Labour MPs change minds about Chinese expert submissions

A quick change of stance after Labour MPs block China expert from speaking at select committee.

RNZ: Labour MPs backtrack on Anne-Marie Brady committee decision

Labour MPs have backtracked on their decision to block China expert Anne-Marie Brady from speaking at Parliament after push-back from the Opposition.

Professor Brady had asked to address MPs about foreign interference in elections as part of a justice committee inquiry, but the request was turned down yesterday when the four Labour MPs voted against it.

A government spokesperson said the committee chair, Labour MP Raymond Huo, had a rethink overnight and the committee would briefly reopen submissions to the public later this year.

Mr Huo declined to be interviewed by RNZ, but in a written statement he said he “welcomed” new submissions.

He said yesterday’s decision to block Prof Brady was “purely procedural” and denied he had shifted stance under pressure.

“That’s my own initiative,” Mr Huo said.

However, just hours earlier Mr Huo made no mention of that position in a separate statement sent to RNZ.

“As Committee Chair, I am satisfied that the correct procedure has been followed and that the [intelligence] agencies will keep the committee well informed about any issues of foreign interference that may arise,” he said.

Public attention seems to have had an effect.

Committee member and National MP Nick Smith yesterday called for the committee to reconsider, saying Parliament should hear from New Zealand’s most published academic around the risks of overseas interference in elections.

Dr Smith this afternoon told RNZ he was pleased Mr Huo had had a “change of heart”, but said it was only because he had spoken out.

“It’s blatantly obvious that the Beehive has recognised that silencing an academic on as issue as sensitive as protecting New Zealand from foreign interference was a really bad look and they’ve had to reconsider.”

Newsroom: Govt set to U-turn on Brady block

Committee chairman and Labour MP Raymond Huo, who has featured in Brady’s work for his supposed ties to Chinese government representatives, defended the decision on Thursday, saying it was “purely procedural” given the close of public submissions.

However, a spokesman for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Newsroom that Huo had reconsidered the Labour MPs’ original decision upon reflection.

He would discuss the inquiry at the committee next week, with a view to reopening it to public submissions from Brady and others.

While the decision to prevent Brady from speaking had been procedurally correct, the spokesman said there was merit in hearing from her and any others who wished to submit on the issue of foreign interference.

Neither Ardern nor anyone in her office had spoken to Huo about the committee’s initial decision, the spokesman said.

Jacinda Ardern said on 1 News tonight that the Labour MPs had had a change of mind and she thought that was a wise change of position, but kept a distance from that change of stance.

Labour MPs block China expert from speaking at select committee

An odd vote by Labour MPs in the Justice select committee (NZH): Labour MPs vote against allowing China expert Anne-Marie Brady to speak at justice select committee

Labour MPs on the justice select committee have voted against allowing China politics expert Anne-Marie Brady to make a submission on foreign interference in elections.

National MPs supported Brady, a professor at Canterbury University, giving her view on the issue which is a focus of the committee’s inquiry into the 2017 general election and 2016 local elections.

The eight-strong committee is evenly split between National and Labour MPs and today’s vote against means Brady cannot appear.

That’s a strange and concerning exclusion of an expert opinion by the Labour MPs.

National MP Nick Smith, who is a member of the committee, said it was concerning that Labour blocked Brady from making a submission on the critical issue of protecting New Zealand from foreign interference in its democracy.

“This has become a huge issue in other liberal democracies, whether it’s the United States, Australia, UK, Canada or Western Europe.

“If the committee is going to do its job for Parliament, we need access to both government officials but also New Zealand’s most published author on the subject,” Smith told the Herald.

He said the Labour MPs’ reasons for blocking Brady’s appearance were “disingenuous”.

“They said ‘we should only hear from government officials’ when Parliament needs to be able to hear from a wide range of expert views to be able to complete its inquiry successfully”.

They only want to hear what they want to hear?

Justice committee chairman Labour MP Raymond Huo said the decision to decline Brady’s late request was purely procedural.

Exluding an expert opinion seems hardly ‘purely procedural’.

Brady said in a statement that the coalition Government had made it clear in two public strategy documents, as well as classified briefing papers made public, that it was very concerned about foreign interference activities in New Zealand and wanted address them.

“New Zealand needs to pull together as a country to face this problem, and we need a bipartisan approach to solving it.

“The Government must pass new legislation which will address foreign interference in our political system, and it needs to talk directly about the problem to the public, so they can make informed choices and understand what the concerns are”.

Labour’s openness and transparency and fairness seem to have been forgotten here.

Ardern won’t condemn China over Anne-Marie Brady

“I wouldn’t want to set any expectation that I’d be generally briefed on an individual’s case… I expect that based on what [police] investigation concludes, that they would act appropriately,” PM Jacinda Ardern says, of the Anne-Marie Brady case.

Jacinda Ardern told us she wouldn’t intervene in how the Police investigated Dr Brady’s complaint. She says she had no reports that national security issues were involved.

 

Academic researching China burgled

There may be a couple of coincidences here, but this does deserve some scrutiny.

NZ Herald:  NZ academic who made headlines researching China’s influence links break-ins to her work

A New Zealand academic who made international waves researching China’s international influence campaigns has linked a number of recent break-ins to her work.

University of Canterbury professor Anne-Marie Brady, speaking today from Christchurch to the Australian Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee in Canberra, outlined three recent events which caused her concern.

“I had a break-in in my office last December. I received a warning letter, this week, that I was about to attacked. And yesterday I had a break-in at my house,” she said.

She said this weeks’ burglary at her Upper Riccarton home was particularly suspicious.

“I had three laptops – including one used for work – stolen. And phones. [Other] valuables weren’t taken. Police are now investigating that.”

Brady also said her employer at Canterbury University had been pressured following earlier work on China’s Antarctic policy and – following a recent visit to China – sources she had talked to were subjected to visits from authorities.

“People I’ve associated with in China, just last year, were questioned by the Chinese Ministry of State Security about their association with me.”

Her outspokenness became extremely public after she published in September a “Magic Weapons” paper using New Zealand as a case study in explaining China’s extra-state exertion of influence.

It looks like real cause for concern.

Contacted for comment, the police, citing complaint privacy, declined to answer questions about Brady’s break-ins.

Questions to the Security Intelligence Service were met with a statement from director Rebecca Kitteridge, who said: “I cannot comment on individual cases”.

Standard responses in the circumstances, but I hope they are having a good look at who might have been behind the thefts.