Hello and welcome to this edition of Some Things John Key Has Said. Let's get cracking ...

1. "You back the rapists!"

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump was memorably described as a walking, breathing online comments section, and that's just what the Prime Minister sounded like this week in Parliament. He lashed out with a series of counter-punches at opposition MPs asking about New Zealand citizens held in reportedly appalling conditions at the remote detention centre on Christmas Island - his presumed intention being to shift the wider debate away from the Government's supine response.

If that was the aim, it worked. Uproar, ejections and walkouts ensued, with the Speaker tying himself in knots on Wednesday saying he hadn't heard the PM's "you back the rapists" comment from a day earlier, that it was offensive and he would have made him apologise, but it was too late now. All of this calls for a separate instalment of Some Things Speaker Carter Has Said, but suffice to say that in the absence of any apology, instructed or volunteered, it ended with a succession of women opposition MPs being silenced and exiting the house after standing to say that as victims of sexual assault they found Key's comment offensive.

2. "These people - some of them are rapists, some of them are child molesters, and some of them are murderers."

This was in response to a question about the estimated 40 New Zealand detainees in the Christmas Island facility run by the multinational scandal magnet Serco. All, or almost all, have been convicted of crimes, some of them serious, for which they've completed prison sentences in Australia. Many will be nasty people. None, however, is a rapist or a murderer. The Prime Minister was wrong about that.


There are murderers and rapists among the 585 New Zealand citizens across Australia awaiting deportation, but this class of offender has always been deported; they would have been deported regardless of the law change that sparked the whole scandal, which lowers the bar for deportation to a sentence of 12 months or longer.

There's also a "character test", as in the case of the incarceration of a former New Zealand soldier, Ko Rutene, who reportedly served as a bodyguard for Key in Afghanistan, has no criminal record and has been held in Perth because he is a member of a motorcycle club.

3. "They're staying there voluntarily, they're free to leave ... They can come back tomorrow ... They can get up and come to New Zealand and have their appeals processed from here."

These remarks to media are difficult to square with the testimony of many detainees, hidden in rooms to avoid the riots that had broken out over the weekend following the unexplained death of a detainee. There is dispute about just how easy it for the citizens - many of whom have resided in Australia for most of their lives - to get help from New Zealand officials. They can hardly breeze in to a New Zealand consulate on Christmas Island.

4. "New Zealanders who may have committed horrendous crimes, such as murder and sex offences - I've still been standing up for them and getting them a better deal."

Here, in comments from breakfast TV, the Prime Minister says he is backing the rapists. That might seem perplexing in light of his other remarks, but it is to be welcomed. As the NZ Commissioner for Human Rights put it this week: "One of the realities of human rights is they're called human rights because everybody has them". He is right to act to uphold the rights of New Zealand citizens, whether they be angels or thugs. And that is partly because ...

5. "You can measure a society by how it looks after its most vulnerable."

That's a line from Key's first speech as National Party leader, and he's repeated it numerous times since. They may be unsavoury people, many may be Australian-bred convicted criminals who have no interest in living here, but they are New Zealand citizens, they have very little power and they are vulnerable.

Representing their interests may not always be popular or pleasant, and obviously the suffering of their victims is invariably greater, but it is a function of leadership. Hollering "you back the rapists", by contrast, is fanning the flames of small-minded, fear-fuelled intolerance and hatred.

6. "No other bilateral relationship has the same immediacy and commonality as the links between Australia and New Zealand. We share common values, including a strong commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law."

That's a joint statement from last year, issued by Key and then Australian PM Tony Abbott. Australia, as it happens, was having its human rights record reviewed at the UN in Geneva this week. About half of the nations represented explicitly stated concern about Australia's detention centres. New Zealand did not.

7. "We do not need to go to Geneva to do that; we do it in person with the Prime Minister of Australia."

This is the PM in the House again. It's a puzzling one - surely it could be raised through both channels. New Zealand did after all voice various human rights concerns at Geneva, such as "indigenous and minority rights" and "the treatment of persons with disabilities".


The Prime Minister also acknowledged he had made no representations to the Australian PM since the riots broke out on Christmas Island.

8. "The UN was the opportunity under this periodic review to put the questions to Australia. And it feels like New Zealand has lost its balls ... It seems like we have rolled over, playing matey games with people who are abusing our citizens."

That isn't in fact the Prime Minister, but neither is it an opposition MP. It's Marama Fox, co-leader of the Government-supporting Maori Party.

9. "Our foreign policy lacks any commitment to human rights."

That also isn't the Prime Minister, of course, but neither is it an opposition MP. It's Peter Dunne, leader of the Government-supporting United Future party. Dunne reached that conclusion based on "the appallingly tardy response to the Syrian refugee crisis" and the weak response to Australia's "savage and inhumane policies", all of which was "symptomatic of a general malaise when it comes to standing up for human rights internationally".

Key may not wish to hear the criticisms from Labour and the Greens, but just maybe he should have a listen to Dunne, a man of mild manners. He concludes:

10. "We have a right to expect our foreign policy to be evocative of our independence and nationhood by upholding human rights and dignity, and to stand up for New Zealanders when and where necessary. It is time to abandon the chin-dripping subservience we are lapsing into."

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