22 Oct 2019

Terrorism bill delayed as National seek conditions: 'I do feel a little dicked around' - Little

5:03 pm on 22 October 2019

The failure to get the National Party on board over the returning foreign fighters legislation means it will now be delayed.

Andrew Little

Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

The Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Bill was scheduled to have its first reading tonight, but has now been shunted well down the list.

Justice Minister Andrew Little is proposing a 'control orders' regime to boost government powers to deal with people trying to get back to New Zealand after fighting for extremist groups, or having helped their cause.

The matter had taken on some urgency, he said, with the changing situation in Syria, where the Kurds said keeping ISIS detainees in custody was no longer a priority while they were under attack from Turkey.

Mr Little met with National's leader Simon Bridges and its justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell last night, but they were unable to come to an agreement.

National confirmed its support via email last week, with no conditions attached, but now would not follow through with that commitment, said Mr Little.

"After that they then tried to seek conditions, I met with them to talk about that...they haven't indicated they will support it so frankly, I do feel a little dicked around by them."

How would Mr Bridges describe the minister's negotiating style? - "Belligerent."

Mr Little had an "interesting" way of negotiating, he said, "coming out and slagging off the people he's negotiating with", but that would not affect National's approach.

The party made its position clear when it released its first media release, said Mr Bridges, which laid out the changes it wanted to make.

"We want to continue discussions with minister Little, I'm not going to get into the name or the blame game, even if he is."

But his bottom line was National was not going to do "half a job" on New Zealanders' safety.

National is seeking changes around lowering the age, extending the duration, and giving authorities the ability to lock up people for 72 hours on arrival in New Zealand.

There were still plenty of unknowns about who was going to turn up, said Mr Bridges, and the legislation should reflect that.

Mr Little took issue with questions from RNZ about the Bill being delayed, given it's now number 19 on the legislation list saying he hadn't "delayed it as it was on the Order Paper".

"That said, if the real question is 'what has the National Party done?' - they've said they don't support it, they won't support it, that was as of late this morning."

He was continuing discussions with "them of sorts" and the Green Party.

Its justice spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman said they would want the definition of "terror", relating to convictions or deportation, to be a "New Zealand based" definition, or to come from comparable jurisdictions.

They would also want "procedural safeguards" put in place, she said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said they'd taken the opposition at their word, "or at least we would have liked to".

"They did give the minister written confirmation that they would support the returning foreign fighters legislation - they have reneged on their word."

There would have been plenty of time for National to negotiate changes through the select committee process, she said, which that party had chosen not to do.

The legislation is aimed at the so-called 'bumbling jihadi', Mark Taylor, who is still, as far as anyone knows, languishing in a Kurdish prison in Syria, with no passport and no indication from authorities here they're going to help him get to the closest embassy post in Turkey any time soon.

A final order can have a maximum duration of up to two years, and can then be renewed twice if there's evidence the person still meets the criteria. After six years there could be no further extensions. Breaches would constitute a criminal offence with a penalty of up to a year in jail or a $2,000 fine.

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