a referendum. I've never believed in Government by referendum. I think anyone looking at the New Zealand Parliament can see that it is very representative of New Zealand society. It is truly a cross section, far more so than ever in the past. Now when you stand for election and are elected you are elected to make decisions and in my view referenda should be very much the exception not the rule."

Question: Will we see gay marriage in your lifetime?

"That's sort of asking how long I expect to live – not in the short to medium term no."

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Pubs And Clubs About To Become Smoke-free

I think most people are probably looking forward to being able to go to a pub and come out without feeling you've got lung cancer yourself. Obviously there will be a range of views. It is an interesting piece of legislation where Finlay Macdonald goes for the anti side and Frank Haden for the pro side –there's quite a mixed reaction across the board.

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Will Ahmed Zaoui Get Bail After Two Years Penal Detention?

This week New Zealand's very own Prisoner of Zenda, detained refugee Ahmed Zaoui, is expected to be released on bail by the Supreme Court. Mr Zaoui has been held for over two years in penal detention because of adverse immigration advice from the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service. Despite no-one seeming to know what this adverse immigration advice was at yesterday's press conference – there has in fact been a publicly available summary of the Security Intelligence Service's advice since February.

If comparing the case to a criminal matter it could be inferred that the public and the Supreme Court do in fact have access to the charges/adverse immigration advice, but do not have access all the evidence behind this advice.

For the full summary of the Security Intelligence Service's adverse immigration dossier go to
- http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/HL0402/S00181.htm

Answers relate to whether Mr Zaoui will get bail on Thursday

"That is entirely a matter for the court."

"No because various legal processes have been running. The Supreme Court will make a decision and that is where the matter will rest."

"This week the substantive issue is about bail. The substantive issue about what the Inspector-General must consider is before the Supreme Court, but to the best of my knowledge they haven't yet set down a hearing date."

"I think that what is in the court's mind is the protracted nature of the proceedings [surrounding Mr Zaoui.]"

"The Supreme Court will decide the matter [of bail]. The Government has been advised from the beginning that there was no option other than detention in a penal institution. The Supreme Court has now invoked an inherent jurisdiction of the court. The Government doesn't have an inherent jurisdiction. The Government has to abide by the law as it is advised that it stands."

Question: The Government also has to maintain security?

"That is correct."

Answer relates to the possibility the Prime Minister may be called to provide further evidence to the Supreme Court.

"That was not a formal offer - it was musings in chambers."

Question: With your knowledge of the risk certificate would Ahmed Zaoui pose a threat to the public?

"I've never commented on the substance of the Zaoui case and I don't intend to comment on it now."

"I've always said I have not been in the loop on the security risk certificate. I do not issue it. I do not direct the Director to issue it. I cannot direct the Director to withdraw it. It is his statutory decision."

"I'm obviously well briefed on it [the security risk certificate] but I don't comment on the substance of it."

"We have a Supreme Court, they are the final decision making power on the matter. I think what commentators are pointing to is that in future Parliament may need to be more precise about its intention with legislation if the Courts are to interpret them more than has been the case in the past."

"We have always acted on legal advice about Mr Zaoui. We have acted on legal advice right through every appeal – a number of which have been won by the Crown at various stages. It has been a protracted procedure - as I've been saying for quite some time - it is clear that the 1998 law was not satisfactory. When the Zaoui case is over we will be looking at how the law can be reformed so that decisions can be taken in a more timely matter."

"I think that Crown law has served us well – it may well be that when we come to a new law that the intention it began with which was to protect New Zealand from security threats was not as water tight as it should have been. "

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The Douglas White Report Regarding John Tamihere

"It is certainly intended that the White Report will be made public."

ENDS

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