Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search 23 June 2006 23 June 2006

A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully MP for East Coast Bays

Peters Silent on Bashir Release

The massive gap between the Australian and New Zealand views of international security were highlighted by an exchange at question time on Thursday of this week. Asked what New Zealand had done to convey concerns to the Indonesian government over the release from jail of Bali bombing architect Abu Bakar Bashir, Mr Peters was stranded. Our Minister of Foreign Affairs had clearly been asleep on the job.

New Zealanders as well as Australians were killed at Bali. And the premature release of Bashir so angered the Australian Prime Minister Mr Howard that he wrote to the Indonesian President. He publicly declared that he would be raising the matter personally at their upcoming meeting. The acting Australian ambassador was dispatched to protest to the Indonesian Foreign Minister and to seek assurances that Bashir would attract the closest of official scrutiny, to minimise the prospect of further terrorist excursions on his behalf.

By contrast there has been no action, not even a word of protest from the New Zealand Foreign Minister. No instructions, it appears, have been given to our ambassador to seek assurances that Indonesia will take appropriate steps to contain Bashir, and keep New Zealanders safe. While the Australian government, from the Prime Minister down, has been right on the case, Mr Peters has been asleep on the job. Which would be a subject for mirth and derision, were the topic itself not so deadly serious.

Snatching Disaster from the Jaws of Defeat

He sure knows how to pick a lost cause does our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Peters. The debate over the difference between New Zealand’s and Australia’s lists of designated terrorist entities was one the Prime Minister had long departed - transferring Parliamentary questions to the Police Minister.

Having blundered into the topic without doing her homework, Annette King made statements to Parliament (“there are not 88 terrorist on an Australian list”) she needed subsequently to correct.

And just to underline the point, the list of 88 terrorists designated by Australia, not so designated in New Zealand (yes, the one that King assured Parliament did not exist), was released on Wednesday (it would have been tabled in Parliament but embarrassed Labour MP’s blocked the attempt to do so). Then along came Mr Peters, attempting to seize total disaster from the jaws of mere defeat.

Our Minister of Foreign Affairs, preparing for an appearance before Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, had no doubt requested that his officials explain their role in the oversight which had seen New Zealand fail to designate terrorists that had already been designated in Australia. And armed with their explanation he, late on Thursday, produced a press release, attempting to re-commence the war long since lost and evacuated by both Clark and King.

The "claim that Australia has designated 88 more terrorist groups than New Zealand is misleading. The fact of the matter is that Australia designates terrorists through two lists, while we do it through a single list," said Mr Peters. "Australia maintains one list for the purposes of implementing asset freezes on terrorists. It has another, shorter list, of 19 entities to apply stronger criminal sanctions, including criminalisation of participation in and recruitment for a terrorist group, as well as asset freezes." So there.

But Mr Peters, you see, is notoriously lazy. And little precautions like actually reading the statute or comparing the lists are far far too menial for our lofty Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The whole purpose of the Terrorism Suppression legislation on both sides of the Tasman (and places like Canada, too), passed in the wake of September 11, is to give authorities broad powers to stop terrorists from actually blowing people up by seizing their financial assets and property (including arms, communications equipment, bombs etc).

Once you have been designated as a terrorist entity by the Prime Minister, the authorities can use these very extensive powers in the Act. If Mr Peters officials have told him the Terrorism Suppression Act is only about “asset freezes” then he should get himself some new officials. Oh and actually bother to read a copy of the Act.

Mr Peters claim that Australia has two lists and New Zealand one, is completely wrong. Australia, in fact, has three lists: the UN list (resolution 1267) and their own list of 88 entities under UN 1373 which are consolidated into the list on the DFAT website, and a further Criminal Code list (the 19 referred to by Mr Peters).

The New Zealand legislation provides for two lists (UN 1267 and UN1373) but Mr Peters is technically correct when he says there is only one. But that is only because our Prime Minister has failed to designate a single entity on the second list. Where by contrast, Australia has designated Hizballah, Hamas, the Al Aqsa Brigade etc - a list of 88 in all. Which is precisely what the humble member for East Coast Bays has been bleating about for months.

The Bottom Line

All of the above must be deeply confusing for the average citizen, who merely expects that the Government will have sensible measures in place to identify any Rayed Mohammed Abdullah Alis as they pass through the border, and remove from them any satellite phones, computers, AK 47s, bombs, and million dollar wads of bank notes they have in their possession. That is the bottom line.

The essential difference is that Australia has designated (under UN1373) outfits like Hizballah, Hamas, the Tamil Tigers, the Basque separatist group ETA, and the Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.

New Zealand has not. So activists from any of the above can operate within New Zealand, unhindered by the sanctions of the Terrorism Suppression Act, whereas Australian authorities have wide powers of interception and forfeiture in place before they even show up. That’s what all the fuss is about. And with some of the undesirable characters we have inhabiting this world of ours, we at the worldwide headquarters of are convinced it’s a fuss, well worth having.

Mr Maturity

Sprung over his dereliction of duty on the Indonesia front, Mr Peters was, it appears, very angry. And late on Thursday a press release appeared, the last two paragraphs of which were clearly not authored by his MFAT media minders:

“The inability of prosecutors in the justice system to make charges against Bashir stick is a separate matter and New Zealand does not seek to involve itself in the judicial processes or release conditions of other sovereign nations.

Mr McCully has a law degree but was never admitted to the Bar, which explains why he doesn’t understand the difference, said Mr Peters”. Readers will no doubt be reassured to see that New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs is able to conduct debate on matters of international relations with such maturity and diplomatic flair. But sadly without the level of accuracy which would be desirable in such a senior and important personage.

The worldwide headquarters is able to exclusively reveal that, despite successfully avoiding, for many years, the odium rightfully heaped upon those Parliamentarians who were previously barristers and solicitors, the humble Member for East Coast Bays was in fact admitted to the Bar.

And even, for a year or two paid the exorbitant fees required to appear on the roll of barristers. An admission which will, no doubt, amongst members of the public, occasion a significant and deserved diminution of the high regard in which he was previously held.


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