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Hunt's Backdown Sets Dangerous Precedent

Hunt's Backdown Sets Dangerous Precedent

Wednesday 7 Aug 2002

Ken Shirley, acting Leader of ACT New Zealand, today told Jonathan Hunt that allowing Ngai Tamanuhiri protesters to camp within Parliament grounds had undermined Mr Hunt's authority and created a dangerous precedent.

"Because of the election, parliament is actually without a Speaker, and Mr Hunt is serving in a caretaker position. I am worried that he has undermined his own authority - and that of parliament. I am far more concerned however that he has set a very dangerous precedent.

"I want to know why Mr Hunt backed down from his insistence that the protester's tent be dismantled yesterday afternoon.

"It is clear that a game of brinkmanship was played, and the unfortunate outcome is that every band of extremists and protesters now have a realistic expectation that they can move into parliament until their demands are met.

"Mr Hunt's backdown creates an impression that parliament will bend to blackmail and intimidation, and that is very unfortunate," Mr Shirley said.

ENDS

Attached: Letter to Jonathan Hunt

7 August 2002

Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt, MP

Speakers Office

Parliament Buildings

Dear Mr Hunt

This morning I visited the Ngai Tamanuhiri protesters camped in Parliament grounds and had discussions with their representatives.

I am concerned to learn that apparently you issued them with an ultimatum yesterday to remove their tent by 6 pm last evening.

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I also understand that you issued a dispensation for the tent to be erected in Parliament grounds in the first instance on condition that it was dismantled at days end.

I now understand that you backed down from that understanding. It is clear that a game of brinkmanship is being played here and I am concerned that your actions undermine your authority and create an unfortunate precedent. Technically Parliament does not have a Speaker at this time although under the Parliamentary Services Act, issues associated with trespass on the precincts of Parliament are the responsibility of the person who was the Speaker at the close of polling at the General Election.

I note that the protesters tent has now been removed. Could you please advise why you retracted from your initial ultimatum to the protesters and I would appreciate receiving your views on the precedent that has been created by this retraction.

Yours sincerely

Ken Shirley

Acting Leader

ACT New Zealand


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