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Stand-Off Leads To Legislation

Parliament will be forced to consider legislation that would make sweeping changes to the statutory independence of the Police Commissioner simply because the rift between the Minister and the Police Commissioner can't be healed, National's Police spokesman Tony Ryall said.

The Police Amendment Bill (No 2) was tabled in Parliament today. The Bill proposes changes to the police governance and accountability arrangements.

"This Bill will give the Government greater influence over police actions. This is a breach of police independence that has been respected by both major political parties for decades.

"Provisions in the Bill will allow the Government to direct the Commissioner on staffing, delivery and public safety issues if Ministers think those decisions are against the Government's 'policy' interests.

"Documents released by National last week show that this legislation has been pushed by George Hawkins and the State Services Commission but strongly opposed by the Police Commissioner and the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry of Justice warned that the proposals could see the Police Commissioner dismissed for political reasons.

"This is part of Police Minister George Hawkins' ongoing dispute with the Commissioner of Police. Tensions have been obvious since the Minister ordered drastic cost cutting measures late last year followed by a round of terse letters between the two.

"The Bill also shows 'bad faith' in employment disputes. The Government will make the amount of money the police have left in their budget a key factor in pay negotiations. Normally salary increases are funded by a separate appropriation by Parliament. The police will have to make cutbacks to fund pay increases.

"National is strongly opposed to the Government's plans. We think this will put politics into policing and that's bad for New Zealand," Mr Ryall said.

Ends




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