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Turia - Aviation Security Legislation speech

Aviation Security Legislation: Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party Tuesday 4 September 2007

Tena tatou katoa.

When this Bill last came before the House on the 20th March, there was a torrent of abuse that followed the speech of my esteemed colleague, Te Ururoa Flavell from the Member for Wairarapa.

That Member deemed Mr Flavell's korero as "fatuous twaddle", going further to say, and I quote:

I just point out to the member that the Treaty of Waitangi was in place some years before the issue of airplane security became important-in fact, some years before airplanes were invented.

It was a very interesting observation by the National member.

Quite how he could then make an association that using the Treaty of Waitangi as a context for assessing any policy measure was 'fatuous twaddle' is beyond me.

Indeed, there have been many claims and cases presented to the Waitangi Tribunal over the years, which bring into account the 'airwaves'; the use of Maori land for airfields; the impact of the aviation industry on Maori land, and so on.

The point is, the contemporary issues of the day are based in a context which this Parliament must respect. The Treaty provides us all with a foundation to consider how any political matter is debated - including the relevance of measures to improve our aviation security.

The Treaty is a historic covenant reached between two sovereign peoples, based on broad principles of partnership, protection and participation. This covenant gives shape to the nation - it is the key source of the Government's moral and political claim to legitimacy - and it is therefore relevant to every Bill in the House.

The Aviation Security Legislation Bill aims to strengthen the legislative framework and meet international obligations in relation to aviation security.

The issue of compliance with domestic and international standards is of course of great interest to the Maori Party.

The Bill makes the case that as a member of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, New Zealand is obliged to comply with its security standards.

We are told the policy objectives are to respond to aviation security threats, comply with requests from other countries to search and seize certain items, and ensure that New Zealand is able to participate in an international response to aviation security.

In fact the challenge is put that failing to meet these goals, could damage New Zealand's reputation which could have significant economic and social impacts.

Worst case scenario might lead to a reduction in international flights in and out of the country.

Madam Speaker, the provision of enhanced security measures is obviously a key issue of interest to both Treaty partners.

But there are three particular issues which I bring to this debate - what I would call the three Cs : the cultural, compliance and consistency costs of the legislation.

Cultural Costs One of the underlying themes running through this parliamentary debate has been the assumed security threat arising from the events of 9/11, and demonstrated in other legislation such as the Terrorist Suppression Amendment Bill, the Immigration Bill, the Law Commission's Search and Surveillance Powers Report.

This Bill adds a whole new inventory to the list - the Arms Act, Aviation Crimes Act, Civil Aviation Act and the Civil Aviation rules are all amended by the Bill.

An associated theme however has that while legislation is being amended, we must be careful to ensure the implementation of changes still functions within what the Sikh Centre submission described, and I quote:

" the bounds of governmental responsibility to safeguard the freedom of its citizen and the paramountcy of their human rights".

The Sikh Centre brought to the select committee the need to be sensitive to the diverse cultures and beliefs of individuals passing through airport control to ensure they are not unfairly targeted during security checks.

For their part, the Sikh community has made a conscious decision to recommend that their kirpans (ceremonial knives) are removed from under their robes, and included in their check-in luggage. Contrary to perhaps the preconceived view, the kirpan should be appreciated as a symbol of the Sikh religion, not a weapon.

But they remain concerned that employees may be asked to remove their kirpan; or that turban wearers will be improperly targeted for profiling and additional searches.

We have previously raised in this House, the concerns about profiling practices at airports which could be discriminatory, and we believe the same concerns for natural justice apply here.

We note the advice of the committee that the Human Rights Act and the Employment Relations Act provide adequate protection against discrimination; and that the Aviation Security Service has protocols and training in place to treat all people with respect.

But we would emphasize that in light of their very real concerns from the Sikh submission regarding the sacred respect they place on their head and hair, that the relevant aviation authorities should be encouraged to give priority to ongoing consultation with the ethnic communities of our nation.

To a person of the Sikh religion, removing the turban in full view of other passengers would be the equivalent of being strip-searched in public. As Maori we absolutely understood this concept because we also recognise the head as a highly tapu part of the body, and the hair taken from the head similarly so.

It is also in respect of cultural sensitivities that we will be supporting the SOP from the Minister to clarify the legislation to ensure that an unclothed image of a passenger can not be used.

Compliance Costs The proposals in this Bill include providing aviation security officers with search and seizure powers, enabling the screening and searching of airport staff, and strengthening provisions for checking the background of people working in aviation security.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, bans on sharp-pointed objects were put in place, and in the initial months security staff confiscated bin-loads of pocket-knives, scissors and nail-files from loads of hostile passengers.

Stewart Milne, the executive director of the New Zealand Board of Airline Representatives believes it took nearly two years for passengers to really get used to that set of restrictions. It was not just a matter of time - it was a matter of skilled negotiation, explanation - ensuring passengers are properly informed.

We in the Maori Party therefore support the select committee recommendation to remove the requirement to record and store the seized items, as a way of easing these compliance costs.

Consistency costs Finally, we can not leave this Bill without pointing out the obvious hypocrisy, that while this Bill is another chapter in an ongoing series of efforts to comply with international standards, on other areas of international concern to do with meeting basic human rights standards, the Parliament is showing wilful disregard of the same principles of co-operation.

I think particularly of the recent criticism of our human rights failings from the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; and the opposition of our Government to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples currently before the United Nations.

I want to share a commentary with the House from the Seattle Post on 27 August 2007, from Professor Alan Parker - co-Chair of the Special Committee on Indigenous Nation Relationships. In describing the actions of the current Bush, Harper, Clark and Howard administrations he said :

"It is evident that these national governments share a common commitment to restrict the rights of their indigenous people strictly to the domestic law of each nation and oppose any United Nations policy that would recognise indigenous nation rights as a matter of international law and policy.

Obviously, it is one thing to recognise international law and policy when one is considering aviation security, but when it comes to honouring the sovereign rights of the Treaty partner to partnership, protection and participation, this Government clearly prefers to exert power and control at the expense of indigenous peoples.

The Maori Party will support the revised Bill that has returned from Select Committee, but we will never support the antagonistic hostility that this Government continues to demonstrate towards Maori.


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