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MIL OSI – Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard – Release/Statement

Headline: Peters, Winston: Ministerial Statements — Islamic State Conflict—Government Response

[Sitting date: 05 November 2014. Volume:701;Page:609. Text is subject to correction.]

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First):
New Zealand First welcomes the chance to debate the Prime Minister’s statement today on the Government’s response to the threat of the Islamic State movement and the proposed new legislative powers to counter the threat of international terrorism. We share the view that the threat posed by the Islamic State is indeed very serious and there are no grounds for complacency.

Welcome as it is, we do consider the Prime Minister’s statement to be seriously overdue and lacking chronological detail. There has been enough delay. There has been far too much prevarication. New Zealanders have seen events unfolding internationally and have had only a vague and indefinite comment from time to time from the Prime Minister. In the area of national security, the public must take so much on trust alone. That is because, understandably, nearly all the work has to be done behind closed doors, but a Government has a duty to keep the public as informed as it can be on what commitments and undertakings are being given in the area of international security. Ultimately, it is the public who will pay the price of those commitments.

In our view, up until now the Prime Minister has been less than forthright. We do note that the briefings given to journalists such as David Fisher in today’s New Zealand Herald on page A15 are far more substantial than the briefings that were given to us. Why that would be the case and we should be expected to go along with the Government is beyond us, but there it is. That briefing is more comprehensive, I believe, than that given to other parliamentary parties.

The result has been that the public’s confidence that the Prime Minister will act with the highest integrity in relation to security issues has been eroded. But today the Prime Minister has finally set out his Government’s response in terms of changes to strengthen anti-terrorism legislation and how New Zealand can contribute to the wider international effort to combat the Islamic State.

At this juncture it is important that New Zealanders know where New Zealand First stands on these important issues. The changing context is important. New Zealand enjoys a great geographical advantage in our distance from the world’s troubled regions. To an extent, that the distance is, in an era of global terror threats, an illusion. But what is evident is that we are part of the global community. Events in the Middle East matter to New Zealand. The Islamic State movement is a deeply disturbing development that has unleashed a form of barbarism that no responsible country can ignore.

On the issue of New Zealand’s national security matters, New Zealand First stands with some basic principles. First, our national security is ultimately our most important national interest. The first duty of any Government is to ensure the safety and protection of its citizens. New Zealand First has always taken the view that this is the primary responsibility of the Government but, equally, that Opposition parties must also display responsibility. Second, New Zealand has a great stake in a stable international order. We are a small and essentially defenceless nation. The last thing we want is international disorder and chaos. Third, New Zealand’s capacity to contribute to international efforts against terrorism is small. We must make careful and considered decisions. There is nothing to be gained from pretending otherwise.

But this is a time when we can reflect on what Edmund Burke, the great British political thinker, observed: “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” Accordingly, we do support some of the measures the Prime Minister has mentioned today as ways New Zealand can contribute to the international effort against the Islamic State, such as intelligence cooperation and diplomatic and humanitarian support. On the issue of audio-surveillance, if the laws are transposed from audio surveillance to visual surveillance, then they cannot really be an expansion—it is just an inclusion of better technology.

But the Prime Minister must be clear and unequivocal on the issue of committing New Zealand to a combat role. Any New Zealand military forces sent to the Middle East will be construed by the Islamic State as in effect combat-related. Yesterday the Prime Minister denied Cabinet had made a decision. That denial was patently false. The people who briefed us had already told us that Cabinet had made a decision, so why the Prime Minister rose in the House yesterday and denied it is beyond me. Second, as those denials were being sounded there were military planners who had already left New Zealand to act on behalf of this country, suggesting that a Cabinet decision had already been made.

Hon Gerry Brownlee
: Already there.

: Well, if they are already there, why was there the denial in the House yesterday on such a serious matter? Cooperation with Australia is also going to be construed by the Middle East in the same way as we would construe it if we were being neutral.

We cannot slip into combat by stealth. We cannot support policy when we are not being told the full truth, open and honestly, on the related issue of strengthening some legislation in the areas of passport controls and, as I said, visual surveillance and providing extra funding for the SIS. We will need to see the full details before reaching a final position. But in our view it is right that the Government should seek as wide a degree of cross-party support as possible for national security issues and matters. That means taking other parties into its confidence and not giving preference to journalists in terms of information, as is so clearly demonstrated in evidence on page A15 of the New Zealand Herald today.

We will consider the proposed legislative package carefully and responsibly. Our evaluation will be informed by the principle that on questions of national security New Zealand First takes a realistic stance. We live in the real world, and in this regard we are highly critical of the Government’s open-door immigration policy. If people over there are so concerned about this matter, then why has there been such a loose immigration policy for so long? Who is here who should not be here? What checks have been made? We are not satisfied that the level of scrutiny and checking that immigrants are given is adequate, given the nature of modern terrorism. We cannot put our heads in the sand in a world of extremists and terrorists such as the Islamic State that stand opposed to everything we value as a democratic and free society.

To ignore the threat posed by the Islamic State would be irresponsible, and recent events graphically illustrate that terrorism can now be home grown and it also does not respect international borders. Yet New Zealanders enjoy civil liberties that must not be abandoned lightly or casually in a rush to be seen to be doing something.

Coming back to the point, if we are going to carry on with our open-door immigration policy with so little scrutiny, then there cannot be people over there who are seriously being genuine in their concerns. For this reason New Zealand First will assist the Government to meet legitimate national security goals as long as we are satisfied that the extra legislation, as outlined by the Prime Minister today, is fully needed and justified. On national security or on any other issue New Zealand First will not be rubber-stamping legislation.