Clark’s comments on passports disturb Locke

Green MP Keith Locke is worried about the Prime Minister’s comments yesterday that passport rules are being changed under pressure from the United States.

The New Zealand Press Association yesterday quoted Ms Clark as saying that the United States was requiring tougher rules and if New Zealanders wanted to be able to travel our Government would have to implement them.

“We shouldn’t be undermining our fundamental citizenship rights just to please the Bush Administration,” said Mr Locke, the Green Party’s Human Rights Spokesperson.

“Ms Clark’s statement has confirmed my fear that the proposed changes are not motivated by analysis of our own needs, but rather those of another government.

“For generations New Zealanders have had the right to travel abroad and will be upset to hear that this right could now be taken away from them.

“Access to a passport is the right of every New Zealander. It would be abhorrent if passports were now to be taken away, simply on the basis of the suspicions of a government agency.

“Internal Affairs Minister George Hawkins today said we don’t need to worry because we can appeal a Minister’s decision to cancel our passport in the High Court. But why should law-abiding New Zealanders who want to travel have to go through the sort of drawn-out legal proceeding that we have seen in the Ahmed Zaoui case?

“It is easy to see where the granting of these powers could lead, because it has happened before in the United States during the McCarthy period, where left-wing activists, including the then famous singer Paul Robeson, had their passports taken away.

“A future New Zealand government, embarrassed about what its critics are doing abroad, could use such a law to try to restrict their travel. Robert Muldoon could have used such legislation in 1976, when he accused the anti-apartheid groups HART and CARE of “treason” for “deliberately spreading lies about New Zealand”, because he blamed them for the boycott of the Montreal Olympics by 22 nations opposed to the All Black tour of South Africa.

“The Greens also warn Helen Clark about going overboard over fears that people are coming here to give birth just so their babies can gain citizenship. As it stands now, the parents do not gain the right to residency or citizenship and the number of such New Zealand-born children returning here in later life to settle is not likely to be large. Certainly such a likelihood doesn’t warrant taking away the long-held, inherent right that being born in New Zealand entitles you to citizenship,” said Mr Locke.