What was the content of the text message she received from Richie Hardcore about Karel Sroubek?

The full transcript from Hansard is below.

Question No. 2: Prime Minister

2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader?National) to the Prime Minister: What was the content of the text message she received from Richie Hardcore about Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: An unsolicited message from Richie Hardcore expressing his opinion on the Karel Sroubek decision was received after the decision was made, and seeing as I have got about 50,000 communications in the last year, it is not in the public interest to release the contents of all of those messages.

Hon Simon Bridges: Will she not release the precise content?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: There is no requirement for the Prime Minister to release any information that came in confidentially?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Most open, transparent Government!

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: We don’t need a dictate from Nick Smith about openness and transparency. If you’re talking about a lack of integrity and dishonesty, yes, I’d listen to him, but when it comes to talking about?

SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister will resume her seat. I want to remind the Deputy Prime Minister that he is answering for the Prime Minister. He has reflected on the integrity of a member in a way which is not in keeping with her normal kind approach. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Quite right, Mr Speaker. I apologise.

SPEAKER: And withdraw.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: And, obviously, withdraw.

Hon Simon Bridges: When she said earlier today that the text was from Richie Hardcore, stating he “knew the individual in question”?that is Sroubek?can she elaborate on that and why she thinks Richie Hardcore would send her such a text?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister?

SPEAKER: No, I am going to ask the Leader of the Opposition to rephrase at least the second part of it, because it goes to the state of mind of an individual for whom she has no ministerial responsibility.

Hon Simon Bridges: When she said earlier today the text message was from Richie Hardcore stating he “knew the individual in question”?that is, Sroubek?can she elaborate on that?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, a simple message, which, if pronounced properly, is quite capable of being understood.

Hon Simon Bridges: What does that mean?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That means he expressed an opinion in a text supporting a decision that had been made prior to when he sent the text and prior to any idea from the Prime Minister’s point of view that this was going to be an expression that she would receive. I would believe that there would be many, many other people who expressed opinions on all sorts of matters. To construct that as being in some way engaged in persuading the decision maker is utter poppycock.

Hon Simon Bridges: Can she elaborate, when her chief press secretary said yesterday that the text was “commending the Sroubeck decision”, on what was meant by that and why she thinks Richie Hardcore would commend her?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf the Prime Minister, frequently, acting as a Prime Minister and being the Prime Minister, messages are received which are, really, a comment on what fellow Ministers have done, but, nevertheless, the communication goes to the Prime Minister, seen to be the number one Minister of the land. It’s not complicated. In this case, a very simple text arrived saying that this person agreed with the decision?a decision, of course, which at that point in time had already been made, and well before the Prime Minister ever knew of the communication, and then no reply was sent back from the Prime Minister. To impute some sort of malicious, malignant engagement, which has been the last two weeks of their line of questioning, shows you what a bunch of Philadelphia lawyers they are.

Hon Simon Bridges: Given that the Prime Minister’s happy to discuss so much of the detail of the text, why doesn’t she just release its precise words?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, there’s no way this Government is going to infringe upon the privacy rights of all manner of people that communicate, just to satisfy a political leader in such desperate trouble to get attention.

Hon Simon Bridges: So, to confirm, was the text a thank-you text?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The reality is that the text wasn’t a thank-you text at all.

Hon Simon Bridges: Well, you just said it was.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, no, don’t say, “Yes, it was.” No, it wasn’t. On behalf of the Prime Minister, it wasn’t. What it said was that, in short, it appreciated that?that person perceived the decision to be the right one. But then, of course, countless emails and texts came in saying the reverse, none of which in any way had any shape of influence on the original decision, which has to be the point that that member needs to get home before any other conclusion can be arrived at.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has the Deputy Prime Minister seen the precise words of the text?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I cannot possibly comment on the widespread research of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Hon Simon Bridges: What date was the text received on?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I don’t have that information at this point in time but I do know it was subsequent to the decision being made.

Hon Simon Bridges: When can we see submissions on the Sroubek deportation file by Richie Hardcore?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, not making this the final conclusion, but whenever has there been a case of such submissions being made privately to a Minister or anyone else and becoming immediately public property? We’re not going to infringe upon people’s human rights and rights of freedom and privacy just to satisfy a recalcitrant, malignant line of questioning based on nothing so much as a rumour.

Hon Simon Bridges: When did she notify her chief press secretary or any member of her staff of the text she had received from her friend Richie Hardcore?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, that question cannot be answered today?not that there may not be an answer to it, but because it was not significant. Like so many communications, there was no reason to rush off and tell anybody. That’s why there was no reply from the Prime Minister, because being flat out, working 18 hours a day, and getting all these tens and tens of thousands of communications, such a thing could be construed as a mere bagatelle.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why did her chief press secretary go to the press gallery after 6 p.m. yesterday to advise journalists of the text received by her from her friend Richie Hardcore?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Because the press secretary, being the responsible person that he is, realised the perverse misinterpretations that were being put around this country and he sought to forestall those, roadblock them down with honesty, and that’s what he’s done.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why was it only yesterday the text was disclosed, given questions were raised about Richie Hardcore’s role as far back as 7 November in this House?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, where this decision was concerned, Richie Hardcore had no role at all?end of story.

Hon Simon Bridges: How can we know that, when we won’t see the precise words of the text?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, who’s renowned for her honesty, take our word for it.

Hon Simon Bridges: In regard to her chief press secretary, was she?that is, the Prime Minister?hoping the press gallery would not pick up on the matter, given it was after 6 p.m. yesterday? [Interruption]

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, it was foreseeable that some in the press gallery, as is their wont to do, believe in fake news, and will pick up on it. But I have noticed that all questions and investigations today where that member is concerned have been challenging his conclusions to such a pathetic piece of material evidence.

SPEAKER: I didn’t want to interrupt members, but I have given some additional questions to the National Party as a result of the interjections while that question was being asked.

Hon Simon Bridges: How many texts has she received from Richie Hardcore since she became Prime Minister?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I’m unable to answer that question. That member will have to put it down in written form and on notice, and he’s got a couple of days to do it.

Hon Simon Bridges: What is her understanding about why Richie Hardcore would text her about his friend?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, this is becoming more and more an obtuse line of questioning. The fact of the matter is probably 50,000-plus people have communicated with the Prime Minister’s office and the Prime Minister in the last year?maybe much more than that. But here’s the point: which part of the question concerns, Mr Bridges, any evidence of any wrongdoing at all?

Hon Simon Bridges: Have 50,000 people got the Prime Minister’s cellphone number?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, about 50,000 have got mine. I think probably about 100,000 have got hers.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is Richie Hardcore a close friend of hers?

SPEAKER: Order! That is not a matter for prime ministerial responsibility.

Question No. 3?Immigration
3. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Other than Karel Sroubek’s lawyer and family members, who made representations on his behalf in respect of the deportation liability that was the subject of the Minister’s decision on 19 September 2018?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): I refer the member to the answer I gave when he asked me the same question yesterday.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: When he said yesterday that some people had requested anonymity, is former martial arts champion Mr Richie Hardcore one of those who requested anonymity?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: As I have said a number of times, I do not consider that it is in the public interest to name specific individuals. However?however?given that the Prime Minister has confirmed that she received unsolicited communication from Richie Hardcore, I am prepared to confirm to the House that I did not receive any communication from him prior to making my decision.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he consider an unsolicited text from a friend of Karel Sroubek to the Prime Minister to be a form of representation?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Not when it comes?

Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What ministerial responsibility does the Minister of Immigration have for text messages that are sent to the Prime Minister?

SPEAKER: I’m prepared to let the question go, because it could well be?if the timing was different and the Prime Minister did something with it, it could be a representation.

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Not when it comes?

Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That wasn’t the question. If the member asked that question, it would be a legitimate question. That wasn’t the question that he asked. The Minister has no responsibility for the topic of the question that was asked. He could word his question in a different way to get it to a Minister’s responsibility, but the Minister doesn’t have that responsibility.

SPEAKER: Yes. I’m going to ask the member to ask it again. I thought it was right at the tangential edge of responsibility, and I let it run, and I haven’t been convinced otherwise.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Speaking to the point of order?

SPEAKER: No, no. Just ask the question again so we get it straight. If it’s badly out, I’ll rule it out.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Well, I’ll reserve the right to speak to it. Would he consider an unsolicited text from a friend of Karel Sroubek to the Prime Minister to be a form of representation?

Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The text message in question happened after the fact?after the Minister had made the decision. He has no responsibility for it.

SPEAKER: And we have had a number of questions about representations to the Minister. The Minister’s interpretation of whether something is a representation or not is something which he can explain to the House. I think he’s perfectly capable of doing that. Frankly, the more I listen to the question, the more I think about it, the less merit I think the Leader of the House has.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

SPEAKER: No. I’ve asked the Minister to answer the question. There can’t be a point of order.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Well, it goes to the merit of the question. I would point out that the primary question was carefully worded not to include representations to the Minister of Immigration, but about the deportation.

SPEAKER: That’s right, and if I’d ruled it out, the member might have a point, but I’ve ruled it in.

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: No, because a representation has to have some bearing on the decision that I make.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Has there been any communication between the Prime Minister and himself with regards to the text message from Richie Hardcore, and when did that first occur?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Yes, after I made the second decision.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Given he is now playing?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Tell Richie we’ve changed our mind.

SPEAKER: Order! I’ve just reversed my earlier decision. Thank you.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Given he is now playing the process of elimination game which he ruled out yesterday, will he now disclose the names of all submitters who made representations?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: No. As I said, I do not consider it in the public interest to name specific individuals. The only reason I’ve named Mr Hardcore is because his name has been raised in relation to the Prime Minister.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he not agree, though, that we have now reached the point where public interest outweighs any issues of privacy with respect to the deportation liability of Mr Sroubek?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: No. I don’t want people who, in good faith, made representations to be a subject of a witch hunt from that member.

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