PM Speech: Sir John Jeffries Retirement
Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister Speech on the Occasion of the Retirement of Sir John Jeffries from the Press Council
Grand Hall, Parliament Wellington
Thursday 30 June 2005
It is an honour to be hosting this function at Parliament to mark the retirement of Sir John Jeffries from the chair of the Press Council.
By my count, this is John’s third retirement from high office – and it certainly is not his last.
In 1999, John was appointed to the new position of Commissioner of Security Warrants.
I have come to know John well in that capacity, as he and I jointly determine whether the Security Intelligence Service should be given an interception warrant.
I had no hesitation in recommending John’s reappointment as Commissioner in 2003, because I have been very impressed by his clear and analytical thinking and ability to get to the heart of what are invariably complex issues.
It is these qualities, I am sure, which have enabled him to render invaluable service to the Press Council – and indeed to every office he has ever held.
John retires from the Press Council at the age of 76. He has worked since 1946, first as an insurance clerk, and then as a teacher; before becoming a law clerk, then a lawyer, and in 1976 a Judge of the High Court. From 1992 to 1997 he headed the Police Complaints Authority before becoming chair of the Press Council, and Commissioner of Security Warrants.
John also found time during his busy career to serve for over a decade on the Wellington City Council, including a term as deputy mayor. In the 1960s, he was even an aspiring Parliamentary candidate ! He has also served on a number of boards, including as chair of Air New Zealand.
In John’s term as chair of the Press Council, he has been a careful adjudicator of complaints and a tireless campaigner for the freedom of the press. He has not resiled from taking on the government, when he has perceived press freedom could be at risk.
Our government has listened carefully to submissions John has made on issues from criminal libel to the publishing of opinion polls in the immediate run-up to an election. On both those issues, the government accepted his views.
Press freedom is intrinsic to an open, free, and fair democratic society. John’s advocacy on behalf of press freedom has been forceful, persuasive, and influential. In his position as chair of the industry’s self regulatory arm, he has also ensured that high standards are observed and that legitimate complaints get a fair hearing.
Thank you, John, for your work for the Press Council. I hope that your retirement from it will give you more time to indulge your own love of reading and your many other interests. I look forward to continuing to work with you in your capacity as Commissioner of Security Warrants.