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Bunkle’s Not My Problem, Goodbye - PM Off To Andes

Prime Minister Helen Clark is flying to South America tonight for a holiday in the Andes, leaving Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton to question Alliance Minister Phillida Bunkle about her taxpayer-owned Oriental Bay apartment tomorrow.

Miss Clark said she did not want to make any decisions until she had a proper report from Mr Anderton, who will speak to Ms Bunkle when she arrives back in the country from Australia.

The Prime Minister said she will be in touch with Mr Anderton from the Andes, but said he may be able to take any action necessary himself under his authority as acting Prime Minister.

Miss Clark said she did not know the Wellington based Ms Bunkle, who is the Consumer Affairs Minister, had been allocated the Apartment by Ministerial Services. She had instructed Ministerial services that Wellington-based ministers should not get a ministerial home.

She said that while Ministers not based in Wellington often own property in the capital, it tends to be more in the nature of a very small ‘bachelor pad’ type apartment.

Ms Bunkle, who owns a small Thorndon residence close to Parliament that she is renting out, said she was offered the rent-free apartment by Ministerial Services.

She said she would be keeping a closer eye on spending by Ministerial Services, after learning $5600 had been spent on new hemp curtains and $2770 had been approved for double glazing in a bedroom.

The Prime Minister said the cost of installing a dishwasher, quoted to Ministerial Services at $3500, was excessive and she understood $1500 was a more reasonable price.

In a mock-pompous voice she quoted Ministerial Services, who said the Kitchen was very small and required extensive renovation to fit the dishwasher, and said the hemp curtains were not top of the line.

Miss Clark said she had documents that showed $20,000 was spent on National Deputy Leader Wyatt Creech’s ministerial residence within 4-5 months during the previous Government’s term, and said he would be advised not to persue the issue too strenuously.

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