Has he received any reports as to whether the free speech rights of New Zealand athletes participating at the Olympic Games in Beijing are being violated by the New Zealand Olympic Committee’s demand that our athletes must agree in writing beforehand not to make statements or demonstrations regarding political, religious, or racial matters; if not, why not?
I have received varying reports on this issue. I have expressed my reservations to the New Zealand Olympic Committee and can advise the House that the New Zealand Olympic Committee board today advised that it has agreed to recommend to the Athletes Commission that clause 7.1(c) in the athletes’ agreement be amended so that it is consistent with the Olympic Charter.
I appreciate the Minister’s intervention; will he be pushing for not only clause 7.1(c) but also clause 7.1(d), which prevents any of the athletes writing blogs while they are in Beijing, to be eliminated, as we have a situation where Australia and Canada do not prevent their athletes from writing blogs?
I am not aware of the particular clause that the member is referring to. I believe that the debate was around clause 7.1(c). I am advised that that clause was signed off over 8 years ago and is reviewed before and after each Olympics with the Athletes Commission, but, as I say, I am advised today that the board will recommend to the commission that the clause be consistent—like other nations—with the Olympic Charter.
Does the Minister agree—and I think he might—that one of the benefits of giving the Olympics to China was to be able to put the spotlight on the human rights situation there and, hopefully, to improve it, and that it would help if the athletes going there, including New Zealand athletes, are able to criticise any human rights abuses they see?
I am aware that Beijing’s winning of the hosting rights for the next Olympic Games provides a superb showcase for the Olympic movement and for world sport. As to the other issues that the member raises, I have no responsibility for foreign policy.
In light of the last answer, can the Minister advise the House why it is that successive New Zealand Governments and sporting bodies have been very keen to speak out when they have seen situations in other countries that they do not approve of, but have been remarkably loathe over the years to speak out about similar situations in China; why is there such a double standard?
I think it would be appropriate for the member to address that question to the sporting bodies he seeks an answer from.
Would it not help the situation for sporting bodies if the Government were to set an example of encouraging free speech and not create a climate around the coming free trade agreement, where it is all softly, softly on criticism of the gross human rights abuses that occur in China today—and we have examples of the Nick Wang case and other cases?
The last two questions have been quite broad and stretched the limits of ministerial responsibility, and I think that one goes right outside it. Does the Minister wish to—