Four NZ-bound boats turned back

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE - LAURA WAL­TERS

Peo­ple smug­glers tak­ing ad­van­tage of vul­ner­a­ble asy­lum seek­ers will feel the ‘‘full force of the law’’, Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern said yes­ter­day.

As the stand-off be­tween Aus­tralia and New Zealand con­tin­ues in re­la­tion to the sit­u­a­tion at the Aus­tralian-run Manus Is­land de­ten­tion cen­tre in Pa­pua New Guinea, four boats full of asy­lum seek­ers headed to New Zealand have been in­ter­cepted.

Bris­bane’s Courier Mail has re­ported the boats, con­tain­ing 164 peo­ple, en route to New Zealand were stopped by Op­er­a­tion Sov­er­eign Board­ers and turned around. The peo­ple were be­ing smug­gled by crime syn­di­cates, try­ing to by­pass Aus­tralia’s tough im­mi­gra­tion mea­sures, in a bid to profit from the ris­ing ten­sion over the cur­rent cri­sis on Manus Is­land.

The in­ter­cep­tion came af­ter Ardern re­newed the Gov­ern­ment’s of­fer to take 150 asy­lum seek­ers from Nauru and Manus Is­land dur­ing her first meet­ing with Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull early this month.

Turn­bull turned down Ardern’s of­fer, say­ing he would give pri­or­ity to a po­ten­tial deal with the United States.

But Ardern was putting fur­ther pres­sure on the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment by rais­ing the is­sue again when they met dur­ing the East Asia Sum­mit (EAS) in the Philip­pines. She said her of­fi­cials were now in dis­cus­sion with an Aus­tralian of­fi­cial, while the lead­ers con­ducted other busi­ness.

Chat­ter about asy­lum seek­ers and peo­ple smug­glers set­ting their sights on New Zealand was not new, she said, adding that there have been on­go­ing at­tempts by boat peo­ple to make it to Aus­tralia, and ru­moured at­tempts of peo­ple try­ing to make it to New Zealand.

‘‘We have been In­volved for a num­ber of years, as a coun­try work­ing along­side Aus­tralia in try­ing to stop peo­ple at the source from risk­ing their lives and try­ing to make that jour­ney and we will con­tinue to do so. New Zealand’s pol­icy in that re­gard has not changed,’’ Ardern said.

‘‘Nor has the mes­sage that the full force of the law will come down on any­one who tries to take ad­van­tage of vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple by risk­ing their lives by hav­ing them board boats to Aus­tralia or New Zealand.’’

Mean­while, Green Party for­eign af­fairs spokesper­son Gol­riz Ghahra­man said it was time to by­pass the Aus­tralian Gov- ern­ment as the refugee reaches break­ing point.

The sit­u­a­tion on Manus Is­land, where 600 refugees have re­fused to leave the now moth­balled de­ten­tion cen­tre, had reached ‘‘cri­sis point’’, and New Zealand had an obli­ga­tion to act, she said.

The cen­tre was shut down by Aus­tralia, with the plan to move the de­tainees to the nearby Loren­gau com­mu­nity. But the men said the con­di­tions at their des­ti­na­tion was worse than those in the de­ten­tion cen­tre, where six have died.

While the Green Party said it was time to by­pass Aus­tralia, act­ing Prime Min­is­ter Kelvin Davis said yes­ter­day New Zealand’s of­fer was to the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment. Un­like its sup­port party, Labour had no in­ten­tion of by­pass­ing Aus­tralia at this stage, he said. cri­sis

Graf­fiti ac­cused in court

A mid­dle-aged man is al­legedly re­spon­si­ble for a spate of neo-nazi tags in a West Coast town. The 48-year-old Ta­paw­era man is ac­cused of ‘‘25-plus’’ in­stances of graf­fiti through­out the Hok­i­tika town­ship. Po­lice al­lege he tagged ‘‘of­fen­sive com­ments and swastikas’’ on road signs and bridges in pink, flu­o­res­cent paint. He faces charges of breach of bail, mis­use of a tele­phone and wil­ful dam­age with fur­ther charges to be laid, Se­nior Sergeant Paul Wat­son, of West Coast po­lice, said. Po­lice re­ceived sev­eral re­ports about the graf­fiti over the ‘‘course of a cou­ple of weeks’’. The man was ar­rested on Mon­day and was due to ap­pear in the Grey­mouth District Court yes­ter­day.

Phar­mac chief quits

Phar­mac Chief Ex­ec­u­tive St­ef­fan Crausaz is step­ping down to take up a new pri­vate sec­tor role. His de­par­ture comes as the new Labour Gov­ern­ment pre­pares to in­ves­ti­gate bring­ing in big changes to the model of the na­tional drug-buy­ing agency, by im­ple­ment­ing a drug fund to sub­sidise new, but not fully proven, hi-tech medicines. Crausaz has been at the helm of Phar­mac for more than six years, and has been with the or­gan­i­sa­tion for more than 14 years. He has steered Phar­mac through some con­tro­ver­sial pe­ri­ods, in­clud­ing the Keytruda de­bate which saw lat­estage melanoma suf­fer­ers, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal lob­by­ists and Labour politi­cians baulk at an early de­ci­sion to af­ford it a low-pri­or­ity fund­ing sta­tus. It thrust New Zealand into the grips of a pub­lic de­bate over fund­ing a brand-name drug. Ul­ti­mately, the drug was funded for late-stage melanoma suf­fer­ers but not be­fore a lesser-known drug backed with more promis­ing data was funded first.

Ap­peal to stop list­ing

A re­tired ta­ble ten­nis coach con­victed of in­de­cently as­sault­ing six teenagers more than 20 years ago is try­ing to stop his name go­ing on a list of child sex of­fend­ers. Paul Thomas Es­cott ap­pealed against the part of his sen­tence that would see him on the re­cently es­tab­lished regis­ter for eight years. Es­cott, 75, did not ap­peal against the rest of the sen­tence im­posed on Au­gust 16, in the Welling­ton District Court, that put him on home de­ten­tion for 11 months. He had pleaded guilty to 18 charges of in­de­cent as­sault in­volv­ing six vic­tims aged 12 to 16 years, dat­ing from 1979 to 1995. Two of the charges each rep­re­sented more than one in­ci­dent. At an ap­peal at the High Court in Welling­ton yes­ter­day, Es­cott’s lawyer, Lu­cie Scott said en­try on the reg­istry was dis­cre­tionary if a court was sat­is­fied an of­fender posed a risk to the life or sex­ual safety of one or more chil­dren. Es­cott did not meet the cri­te­ria, given he had per­son­ally re­solved to stop of­fend­ing and his last of­fend­ing was 23 years ago. The child sex of­fend­ers’ regis­ter came into force in late 2016. Crown lawyer Ian Mur­ray asked for Es­cott’s list­ing on the regis­ter to be up­held. Jus­tice Su­san Thomas re­served her de­ci­sion.

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