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The Week Ahead: Secrets, Lies, Liquor, Prod Boards

Scoop is anticipating a big week in Parliament this week with mounting pressure on the government and particularly the Prime Minister, as the opposition mounts an offensive on the Secrets and Lies revelations made by Nicky Hager last week.

Parliament resumes tomorrow for a three week session scheduled to break early on September 8 to make space for the APEC summit in Auckland the following weekend.

This week the legislative programme is unclear and the order paper unfortunately provides only a few clues as to what is ahead.

Cabinet is meeting today and the timetable will be being finalised as this is published. In theory the Liquor bill is due to be debated on Thursday but at this stage, according to Scoop sources, even that is up in the air and the debate could come earlier.

At the top of the order paper at present is the consideration of the report on the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Amendment Bill No. (2) which was advanced to deal with the problems the SIS have with bugging people in the wake of a Court of Appeal decision in favour of activist Aziz Choudry.

Choudry and his colleague, law lecturer David Small, had a considerable success in the courts against the SIS after Choudry's house was broken into and the agent was caught in flagrente. Following the decision in theory the SIS can continue to bug, but are not allowed to break into people's houses to plant their devices.

It seems likely the parliamentary session will begin tomorrow with an impassioned question time focussing on the Secrets and Lies revelations of last week.

Last night Conservation Minister Nick Smith on 20/20 said he had no problems with the tactics of Timberlands West Coast Limited and their public relations company Shandwick. He can be expected to have to explain this further tomorrow.

Nicky Hager's book documents in explicit detail the money spent and the tactics used by Timberlands and Shandwicks to shut down any debate over native logging.

It shows taxpayers money being spent by a State Owned Enterprise to actively stop debate and publicity over an issue many New Zealanders hold strong views on. The book documents how hundreds of thousands of dollars went to a foreign-owned international public relations firm with a proven background in anti environmental lobbying. (Shandwick has lobbied against groups wanting action to combat global warming and has represented Shell Oil during their disastrous operations in Nigeria.)

Secrets And Lies shows the obsessive nature of the campaign against environmental group Native Forest Action - to infiltrating their meetings to monitoring their movements, documenting where the activists lived and monitoring all mentions of the group in the press.

The crunch will probably come over the Prime Minister's rejection of claims that her staff were involved in communications with Timberlands while she was Prime Minister. This denial is starkly contradicted in the documents leaked to the authors of the book which show contact between the Prime Minister's staff and Timberlands on at least two occasions since she became PM.

The opposition will be itching to use the new material as much as possible, particularly as the latest revelations sound eerily like the Kevin Roberts and John Hawkesby affairs. But while the conduct of the Prime Minister and her office is certain to be subject to intense scrutiny, Scoop hopes this will not be to the neglect of the scrutiny that needs to be applied to the conduct of Timberlands West Coast.

Last night's 20/20 interview with Timberlands CEO Dave Hilliard - filmed before the book was launched - may very well result in calls for his resignation. Hilliard gave his word that neither he or his company were involved in political lobbying in the interview. The book clearly shows otherwise and, to most viewers and readers, it seems the deception continues.

It appears the government is now caught between a rock and a hard place - defend the indefensible as they have already begun to do or take responsibility for a state business waging an expensive PR campaign against New Zealanders.

Following question time it seems highly likely that Winston Peters will seek an urgent debate on the decision of the High Court to overrule several key findings in the Winebox report of former chief justice Sir Ronald Davison.

The decision is up to the speaker, and if he refuses permission Winston can be reliably expected to stage a great display of displeasure.

Later on Tuesday afternoon, Mike Moore will be delivering his valedictory address before hosting a function in honour of his departure to take up the top role at the World Trade Organisation.

Meanwhile the special committee set up to examine the three producer board bills (kiwifruit, dairy, and apple and pear) is expected to continue its marathon sitting schedule this week, and on Friday the Commerce Commission is expected to deliver its preliminary view on the dairy industry's plans for a mega-merger.

As usual Scoop will provide you blow by blow coverage of all the above and much more besides.

Watch this space...

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