A Week Of It: Saddam, Doone & Lynton Crosby
A Week Of It: Saddam, Doone & Lynton Crosby
By Kevin List
Does NZ Want To Be Seen As A Saddam Hussein Apologist?
NZ First leader Winston Peters looks set to cause a stir when Parliament resumes after a two-week recess. Mr Peters told A Week of It today that he would be naming under parliamentary privilege the refugee status claimant whom he alleges was a high ranking member of the Iraqi Baath Party and a former Government Minister under Saddam Hussein.
When asked if the asylum seeker was part of the Saddam Hussein regime that had close ties with the Republican administration of Ronald Reagen and George Bush I, Mr Peters laughed and replied ‘No!’.
Mr Peters in late 2003 named - also in the House under parliamentary privilege - a man who he considered to be an Algerian terrorist. Mr Peters demanded answers as to the mans' identity from then Minister of Immigration, Lianne Dalziel. Utilising section 129T of the Immigration Act, which prohibits the details of refugee status claimants being made public, the Government clamed up in the face of a vigorous verbal onslaught from Mr Peters. Mr Peters considered the way the Government utilised section 129T to be ‘unacceptable humbug’.
During his onslaught regarding the suspected Algerian terrorist Mr Peters pointed out that the Government had released details of New Zealand’s most celebrated refugee Ahmed Zaoui, and had claimed he had waived his right to confidentiality under section 129T. Mr Zaoui and his lawyers vigorously denied that Mr Zaoui had done any such thing. It was this double standard that had infuriated Mr Peters.
It was later discovered that the man who Mr Peters had accused of being an Algerian terrorist was neither Algerian nor a terrorist. A Week of It understands he has since failed in his application for refugee status and has now been deported.
Mr Peters' Actions in 2003 show immigration law has a mile wide loophole
NZ First Leader Winston Peters
As to the fallout from Mr Peters' parliamentary outbursts in 2003, the New Zealand Immigration Service lodged a press council complaint regarding the Christchurch Press and The New Zealand Herald’s coverage of Mr Peters’ allegations. The complaint was unsuccessful.
The NZIS also wrote a report for the Minister of Immigration entitled ‘Publishing the Details of Refugee Status Claimants'.
Utilising both the Official information Act and the Ombudsman’s office A Week of It was able to gain a copy of the NZIS report into the 2003 incident, which points out that Mr Peters was immune from prosecution for disclosing the refugee status claimants details due to parliamentary privilege. The report also included details of an investigation into how Mr Peters came to be in possession of the refugee claimants’ details.
The report makes it clear that it was highly unlikely that the man or his lawyers disclosed the information to Mr Peters.
“Formal inquiries were accordingly conducted by the DOL as to whether the claimant and his counsel could be excluded as a source of the information Mr Peters disclosed. Those inquiries revealed that the claimant had disclosed his claim to a number of persons. These included at least four fellow detainees. It was also established that it was common knowledge in the prison where the claimant was detained that he was an Algerian national who had made a refugee application.
"In addition it was established that the claimant was aware of all of the information disclosed by Mr Peters in the House. While the claimant had not discussed these aspects with anyone, the information was contained in papers kept in his cell which were left unsecured for lengthy periods of time.
“On the basis of this information the DOL considers that it cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt that, as a matter of circumstance, the initial disclosure of the relevant information must have occurred in breach of s129T(1). In particular, the DOL’s inquiries clearly leave open the possibility that the information was provided to Mr Peters by a person not subject to the obligation of confidence in s129T(1)"
- NZIS REPORT March 2004
The report also pointed out the deficiencies in the Immigration Act, which allowed information about refugee status claimants to be leaked.
“The inability to pursue criminal charges for a breach of s129T of the Act appears to expose some deficiencies in that provision as currently enacted.
"Section 129T as currently constructed places a prohibition on officials who are in possession of a claimant's details from disclosing those details. It does not however preclude publication of a refugee status claimant’s details by a person who has obtained that information ‘innocently’.”
- NZIS REPORT March 2004
The Doone Files: Current Rivals Go Into Bat For Besieged Broadsheet
This week, respected Wellington political bulletin Molesworth and Featherston, pointed out that the decision by Fairfax to name the Prime Minister Helen Clark as having confirmed information from a source in relation to the Doone defamation case was ‘astonishing’. Molesworth and Featherston further implied that the Sunday Star-Times may have problems getting stories, following the outing of the sources for the ill-fated the Sunday Star-Times spy stories and the exposure of the Prime Minister.
A Week of It has noted however that Fairfax’s decision to play hardball and win the Doone case at any cost occurred around the same time as the paper incurred a huge loss in another defamation case in August last year. In that case damages of over 700,000 dollars were awarded against the paper. The Sunday Star-Times was found to have defamed a number of former policemen, following a 2002 newspaper column and article criticising former police officers who testified against Senior Constable Keith Abbott.
At the time of the publication of the original story involving Mr Doone, the Sunday Star-Times was not even owned by Fairfax, but was under the control of Independent Newspapers Limited (INL).
Interestingly given the long delay in the case reaching court (five years) many of those involved in the case no longer work for either the Sunday Star times or even Fairfax. Ready to fight for Fairfax’s honour and wallet were current editor of the Herald on Sunday (the Sunday Star Times main opposition) Shane Currie and senior manager at APN magazines, Sue Chetwin. Ms Chetwin and Mr Currie were at one time Editor and Acting Editor of the Sunday Star Times respectively.
Despite the Sunday Star Times recent bout of bad luck with sources and defamation cases it is heartening that they haven’t shied off having a crack the big stories. Last week’s Sunday Magazine (the glossy insert in the SST) investigation into people who help clean up other people’s clutter and get paid for it showed the paper is still at the cutting edge of New Zealand journalism.
National Hasn’t Hired The Karl Rove Of OZ Politics - Yet
Lynton Crosby – Not Headed Across The Ditch At Present
Unconfirmed and quite possibly untrue rumours are circulating the globe that controversial Australian political advisor to John Howard, Lynton Crosby may be winging his way to New Zealand to help Don Brash defeat Labour in this year's general election.
National Party campaign manager, Steven Joyce confirmed to A Week of It two weeks ago that National was receiving some assistance from political strategists closely associated with Australian PM John Howard. Mr Joyce said at present there was no plans however to bring controversial Australian political strategist Lynton Crosby to New Zealand following his work with UK Conservative Leader Michael Howard in the lead up to the British general election due to take place on May 5. Mr Crosby has been described by opponents as, "the ‘Karl Rove’ of Australian Politics". And despite Mr Rove’s success with President George Bush II, this remark was not meant as a compliment.
Earlier this week the Australian newspaper hinted that Mr Crosby may leave the Conservative Party after the May 5 election to help the New Zealand National Party fight an expected September election to defeat Labour Prime Minister, Helen Clark.
This rumour was picked up By the Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom who pointed out that Mr Crosby is credited with a so-called 'dog whistle' strategy in Britain, appealing to Conservative voters on sensitive issues such as immigration and asylum under the radar of the other parties and the media.
However it is hard to see how National could gain much traction from policies such as this in New Zealand given NZ First’s tough stance on immigration.
In Australia Mr Crosby is loathed by refugee advocates, some of whom, have called on the NZ Government to deny Mr Crosby entry to New Zealand.
Australian Refugee advocate Jack Smit told the Guardian: "Mr Crosby's election tactics are deliberately designed to create a degree of xenophobia and fear for 'refugee invasions'. His strategy consists of creating the most shameful and grubby tactics - spreading misinformation and uninformed but sensational opinion and debate - we have seen and experienced in Australia since the Tampa election in 2001. We're now seeing the same phenomena developing from the Conservatives in the UK."
Despite immigration being one of the UK Conservative Party’s top five policy areas, a spokesperson for Don Brash told A Week of It immigration was not seen as being one of National’s five core policy areas.
That said, National’s immigration spokesperson Tony Ryall has been keeping himself busy of late asking more written questions of the Minister of Immigration Paul Swain than Keith Locke and Winston Peters put together.
And given that National’s education and welfare policy announcements have yet to set the New Zealand electorate on fire, National immigration policy may yet prove to be the sneaky joker in their campaign bag of tricks.