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Prebble Calls for Waitara Debate

Sunday 7th May 2000
Richard Prebble
Media Release -- Justice

ACT leader Richard Prebble has asked the Speaker for a debate on the Prime Minister’s comments about the Waitara shooting. “The statement by the Prime Minister on Thursday that she is considering a further and wider inquiry into the Waitara shooting because she thinks race was a factor in the shooting is a very serious allegation,” Mr Prebble said. “The ACT Party has refrained from making any public comments about the shooting, as there is a police inquiry under way and it’s the New Zealand constitutional convention for politicians not to comment on these types of incidents. This ensures that any inquiry is not influenced by political considerations, and should there be criminal charges laid, those concerned get a fair trial. “ACT MPs will still not comment directly on these issues, but the Prime Minister has made public statements which clearly will influence any inquiry and make it very difficult for a fair criminal trial, should there be one. This matter has to be debated now by Parliament,” Mr Prebble said. “ACT believes the Prime Minister’s statements are reckless and irresponsible and whether or not she can substantiate her claim that race had anything to do with the incident in Waitara, it is plainly a matter for the official inquiries. “Parliamentary debate is required to scrutinize and hold the Prime Minister accountable for her actions,” he said. “As a multi-racial nation a claim by the Prime Minister that Taranaki police are racist and this is leading to shootings is a statement so important the House must urgently consider the accuracy and the implications of the comment.” Mr Prebble said the provision of law and order was a basic function of government and if the Prime Minister said that Maori cannot rely on the Police “then that is an important matter”. “This debate may be the House’s only chance to influence and advise the government before a decision that may have profound effects on the future of race relations in this country. ACT believes very strongly that the Prime Minister’s actions constitute an attack on our judicial system and the Police. “The proposed inquiry is a vote of no confidence and the House needs to voice our strong disapproval of this abuse of the Prime Minister’s office,” Mr Prebble said.

ENDS N.B. A copy of the letter to the Speaker is attached.

7 May 2000
Rt Hon JL Hunt
SPEAKER

Dear Mr Speaker

I request a debate under standing order 376 to debate a matter of urgent public importance.

The matter is the statement by Prime Minister that she is considering a further and wider inquiry into the Waitara shooting. The matter is recent. The statements have been made on Thursday, but too late for a debate on that day as they were broadcast on Thursday evening and published on Friday morning.

I understand one statement made prior to the House sitting, and it appears another clarifying statement was made later in the day.

Both statements do need to be debated within Parliament, particularly in light of her earlier statement whether police attitudes to Maori “undoubtedly had a bearing” on the shooting.

The matter involves the administrative responsibility of the government. The matter does require the immediate attention of the House.

The Prime Minister claims that race was a factor in the shooting. The New Zealand Herald newspaper of May 5 2000 reports the Prime Minister as saying:

“I’m very concerned about…the underlying bad relations between Maori and police in Taranaki. It is serious and we’re very concerned about it because you can’t have good administration of the law when a section of the community is very alienated.”

These are very serious allegation. As a multi-racial nation a claim by the Prime Minister that the police are racist and this is leading to shootings is a statement so important the House must urgently consider the accuracy and the implications of the comment.

Providing law and order is a basic function of government and if the Prime Minister is saying that Maori cannot rely on the Police then that is an important matter.

The issue is urgent because no fewer than three inquiries are under way – a police inquiry, the Police Complaints Authority inquiry and the Coroner’s inquiry.

The Prime Minister’s remarks appear to show a lack of confidence in the judicial system.

Why does the Prime Minister believe these inquiries will be inadequate? The matter is urgent for two other reasons

No one has been charged with any offence – so the House has an opportunity to discuss the issue.

Secondly, at the time of writing no further inquiry has been set up. This may be the only time to advise the government of the House’s view on the wisdom – or in the writer’s view the folly – of such an inquiry. Standing order 376 was put in place for such a debate. I believe it was unfortunate that the House was never able to debate the unprecedented sacking of a local council because before the Minister acted it was ruled premature, and after that the decision had already been made.

Discussing the issues in the Bill was too late to influence the Minister’s decision.

Today may be the House’s only chance to influence and advise the government before a decision that may have profound effects on the future of race relations in this country.

ACT believes very strongly that the Prime Minister’s actions constitute an attack on our judicial system and the Police.

The proposed inquiry is a vote of no confidence and the House needs to voice our strong disapproval of this abuse of the Prime Minister’s office.

With thanks

Yours sincerely

Hon Richard Prebble CBE
Leader, ACT Party

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.


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