Key under fire for comments on spies, Norway

John Key
John Key
Prime Minister John Key is under fire for his remarks linking the attacks in Norway to international terrorism and he has admitted confusing the public with his remarks about Israeli backpackers suspected of spying in New Zealand.

Last week Mr Key fuelled speculation by refusing to comment on a story about a Security Intelligence Service (SIS) inquiry into Israeli backpackers, who fled the country after the February Christchurch earthquake, saying it was a matter of national security. Later in the day he revealed the investigation found no evidence of a link between the group and Israeli intelligence, and also said police systems were not hacked.

Last month Mr Key said New Zealand troops were not involved in a fight at a hotel in Kabul when it was later revealed the Special Air Services team was.

During his visit to Washington, United States, Mr Key yesterday commented on the attacks in Norway which have left at least 92 dead following a bombing and a shooting massacre.

"If it is an act of global terrorism then I think what it shows is that no country, large or small, is immune from that risk," Mr Key said.

"And that's why New Zealand plays its part in Afghanistan as we try and join others like the United States to make the world a safer place."

Police are blaming an individual, 32-year-old Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik, for the massacre and bombing.

Labour leader Phil Goff said Mr Key should check his facts before making such leaps.

"It's obvious the prime minister was keen to justify our presence in Afghanistan and made an assumption that has since been proven to be absolutely incorrect," he told NZPA.

The comments were "premature" and "unfortunate".

"The opposite problem exists -- it wasn't Islamic terrorism it was a right wing Norwegian zealot concerned about immigration issues.

"Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, this event had nothing to do with the situation in Afghanistan and it was an assumption he wasn't entitled to make until he had the facts of the case."

The public trusted the prime minister to comment upon receiving advice from officials, Mr Goff said.

"He's got people around him all the time to make sure he is well briefed and well informed. That makes it all the more unacceptable for him to jump to conclusions without having checked those facts out first."

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said the comments were "deeply bizarre" and opportunistic.

"Key says we are in Afghanistan to fight Norwegian neo-nazis," he tweeted.

On TVNZ political show Question and Answer this morning, Mr Key was asked about his comments about the Israelis and said it was standard for prime ministers not to comment on matters of national security. However, he accepted that had sparked further speculation.

"So look, at the end of the day, I mean, I realised by the morning, you know, the impression that I had left wasn't sustainable. If I replayed the video and did it all again I'd probably start where I ended six hours later but it comes with the territory.

"Sometimes you don't get it perfectly right in the first moment."

Mr Goff said Mr Key took 12 hours to correct a statement that had caused confusion.

"If he starts speculating on things as he did on Norway, as he did on the Israeli backpackers, then that has consequences."

Mr Key also told the programme that while the parliamentary select committee which looks at security issues had not been briefed, Mr Goff had.

"Phil Goff was briefed, that's right. I personally didn't brief him but my understanding from the director of SIS, Warren Tucker, is that he was briefed and he was shown the same note and report that I saw."

Mr Goff said that was wrong.

"I haven't seen any note and report."

Mr Key was not available for comment.




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