The context not reported in the media

Pete Burdon blogs:

The comment made in Parliament yesterday about rapists and child molesters has been taken out of context to make it sound worse than it was.

This post is not written to debate the rights or wrongs of the comment, but to point out what it actually meant in context. I was in the public gallery at the time.

The Prime Minister was asked what the Government was doing for the detainees. His response what that the best support was to get them back to NZ while awaiting their appeals. He added that it would take longer for some like rapists and murderers because he wanted to make sure that other New Zealanders on the same commercial flights as them were safe. That would take more time and could involve other options like chartering planes.

When this explanation was dismissed by opposition MPs, he said something like, “You can support the rapists and murderers, but I’m more concerned with the safety of other New Zealanders when they are coming home.”

In that context, it’s more understandable why he made the comment. He wasn’t talking about rapists and murderers generally, but only those who could potentially be a threat to other travellers. You would think that’s a sensible response, but judging by the response to his reasoning for the delays, Labour appeared to disagree with it. That led to his comment. This context has been left out of many media reports.

Hansard backs up this interpretation, if not the exact words:

Andrew Little: Which of his statements of earlier today is correct: his statement to Radio New Zealand that the New Zealand detainees are “free to leave” and “are staying there voluntarily” or his statement to reporters that the New Zealand detainees who wanted to leave face many weeks of delays in a remote detention centre before they can go anywhere?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For a start, I did not make the last statement. What I did point out was that it depends on the circumstances. In terms of an individual, there are a number of factors that have to be considered: firstly, as I pointed out this morning, whether the person has travel documentation, a passport; secondly, whether the person has a history of violent or criminal activity; thirdly—

Hon Annette King: You said it was easy.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, it is not actually easy, because these people—some of them are rapists, some of them are child molesters, and some of them are murderers. These are the people whom the Labour Party is saying are more important to support than New Zealanders, who deserve protecting when they come back here.

Burdon is correct that the context is that Key was explaining that you just can’t out some of these people onto a commercial flight if they have a history of violent activity. Labour rubbished this, which is what Key responded to.

Later on he said:

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We spent a considerable portion of the one-on-one meeting that we had with Malcom Turnbull talking about this issue. Two Ministers have gone to Australia to talk to Minister Dutton about this issue. I have raised this issue with Prime Minister Abbott. There have been considerable conversations going on. When it comes to these people coming home to New Zealand, they are free to come home, and we will allow them to come home and we will ensure that they can come home as long as they have the travel documentation. They cannot go on a commercial aircraft if they are violent or if they have mental health issues. I have a responsibility to the New Zealanders here at home that they are looked after. What the Labour Party is saying is: “To hell with the rest of New Zealanders; these people should be put on a commercial aircraft and despatched to New Zealand.” Well, you back the rapists; I—[Interruption]

So Key was focusing on Labour saying he should just be able to magically wave a wand and fly every detainee back here tomorrow. Key pointed out why that is not possible for ones who have serious violent offending, and his comments were aimed at that.

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