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Hobbs Back In A Job, Samuels Could Be Promoted

Wellington Central MP Marion Hobbs can take back all of her Ministerial portfolios if she wants them, Prime Minister Helen Clark said at her post-cabinet press conference this afternoon.

“I make the decision about what she gets back … She has my confidence in taking back everything,” Miss Clark said. She said she is in discussion with Mrs Hobbs about what portfolios she wants.

Mrs Hobbs lost the broadcasting, biosecurity, environment, National Archives and National Library portfolios while the Auditor investigated her for allegedly wrongfully claiming an out of town accommodation allowance. The Auditor General’s report exonerated her from any wrongdoing.

“I think Hobbs has been most unfairly trashed and maligned,” Miss Clark said.

Asked if Mrs Hobbs was now owed an apology from her accusers, the Prime Minister said she couldn’t be bothered running around asking for apologies.

The Prime Minister confirmed that Tai Tokerau MP Dover Samuels, sacked from the Maori Affairs portfolio and relegated to the backbenches as allegations against him including rape and sex with a minor were investigated, could take a higher office as an under-secretary to Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton in his role as Economic Development Minister.

Mr Samuels was cleared of all charges, but the Prime Minister maintained his credibility had been tarnished because he didn’t disclose information about his past, and refused to reinstate him as Maori Affairs Minister.

Miss Clark said relations with Mr Samuels, which had been extremely frosty since his sacking, have improved since talks between the two in February.

She said progress on promoting Mr Samuels was “so so” and said one of the key issues was whether further skeletons from his past could reemerge to further embarrass the Government.

Miss Clark said innocence and guilt is not the issue, confidence and disclosure is. “[Labour MP for Wairarapa] Georgina Beyer had a colourful past. She wrote a book about it and rehabilitated herself,” the Prime Minister said.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is waiting on the report of the Registrar of Electors into Phillida Bunkle's enrolment before discussing with Alliance leader Jim Anderton whether she can have the customs and consumer affairs portfolios back.

The Auditor General’s report cleared Mrs Bunkle along with Mrs Hobbs of any wrongdoing in claiming an out of town allowance.

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