Four NZ-bound boats turned back
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.