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Bill English Right Talk - 12 August 2003

The Right Talk, The Leader's view
12 August 2003

A little less spin, please

Tony Blair's spin-doctor, Alastair Campbell, is at the centre of a storm in Britain, but things are even worse here. This Labour Government is furiously spinning everything, from its reaction to the unprecedented, unforgivable "lie in unison" pact in Immigration to the "Save Harry" legislation and ownership of the beaches. The Government's promised legislation to secure exclusive Crown ownership has receded faster than a Spring tide. Instead we are getting Government smoke-screens about the Queen's Chain and beach access, with John Tamihere claiming, outrageously, that a third of the foreshore is held in private title, when the figure is less than two per cent. The Government Land Access Report, published yesterday, and the Queen's Chain has nothing to do with the current foreshore and seabed issue. A vast amount of the coastline and seabed is now, suddenly, under claim as a result of a court decision. The Government needs to legislate to remove doubt and ensure the beaches which we have always had access to, and the seabed, which could be rich in minerals, remains in public ownership. Ownership matters, although the Government claims it doesn't. Labour looks set to try to sell a dual title arrangement, which means further trouble downstream. National would legislate to provide exclusive Crown ownership.

"Everyone agreed to lie in unison"

Take note of this quote because it is one of the most extraordinary internal departmental memos you will ever see in a Westminster-style democracy. It was penned by a senior official in Immigration over the case of suspected Algerian terrorist Ahmed Zaoui. It was exposed by The New Zealand Herald after the Department had lied about its existence. If you find these departmental actions unconscionable, then look at what is happening now. Instead of an appropriate independent inquiry by a Judge, the Secretary of Labour (which includes Immigration) has been charged with the mission impossible assignment of seeing if his Minister, Lianne Dalziel, is innocent or guilty!

Saving Private Harry

Lianne Dalziel's plight is matched by Attorney-General Margaret Wilson, who rejected the unambiguous advice of her senior law adviser, Solicitor-General Terence Arnold, over the "Save Harry" legislation. Arnold reported to Parliament that Labour's New Plymouth MP, Harry Duyenhoven, had broken the Electoral Act in seeking dual Dutch citizenship. Accordingly his seat was vacant. Clerk of the House Dave McGee QC, the leading expert on Parliamentary procedure, said the same. Wilson rejected the advice, which means that either she or Arnold should resign. Government MPs, with assistance from the Greens, opted for retrospective legislation to save Harry. First Labour spun the line that this was an archaic section of the law, but we showed that the section had been confirmed as recently as last year - and that Harry voted for it! Then Labour claimed a by-election in New Plymouth would waste $350,000 of taxpayer funds. Actually, we pointed out, it cost four times as much to run Parliament under urgency to pass the retrospective legislation. Then we revealed that another mystery Labour MP also appears to have breached the law in the same way as Harry. Helen Clark denied that this was her, but other Labour MPs were ordered not to clear themselves so reporters would not be able to nail the other culprit. This is the sort of abuse of the Parliamentary system we could expect from Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.


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