Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search - 8 August 2008 -8 August 2008

A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully

MP for East Coast Bays

Taxpayers’ Aid Dollars Support Terrorism

Revelations this week that NZAid has provided $121,500 of taxpayers’ tsunami relief cash for the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) raise serious questions about both the aid and security policies of the Clark Government. The TRO has for some time been widely regarded as a funding front for the Tamil Tigers, outlawed as a terrorist entity in most like-minded jurisdictions, but not in New Zealand. The TRO, too, has increasingly been targeted by authorities, and its operations suspended in several countries. So why is New Zealand so far out of step?

Regular readers will be familiar with the regular outbursts of incredulity in this publication at the failure of the New Zealand Government to designate the Tamil Tigers a terrorist entity under the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2002. In that respect this country is out of step with Australia, Canada, the USA and the EU. But that does not make the Tamil Tigers special. New Zealand has yet to designate a single terrorist entity under UN resolution 1373, as provided for in the Suppression of Terrorism Act, while Australia has designated 88 terrorist entities, and Canada over 50 under UN1373.

That the Tamil Tigers are fully fledged terrorists is beyond dispute. Around 70,000 have lost their lives in the civil war in Sri Lanka, in which the Tigers have played a significant role. But the New Zealand Government, alone amongst nations we would normally call our friends and partners, has utterly failed to use the post-September 11 toolkit of counter-terrorism legislation passed to make such groups subject to special scrutiny from counter-terrorism authorities. As a result, the Tamil Tigers, unable to directly raise funds or operate effectively in Australia, Canada, the US, or the EU, can operate with impunity in this country.

The Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation

NZAid paid over a cheque for $121,500 in tsunami relief funding to the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) back in 2005. But even then NZAid should have been on notice that the TRO was regarded as a fund-raising front for the Tamil Tigers terrorist activities.

In 2005, the British Charities Commission removed the TRO’s charitable status because it had “not been able to account satisfactorily for the application of funds.” On 1 October 2006, the Swiss Police arrested the TRO Secretary at the French border carrying 18 million Euros in cash, destined for the Tamil Tigers.

On 15 November 2007, the US Treasury officially designated the TRO as a front for the Tamil Tigers, including fund-raising, the purchase of munitions, equipment, communications devices and other technology. The US Treasury froze the TRO’s assets and prohibited US citizens from conducting business with them.

So while like-minded nations have formally declared the Tamil Tigers to be terrorists, and have systematically been shutting down the activities of the TRO as their funding arm, the New Zealand Government allows the Tamil Tigers to operate in this country, and far from shutting down their TRO funders, has actually given them taxpayers’ cash.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters says there is no problem. NZAid officials made sure the money was going to genuine aid purposes. But these would be the same NZAid officials that the Auditor-General has, in two recent reports, potted for failing to have proper systems to account for taxpayers’ aid money. All of which suggests that New Zealanders should be very much less than reassured both as to the purposes that $121,500 of their aid money has been put to, and as to the level of scrutiny applied to global terrorists operating in our midst.

Growth v Debt Battle Lines Drawn

The past few weeks have seen the drawing of one of the critical battle lines for the 2008 election. And one of the most important policy debates affecting our economic future. John Key has indicated that a future National government will be comfortable about using a modest amount of additional debt to assist in addressing the infrastructure deficit he has highlighted as a major roadblock to this country’s future growth.

Mr Key has correctly identified the fact that in 2008 New Zealand does not have a debt problem, but rather a serious growth problem. One that is serious enough to convince 80,000 Kiwis to head permanently overseas in the past year.

Back in 1990, when the Bolger Government assumed office, gross government debt was a massive 60% of GDP. Determined action by that government saw that debt level reduced to 35% in 1999, when it lost office. And on the back of the outstanding international economic conditions of the past nine years, that number has been further reduced to 18% of GDP last year. All well and good.

But back in 1994, when the government debt to GDP ratio was still at 56%, Helen Clark was arguing that the then government was placing “undue emphasis on debt repayment at the expense of our failing services and infrastructure.” Now that the figure is hovering around 20%, in the middle of a recession, Clark is arguing that any increase to debt to address the infrastructure deficit and unblock our economic arteries would be irresponsible. All of which is plainly complete and unmitigated nonsense.

Update on EPMU Case

For all of the reasons outlined in last week’s edition of this publication, proceedings have now been filed in the High Court to review the decision of the Electoral Commission to register the Labour Party affiliate, (and one of their largest donors), as a third party under the Electoral Finance Act. Registration will entitle them to spend $120,000 attacking the National Party, which, due to the constraints of the EFA, will not be able to respond.

The High Court case looks solid. The EPMU is claiming not to be “involved in the administration of the affairs” of the Labour Party, within the meaning of the EFA. If the High Court upholds the registration, there will be immediate applications from several organisations that are not “involved in the administration of the affairs” of the National Party. Current favourites from readers are the Citizens Opposed to the Political Activities of the EPMU, and the Not The Spencer Trust. So, either way, the High Court decision will produce an interesting outcome. Watch this space for further developments.


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