12 Nov 2015

John Key 'using sexual violence as a political tool', says Greens co-leader

10:31 am on 12 November 2015

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei has accused Prime Minister John Key of using rape as a political tool to distract from serious issues.

Turei led a walkout of women MPs from the House yesterday. She had told Parliament that as a victim of sexual assault, she was deeply offended by Key's accusation, the previous day, that opposition MPs were backing rapists by supporting New Zealand detainees in Australia's Christmas Island detention centre.

LISTEN to RNZ's report on the walkout:

The Prime Minister said during question time on Tuesday that Labour was "backing the rapists" following a question about the government's response to Australia's treatment of New Zealand detainees.

He also told Labour MP Kelvin Davis: "Mr Davis, if you want to put yourself on the side of sex offenders, go ahead, my son, but we'll defend New Zealanders!"

The Speaker yesterday declined to make the Prime Minister apologise for his comments.

Turei told RNZ today that the uproar in Parliament didn’t distract from the detainee problem and both issues are important.

Australia's treatment of New Zealand ex-pats has come under the spotlight since tougher immigration laws were introduced across the Tasman, meaning people with criminal convictions can be detained and then deported.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei. Photo: RNZ/Alexander Robertson

Turei says the Prime Minister has a poor record when it comes to standing up for the victims of sexual violence.

"He jokes about sexual violence, he will use sexual violence as a political tool to distract from his own failings, he shows no leadership on the serious issue in New Zealand of sexual violence, and the Speaker will support him in that failure.

"We don't need a Prime Minister using rape as a political tool to distract from serious issues."

Key has repeatedly said that there were rapists, child molesters and murderers on Christmas Island, but figures released since have showed that none of the 40 New Zealanders in the detention centres have been convicted of rape and only one had been convicted of indecently treating a child.

Turei says Key needs to correct the record as he had technically misled Parliament.

The Australian government has provided Justice Minister Amy Adams with a detailed breakdown of the list of offences by the 40 New Zealanders being held on Christmas Island.

They include manslaughter, armed robbery and assaulting a child or wife with a weapon. A criminal convicted of indecently treating a child is also listed. However, none are murderers or rapists.

Prime Minister John Key.

Prime Minister John Key. Photo: RNZ/Alexander Robertson

Key's statements were based on previous reports provided by the Australian government, Adams says.

"What we haven't known until now one or two hours is exactly what the specific make-up was on Christmas Island.

"What the Prime Minister and I have referred to, to date, has been the category of offenders we are talking about in the wider context - contains some very, very serious offenders."

Key says due to privacy reasons, an exact breakdown of the offenders would not be given.

Senior Labour MP and former Immigration Minister Clayton Cosgrove says serious offenders had always been deported from Australia.

All that appeared to have changed was that the less serious offenders were also being caught up in Australia's new immigration laws and put in detention centres.

"No offence is excusable and no one is saying that. But you've got to question the conditions these people are under."

Key says he was sorting the matter out.

"I'm not claiming they're all bad to the core. I'm just simply saying there's two sides to the story."

Meanwhile, seven detainees from the Christmas Island detention centre have been transferred to a jail in Western Australian.

The seven, four of whom are New Zealanders, were flown from the island in handcuffs on a charter flight accompanied by security officers.

Some of the damage following riots at the Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre

Some of the damage following riots at the Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre Photo: AAP

Australia's Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has described them as extreme-risk individuals who are alleged to have been involved in the rioting at the centre.

Images have emerged of extensive damage at the facility; buildings have been torched, windows smashed and offices wrecked.

Dutton has rejected claims New Zealanders who had served time for only minor offences are being held on Christmas Island.

A version of this story was first published on radionz.co.nz.