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PM’s Post-Cabinet Press Conference Transcript: 16 March 2015

Press Release – New Zealand Government

Right, good afternoon. Id like to start by saying our thoughts are with our Pacific neighbours following the devastation caused by Cyclone Pam. Information is still coming, but it appears that Cyclone Pam has caused extensive damage and also, sadly, …PM’s Post-Cabinet Press Conference: Monday, 16 March 2015

OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER
TRANSCRIPT OF POST-CABINET PRESS CONFERENCE: MONDAY, 16 MARCH 2015
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OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER
POST-CABINET PRESS CONFERENCE: MONDAY,

Right, good afternoon. Id like to start by saying our thoughts are with our Pacific neighbours following the devastation caused by Cyclone Pam. Information is still coming, but it appears that Cyclone Pam has caused extensive damage and also, sadly, loss of life. The Government has now pledged 2.5 million to help with immediate relief. The two Defence Force relief flights departed for Vanuatu today are carrying vital relief supplies. This follows on from a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 aircraft that left yesterday carrying 8 tonnes of relief supplies and personnel to Vanuatu. On Saturday, with communications largely down, we immediately sent a P3 Orion to conduct damage assessment flights over Tuvaluthe first nation in Cyclone Pams path. Clearly, it remains a very difficult situation in the affected countries, and we will continue to do all we can to help our Pacific neighbours. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade consulate offices are contacting New Zealanders in Vanuatu to confirm their well-being. At this stage, the ministry has not received reports of any New Zealand casualties.

We will be making space on the departing C-130s for New Zealanders who have an urgent need to return before commercial flights are back and up and running. Priority will be given to those with medical conditions, the elderly, and to families with very young children. At this stage, New Zealands effort and energy is focused on providing emergency relief. When we can better assess the situation, we will look at the long-term needs of the people of Vanuatu. I have no doubt that New Zealandalongside other international partnerswill ensure appropriate ongoing support is made available; and I made this point to the Prime Minister last night when I spoke to him. People will make their own judgment and should continue to check the Safe Travel website, but MFAT advises against all tourist and other non-essential travel to Vanuatu.

Here in New Zealand the East Coast has been the most affected by the cyclone, with heavy seas and storm surges along the coastline. In preparation for this, Civil Defence and some military defence personnel were dispatched to the area in advance. A number of people have been evacuated from areas close to the sea, and roads have been closed due to slips. The cyclone is moving away from the North Island, but Civil Defence is advising people still need to take care until the weather improves. Its essentialits especially important to stay away from East Coast beaches, where there are currently very large waves. The cyclone is now heading towards the Chatham Islands, so people there should make sure that they are prepared. Once again, Im advised that three Civil Defence personnel were dispatched to the Chathams to provide assistance this morning.

In regards to the threat to contaminate infant and other milk formula products with 1080, the police investigation is ongoing. Around 70 people have contacted police with information to help inform this investigation, and police are following up on each one of those calls. MPI is continuing to work with New Zealand manufacturers and retailers in relation to further strengthening the supply chain security and to encourage consumer vigilance in checking for tampering of any product. Over 52,000 tests for 1080all negativehave been completed to date. MFAT officials remain in ongoing contact with our trading partners, and, So far, reaction to the threat has been measured. I would, once again, like to reassure parents that every precaution has been taken to ensure our infant and other formulas are safethis includes extra testing and increased security measures as further safeguards.

You will have seen the announcement from transport Minister Simon Bridges regarding a future second Waitematā Harbour crossing. This futureproofing allows for the expected rapid population growth in Auckland over the next 20 years. The Government is focused on ensuring good transport links in Auckland and around New Zealand, because of the benefit to business and the economy, as well as making it easier for Kiwis to get from A to B.

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According to advice, this additional crossing to the east of Auckland Harbour is likely to cost between 4 and 6 billion and will be needed between 2025 and 2030.

Today I can announce that Ill be welcoming the Vietnam Prime Minister Dung at Government House in Auckland this Thursday. This is the first official visit by Prime Minister Dung to New Zealand, and he is bringing with him a delegation of more than 100 senior Ministers and business leaders. This year marks 40 years of diplomatic relations between our two countries, and that relationship continues to strengthen. This visit will allow us to celebrate that, as well as discuss ways that we can work more closely together in areas including education, agriculture, and UN peacekeeping cooperation.

Just in terms of my upcoming international travel, Ill be departing for Korea and Japan on Sunday. In Korea, I will join President Park and other trade Ministers for the signing of the New Zealand – Korea Free Trade Agreement. This is a significant milestone in the relationship between New Zealand and Korea, and one that will bring benefits for both countries. Korea is New Zealands sixth largest export destination, with total twoway trading goods of 4 billion last year. Ill continue on from Korea to Japan to meet Prime Minister Shinzö Abe to discuss trade and foreign affairs. I will be accompanied by trade Minister Tim Groser for the trip to both Korea and Japan. Melissa Lee will also accompany us to Korea.

Just in terms of the House this week, we intend to continue with the committee stage of the Construction Contracts Amendment Bill and progress the Harmful Digital Communications Bill. Wednesday is a members’ day. And, finally, in terms of my own activities this week, Ill be here in Wellington today, tomorrow, and Wednesday. On Thursday Ill travel to Auckland to meet the Vietnamese Prime Minister, as mentioned. Then later in the day, Ill be heading to New Plymouth to meet with local iwi. Im starting in New Plymouth overnight and will be in Taranaki with Te Ururoa Flavell on Friday. Finally, on Sunday, Ill take off for Korea and Japan. And, finally, probably should have advised in terms of the House, the advice I have from the Ministersmy expectations for the MPs remuneration bill will be introduced to the House this week. Questions?

Media: Prime Minister, is it time for a full-scale independent review of all MPs’ perks and all MPs’ pay?

Look, I don’t think so. You know, there are a number of benefits that MPs have either enjoyed or are just a function of what they do. Theyre pretty well established largely. If youyou can see that the authority has been moving benefits away from non-cash to cash items. Thats the trend that we also see in the private sector. In terms of youre asking the question in relation, for instance, to former MPs’ perks, I think its really worth remembering that, essentially, weve come in New Zealandand not just in terms of MPs’ salaries but actually in the private sector, as wellaway from a situation where people used to receive less cash and more benefits. I myself remember starting in my first job and getting a suit allowance and a booze allowance and various other things. Nowadays, people pretty much get cash. So we, of course, could just take those benefits off former and old MPs, but wed be doing that retrospectively. They would argue very strongly, and do, that wed be taking away some of their entitled income because they were paid less as a result of it, and I think its just bad practice generally to go back retrospectively.

Media: I suppose given the fact you, you know, MPs andyou know youre talking a lot about the private sector, the relationship that MPs’ pay should have. I mean, very few private sector people enjoy benefits beyond their time in the job. I mean, isn’t it about time to just get rid of this altogether?

Well, as I say, you know, you really would have to go back and say to those former MPs, and these are MPs that left, I think, prior to 1999 or were in the House prior to 1999. I mean, really, youve got to say to those people: Well, even though we paid you a lower salary with all of these entitlements, which you were aware of, were now not going to pay you the salary then, and were not going to give you the entitlements.” Now, in reality,

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theres a finite limit to how long those benefits will be paid, and on that basis, you know, we could take it off them, but generally, retrospective legislations not a good thing.

Media: In terms of the way the Governments gone about it with the MP remuneration bill and also the change to the travel arrangements, both were mechanisms where public input wouldn’t have been able to happen. is that the right course of action? Should the public be able to have a say on these changes?

Im not sure thats strictly right. I might be wrong, but I think in terms of the particular one youre talking about in relation to former MPs, that was in relation to the Statutes Amendment Bill, and I thought my understanding of that was that that did go to a select committee in 2013. So I think the public would have been able to have input.

Media: The SOP, though, was only made public last week and would have been considered at the committee stage debate tomorrow night had it proceeded. So the public

Well, I meananyones free to sit in to the select committee, and it wouldn’t have been in private session, I would have thought. I mean, you know, the history of all this stuff, as I understand it, was that the select committee actually added the words lowest costin error. The point was raised to the Government by Parliamentary Service and by the Labour Party. The Government could understand the argument that was there, and it looked to correct the technical error. My understanding was that the Labour Party agreed to consult with its partners on its side of the House, which include the Greens. We consulted with those on our side, and now the Greens are withdrawing their support. Fair enough, but, you know, it wasn’t our responsibility to consult them when we were doing whatwhile we were following the course of action that we believed had unanimous support and were advised

Media: But my question is these subsequent changes that the Government have been considered had been of such a nature that the public would have got no input into them whatsoeverwhy have you chosen that course of action?

PM: Well, in the case of MPs’ remuneration, theyre going to get paid next week, and, you know, I think, in the end, we have actually listened to the public. I think the publics, you know, general view is they want to see more modest pay rises for MPs, and were delivering that.

Media: Why should former MPs get to fly business class on the taxpayer?

PM: Well, theyIm not the one to negotiate their package of benefits and entitlements that happened when they were a member of Parliament. That waswell and truly predates my time. I mean, I only came into Parliament in 2002, and these entitlements stopped effectively for anyone after 1999. All I can tell you is that was what was agreed back then, and their argument is that it was part of their overall package. They took less cash for more benefits. That was consistent with what happened in the private sector. So, yep, as I said to you, you could go and withdraw that from them. At the end of the day, though, its retrospective, and its a little bit like retrospectively changing tax law. Its generally seen as, you know, not good faith. Its a relatively small amount, and theres only a finite number of people in that category, and eventually those entitlements will cease.

Media: Do you think its acceptable, though, for them to fly business class?

Well, I think myIm not the expert in it, you really need to go and ask Parliamentary Service, but my understanding is thats the formulation for the financial allowance they get. I don’t think they have to fly business class. I think they can use it for more tripsl could be wrong on that fact.

Media: So this change that Minister Bridges tried to put into the statutes amendment bill, this was something that was initiated by Labour, was it?

Yeah. Well, my understandingthe advice Ive had was the original reference point was always these Air New Zealand business class fares. Then, for whatever reason,

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when it went to the select committee, the select Committee added the words lowest cost. The trouble was that they went away and said, well, lowest cost actuallythis is what the, guess, these 1999 or pre1999 members saidthats actually not fair because we cant actually book that fare, because, like a lot of things on the internet, you cant always necessarily get it, and so it was brought to our attention by Parliamentary Service and by Annette King. And that was why we made the change. And Annette King and the Labour Party agreed theyd consult with all of their members, we consulted with all of ours, andso they spoke to the Greens. Thats what Im advised.

Media: On The X Factor, because this is the silly story of the day, is there any truth in the rumour that you were going to put yourself forward as one of the judges?

Ha, haNo. Plenty of people judge me. Its the other way around. I don’t judge other people.

Media: And what do you think of thisis this saying something about bullying in our culture and how we should be attacking it?

Oh, I honestly havent followed it, Im sorry.

Media: You don’t Watch The X Factor at all?

: I don’t have time. Im too busy doing other things.

Media: It is a show that has attracted 2.4 million from New Zealand On Air Over two seasons. Is this really what New Zealanders want to be seeing on their screens?

Well, I guess people, you know, kind of vote with their eyeballs, don’t they? So, you know, theyre only going to fund things and the TV channels will only, basically, play things that get popular support, for the most part. And all of these sort of showsyou know, X Factor and othersdo attract a lot of support. People like them and they watch them. Theyre very expensive to make, is my understanding. They always, if you look at the nature of themhave always had that element of being, you know, pretty robust, and I think thats part of what attracts people watching them. I mean, Simon Cowell hasn’t made his fortune out of anything other than, you know, being pretty robust, shall we say, with people that watch the show or people that are on the show.

Media: Can you expand on Simon Bridges’ announcement about the Waitematā crossing today? What is it, exactly, that hes announced? Because a quick google would suggest that you announced pretty much this back in 2013, of the six-lane crossing with a railway attached. So what—

Yeah. That was our preference, yep. I think theyre futureproofing, so I think its literally around the designation of actually where it will go, and buying some of the land to futureproof that.

Media: Prime Minister, just on the 1080 threatis there any concern around potential, you know, threats to MPI itself?

I havent seen any, no.

Media: On Iraq, have you had any advicel mean, youve talked before about the previous Iraqi Government and the role its played by shutting the Sunnis out of have you had any advice on going back to the Americanled invasion of 2003 and decisions then to remove Sunnis from the army and other positions of influence as to how much impact thats had?

I wouldn’t say Ive had written advice, but every Tuesday I have my national security meeting, and as part of that national security meeting in recent times weve had real specialists in this particular area in the Middle East, and particularly whats happening in Iraq. So theres a course of, sort of, wider questioning and conversations thatyou know, there are a variety of different issues are raised, and then there are a variety of different reports that are given to me by the National Assessments Bureau and others, some of

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which are obviously highly classified. I cant tell you of any specific advice about either the things that America might have got right or wrong in terms of that, but just generally theres been a lot of advice and discussion on the wider issue of Iraq and military involvement.

Media: But given, you know, the commentary by a number of, you know, academics and others about that, have you been given a reassurance in that analysis that the proposal now in terms of helping trainbecause, obviously, a lot of its Americanledthat there arent going to be the repeat of the sorts of, perhaps, mistakes that were made earlier?

Yes. I mean, that broader issuel mean, the broader question of If the Americans spent so much money and so much time and didn’t deliver a strong Iraqi forces ..” argument. If you accept that argument, then theres a valid question that says Why would now be any different”, and Ive raised that point with my officials on numerous occasions, including the defence personnel and MFAT personnel, and the reassurance Ive been given is that there are a variety of different circumstances now. But they start with the head of the Government, the corruption that they believe was in place before and how they believe thats different now, the more inclusive approach thats being taken. So theres a variety of different factors of why they believe it was unsuccessful in the past and more likely to be successful now.

Media: Just on the 1080 threat, have you received any advice about any copycat threats since you went public last Tuesday?

No ones come to me and said, look, theyve picked up or detected that thats the case. Obviously that is a risk, and the risk that people are worried about. I will say this, though: obviously 1080 is very tightly controlled, so the capacity for copycats is significantly lower, but nevertheless thats always the risk that people worry about.

Media: Have there been any other threats that you havent disclosed?

No.

Media: Just on Vanuatu, how long do you think New Zealand will need to be involved in the clean-up?

: I don’t have any strong advice on that one. I spoke to the Vanuatu Prime Minister last night. I mean, he sort of had very limited information. He said in the outer islands they had no communication and they werent sure. While they were restoring water and electricity, still a lot of it was off, and, as we know, in Port Vila a huge number of the homes have been destroyed. So its going to be a long, slow process, I think. If you take, sort of, some guidance, I guess, out of what happened, for instance, in Samoa after the tsunami there, it was a good year or two that it took to really work through, you know, a lot of the bigger issues. Now, a couple of years on, the situation was restored largely back to how itd been, with stronger infrastructure, but its not something that can happen overnight. So were very much in the emergency phase at the moment. Thatll carry on for weeks, maybe even months, and then beyond that will be a more permanent solution of rebuilding.

Media: How much more aid do you think you may have to provide?

I think in Samoa, youre slightly testing my memory, but Ive got a feeling we put in around about 17 million in the end. So I think over a course of time, along with a number of other agencies and international Governments, it will be quite a bit more money. I spoke to British Prime Minister, David Cameron, on Sunday morning. He pledged £2 million at that point, but indicated theyre likely to make further contributions.

Media: Are you likely to put the reversal to the travel perk thing through by means of a separate bill as an amendment rather than in the Statutes Amendment Bill?

Thats a complicated question. Isn’t it just going to lapse? I think the story is if we don’twell, I suppose youre saying you could put it through without having an SOP.

Media: Well, you can put it through as a separate bill.

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Yeah. I doubt it, no.

Media: So that means youll keep it as it is now

PM: Yeah.

Media: That its based on the lower-cost there, rather than

PM: Yep, and the former MPs, who are represented by Graham Kelly and others, will have to take that up with the Greens.

Media: Back to the issue of Tuvalu and Vanuatu, have you heard any reports on Tuvalu and the damage there

PM: Yeah, well, the P-3 Orion did thoseI think I said in my remarks, did the flyover. think weve given some small amounts of support there, and were likely to assess that over time and have a good look. I mean, my understanding is theres another cyclone brewing, maybe potentially another quite significant one that were likely to see maybe by Friday, so well have to keep an assessment of that as well.

Media: Also, a lot of the damage has been blamed not just on the strength of the winds but on the poor construction of some of the houses there. Does New Zealand have any role in ensuring that theyre being replaced with accommodation there that is actually fit for purpose, given, you know, how prone it is to cyclones?

Well, look, I think thats part of the assistance we can play, in making sure that some of the infrastructure is stronger. I mean, you cant rebuild, and I don’t think New Zealanders would expect us to rebuild, every home in Vanuatu. I think what they would expect us to do is play a role in strengthening the core infrastructure, maybe some sort of buildings that can be used as shelters in the past. But the winds must have been very strong, because I think it was the Minister of Foreign Affairs said to me some of the properties that had been constructed with cyclone-proof roofs had their roofs lifted, so they werent quite that cyclone-proof.

Media: Was there damage to the high commission building too?

PM: Not sure. Youd have to ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He didn’t say which roofs, but he said some of them ones wed built apparently had their roofs ripped off.

Media: Over the weekend America criticised Britain for joining the Asia Infrastructure investment Bank, which New Zealand has agreed to join. Have we ever been pressured or challenged by America about joining up to this Chinese

No. The Americans havent raised the issue with me.

Media: On Northland, are you satisfied with the progress economically that regions made under the Nationalled Government.

PM: Yes, but, of course, you can always do more and think over the last 7 years that weve been in Government weve made significant investments in Northland and a fair bit of progress has been made. But its really obvious to see some areas where greater, you know, economic growth could occur. I mean, for instance, we have been prothe Concept of some mining exploration in Northland. Were actively trying to get the Treaty settlement with Ngāpuhi completed in Northland. Weve already completed quite a number of settlements up there as youll be aware. So there are always more things that can occur and we can do, | mean certainly the economic growth in the last 12 months has been strong in Northland, but we need a lot more of that. I mean at the core of all of it sits, I think, with poorer education outcomes for a lot of young people in Northland, so theresI think, some of the steps that weve taken there which are very long term, like national standards, nevertheless Will be effective Over time.

Media: Because since 2009 its growth has lagged behind every other region apart from Taranaki, so I mean, do you put that down to those sorts of issues?

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: Theres a variety of very long-term issues there, and theyre not easy ones to resolve overnight. Theres been some great investment thereI mean, Marsden Point was upgraded under our watch. Youve seen some pretty good things happening in Northland, but, you know, I accept that more can be done, and we need to do more and my very strong argument would be that if Northland has a representative that has a voice in Government then I think theyre more likely to make progress, but that in the end is the matter for the people in Northland.

Media: Are you going to roll out the pork barrel again? Is there any more spending announcements to be made by the Government?

Um, well there are always more announcements that can be made, but look, at the end of the dayl mean I think its worth reflecting on the fact that we are investing a lot of money right around New Zealand. I mean the announcement of the bridgesyou can make your own assessment of thatbut its in the context of us spending a huge amount of money and going to spend a lot of money there so

Media: Butsorry to interruptwhen you announced the bridges last were you were quite bullish about saying to us expect more of the same but don’t be surprised if you hear some more.” Are you down playing that now? Is there any more

PM: We announced, we made an announcement about broadband. There might be other things coming—

Media: Yeah, but that was just the policy youd already announced. Is there any more specific spending in Northland that youre going to announce?

PM: Aww, could be.

Media: You didn’t take issue when he suggested that you rolled out the pork barrel. Is it

inaudible

Ha, haOh well, Ive got broad shoulders.

Media: Are you coming back from Korea and Japan earlier than you anticipated because of the by-election?

: Yes, Im coming back on the FridayThursday, and Ill be in Northland on the Friday.

Media: How close do you think itll be in the end?

Its going to be pretty close, I think is the reality. What youve got is a situation wherebyelections are often really close. Theyre close for a number of reasons. Firstly, you quite often get a situation where it becomes a twohorse race. We have that. So the other political parties have all capitulated pretty much around Winston Peters, so that makes life a bit more difficult. Turnout could be very low. I mean, its hard to tell, but could be very low. So youve got a number of different factors there. But in the end well have to give it our best and if we can get turnout out and if we can get our voters to turn out, then well hold the seat. If we cant, well it could be an interesting outcome.

Media: Would you expect a recount from either side if its close?

Well, it would be the history of Winston Peters, isn’t it? You know, challenges and petitions on spending and stuff so lets wait and see.

Media. But surely for you guys if you lost by 50 votes or so you might—

Lets not think negatively, Katie.

Media: What about a legal challenge? David Seymours hinted that he could challenge if Winston Won

: Yeah, I asked him about that the other night. He said theres some QC in Auckland thats running around with the view that its illegal, but I, for life of me, cant see why.

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Media: So if youre coming back early for the Northland by-election, what were you planning on doing instead? Were you going to stay in Japan earlierlonger?

I think so. I mean, theyve slightly altered my programme but, look, in the end, you can obviously see it both ways. On the one hand, obviously I can always change my schedule a little bit, and I do. If I didn’t come back people would say I didn’t care about the people of Northland and if I do come back people will say Im worrying too much about Northland. So it is what it is. In the end its an important by-election for us. Wed like to hold the seat if we can. Weve got a good candidate and were putting in a good effort, but its going to be a tough fight there.

Media: How much time are your MPs and Ministers spending on this campaign?

: A reasonable amount. I mean, you know, its a seat we want to hold, and, you know, you do have every other political party with it goingobviously the exception of ACT-you know, working behind Winston Peters. So that makes life a lot more difficult for us. And if we don’t get out the vote, its going to be very tight. I mean, you can look at it whatever way you like, but if you go back to the 1992sorry the 1994 Selwyn by-election, you know, its a seat we hold by 22,000 today. We only just won it against an Alliance candidate when David Carter came in. If you look at the 1997 by-election for TaranakiKing Country, you know, Jim Bolger had just gone off to Washington, we only just won it by about 1,400 votes, I think, against an ACT candidate then. If you look at 1992, when Muldoon wentvery, very safe National seat, with Tāmaki probably the safest weve got in urban Auckland, we only just won it against, again, an Alliance candidate with Clem Simich. So even in our safer seats by-elections are very fickle and difficult matterstheres no getting away from that. And so, there are challenges there; we accept that. But we do believe weve got a good story.

Media: You said that you accept inaudible] that they were all ganging up on you, but surely United Future and the Māori Party arent actively campaigning for Winston Peters, are they?

PM: No, I don’t think theyre campaigning at all much. I mean, the Māori Party might be, but don’t think ACT-I don’t think United Future is.

Media. But do you think theyre throwing their weight behind a Winston Peters win?

PM: No. Look, all the others on the other side of the House.

Media. Both Winston Peters and Andrew Little are campaigning on sending the Government a message. Do you reckon youve got the message?

: Well, I think its very easy to come up with rhetoric, and as I said to you, its easy to sort of make promises and say youll do things. So at the end of the day Winston Peters hasn’t cared about Northland for 40 years. I mean, its been a pretty long career and a lot of opportunities to get up there and represent the people of Northland; hes never chosen to do it. He didn’t run a candidatenot even his weakest candidatein any of the last three elections. Hes not going to live anywhere near his electorate; hes going to be 4 miles4 hours’ drive away. I mean, if they select Winston Peters, a new MPs going to come in on the New Zealand First list that lives in Invercargill. So, really, is that going to deliver, you know, strong representation for Northland? I don’t personally think so. But in the end, its for the people of Northlandand, you know, they will decide who their next representative is going to be.

Media: Are you saying his house in Auckland is 4 hours’ drive away from actually the electorate?

PM: Oh, the very edge is Wellsford, but the bulk of the population is actually up in Kerikeri, and yeah, its 4 hours.

Media: He does have a house there thoughin Whananaki

PM: Lets see.

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Media: Youve got lots of MPs not only on the phone and talking to people up there but also spending their time up there during parliamentary sitting time. Is that an appropriate use of MPs’ time, given that thats campaigning for a National candidate, when theyre paid by the taxpayer to be in Wellington?

: No, the rules are really clear about an MP or a Ministerabout when they can either use transportation, ground transportation or flights. And also, you know, when our people goI mean, I go to electorates all of the time; our people go to electorates all the time. Yes, theres, you know, probably a few more trips happening in Northland at the moment, but thats just the nature of the fact that, you know, weve got a good story to tell and we want to tell that story up there. And theres lots of things that we do there, but its quite legitimate. I mean, Winston Peters wasn’t even in Parliament last week.

Media: Yes, but thatsl mean, just as general, do you think its OK for MPs, who are supposed to be here during Parliament sitting time, aside from the use of resources, the use of their time, they are up in Northland rather than being in Parliament?

PM: Well, what the Government needs to focus on is ensuring its got the numbers to maintain its majority, and the whips do that very effectively. Outside that, MPs travel and move all the time. You can make that case for everythingwhether they should go overseas for a conference, whether they should go to a particular event thats on, whether they should go to their electorate. Yep, theres a Northland by-election on and theres plenty of them up therejust, as I say, like Winston Peters wasn’t in Parliament to question me last week, and probably won’t be this week.

Media: Have you had any discussions with members of the Sikh community about their ceremonial daggers and how theyre not being allowed into Cricket World Cup matches?

PM: Not specifically about the ICC event, because that only happened, I think, yesterday. But yes, last Sunday I went to the Gurudwara at Takanini, and that particular issue was raised because the Sikh communitys being looking for an exemption to the civil aviation rulesso for The Five Ks of the Kirpan that they carry. I mean, actually have a great deal of sympathy for their argument. I mean, The Five Ks are a reflection of their faith. At the end of it, its a matter for the ICC. Its their tournament, not ours. So we cant dictate that to them. And I understand why some people might make the argument they should be concerned, but my understanding of the Kirpan is its, you know, for most part very small. Its a blunt instrument, and, actually, if you want to make the case that someone could cause harm with that, theyre probably much more likely to be able to cause harm with anything else you could get at the grounds, including a wine bottle or something else.

Media: Do you think the ICC were overreacting by

: Well, its their tournament, and they make those rules, and at the moment we don’t even have the exemption for civil aviation on our flights, but some countries have legislated for thatI think the UK and Australia might have.

Media: Would you look at it?

PM: Well, yes, we might look at ityes. I mean, Im sympathetic to the view.

Media: So will you get the transport Minister to pick up on that?

: Im not unsympathetic to looking at that issue, and other countries have legislated towards that, because I think, in reality, as I said, you know the Kirpans, you know, its very small, its blunt and its the symbol of their faith. Yes, of course, you could make the argument that someone could use it as, I suppose, as a form of a weapon, but its blunt and it would be no more effective than, you know, picking up a bottle of wine off the Koru hour on your Air New Zealand plane. In fact, youd probably arguably be far less effective.

Media: When will that happen? When do you think the CAA could start looking at that?

Well, theres a process that they would have to go through, but I said to the Sikh community that, you know, were not unsympathetic to the issue, and we should look at it.

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Media: On the issue of dairy conversions in the Waikato, Federated Farmers inaudible] reckons there should be a debate about no more conversations, a moratorium on conversions there. Whats your view on dairy conversions?

I think, you know, what should drive that debate is, you know, the capacity for maintaining and improving the environment, and so I cant tell you whether theres too many conversions taking place or not enough. I don’t have enough information on that, but the driving force isn’t whether theres a certain number of farms. Its the capacity for the environment to cope with that. And weve seen in certain circumstances like, you know, around the lakes in the TaupoRotorua area, land has been retired because its deemed to be the most effective way of controlling, obviously, runoff and nutrients into the lakes. Thats the sensible solution there. So whether theres enough or too many in the Waikato, just don’t have advice on that.

Media: Is that a risk therefore of peak dairy? That we don’t have the capacity to grow that dairy?

No. But I think it speaks volumes about why the sorts of environmental measures that Federated Farmers, Fonterra, and others are taking are the right ones, including the Government, when we announce the retirement of waterways, land adjacent to waterways during the campaign.

Media: in what capacity is Steven Joyce in Northland?

Well, youll have to ask Mr Joyce, but he can be there in many capacities if he Wants.

Media: From your point of view. Well, hes certainly a Minister of the Government.

Media: And hes up there on ministerial business?

| didn’t say that. I said youd have to ask him, but I said hes free to be there in any capacity. The rules are really clear. A Minister is free to use both air travel and ground travel any time they want, and in the middle of an election campaign, you know, Id use my ministerial limousine. MPs are free to fly any time they want because there are no restrictions, no parliamentary purposes required, but for accommodation and for ground travel in the electorate an MP needs to have a parliamentary purpose. My understanding is all of our MPs are either being billeted, not staying overnight, and using their own resources for ground travel.

Media: including your Ministers? No, Ministers are free forto abide by the rules, and their rules are different.

Media: Are they allowed accommodation?

I don’t know. Id need to check that, but I think they are, but Id need to check that fine point on accommodation.

Media: I see Fonterras purchased 750 million of Beingmate, the Chinese infant formula Company.

Have they?

Media: Does that highlight potentially some of the risks of being too dependent on China, in particular, that dairy industry in light of the 1080 scare last week?

Well, I don’t know if thats a further purchase, because they’d already made an announcement.

Media: They’d announced about it 10–

About Being mate, yeah, some time ago. Look, I think its a good thing in so much that what its showing you is that investment goes both ways both investment from China

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