Energy Minister Challenged to Release Full Meeting Details Over Misleading Parliament Accusation

Press release - June 4, 2013
Energy Minister Challenged to Release Full Meeting Details Over Misleading Parliament Accusation.

Under-fire Government minister Simon Bridges is today being challenged to release full details of a meeting he had with oil company Shell if he is to clear accusations that he misled Parliament.

UPDATE: Bunny McDiarmid, Executive Director of Greenpeace New Zealand has written to The Honourable Mr Simon Bridges, Minister for Energy and Resources requesting that he "release, completely un-redacted, all minutes from the meeting between Shell NZ and yourself" from the valentines day meeting.

Bridges had denied having contact with oil companies about the controversial Crown Minerals Bill amendment, which concerns protests at sea. But when it emerged last week that he had met Shell just weeks before announcing the amendment, the Labour Party said it ‘appears that Mr Bridges misled Parliament’.

Greenpeace is now asking the energy minister to release full, uncensored details of the meeting Bridges admits to having with Shell on 14 February 2013.  No details of that meeting have so far been released, but it has recently been revealed that Shell had already expressed their concern about offshore protests with the government just months earlier. Little over a month after meeting Shell, Bridges announced plans to criminalise aspects of protesting at sea.

In a letter to Bridges, Greenpeace’s executive director, Bunny McDiarmid, says that releasing all the details of the 14 February meeting  ‘is the only way that you can restore confidence that you have not misled Parliament or the public on this matter and assure us that you are dispatching your responsibility as Minister in the interests of all New Zealanders.

’Steve Abel, Greenpeace’s energy campaigner, said: “Simon Bridges will have these accusations of misleading Parliament hanging over his head until he releases all the details of the meeting he had with Shell.

“This Bill has already been criticised for breaking international law, it’s been hammered by politicians and lawyers, and is opposed by ordinary New Zealanders. And now he’s facing a serious accusation of misleading Parliament.

“That’s why we’re asking him to release the details of the meeting. It’s the only way he can clear his name.”

Rt Hon Sir Edmund (Ted) Thomas said: “The removal of the right to protest at sea infringes a long-standing democratic right. The process by which that right is removed should be open and transparent and allow for informed discussion and debate. It is the Minister’s responsibility to ensure that this is the case.”

In a joint statement, Greenpeace, Rt Hon Geoffrey Palmer QC, Peter Williams QC, WWF, Forest and Bird, Dame Anne Salmond, Rikirangi Gage of Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Sir Ngatata Love, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, George Armstrong (founder of the Peace Squadron), Amnesty International NZ, Lucy Lawless and many others, said that energy minister Simon Bridges’ ‘new law is a sledgehammer designed to attack peaceful protest” and is “being bundled through Parliament without proper scrutiny despite its significant constitutional, democratic and human rights implications.’

Around 45,000 people have now added their name to the statement.

The amendments to the Crown Minerals Bill, announced by Simon Bridges on Easter Sunday, ‘breach international law, and attack our democratic freedoms’ said the group.

Legal advice has already found ‘that the proposed amendments to the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill would breach international law in a number of respects.’

The proposals include penalties up to $50,000 for an individual, up to 12 months imprisonment and up to $100,000 for a body corporate, and enable the Navy or a police officer to nominate assistants who can stop and detain a ship entering an exclusion zone, remove a person from an exclusion zone. All these parties carry next to no criminal or civil liabilities for anything that happens as a result.