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Registrar Cop-Out Leaves Bunkle Decision To PM

Prime Minister Helen Clark has called the Registrar of Electors’ report, which failed to reach a conclusion on whether or not Alliance MP Phillida Bunkle’s enrollment in Wellington Central was valid or not, a cop out.

“It seems curious to say that Ms Bunkle probably wrongly interpreted the act and then not draw a conclusion from that,” She said. “The report is confused and confusing. If the registrar can’t make decisions the Deputy Prime Minister and I will.”

The Prime Minister said it hasn’t been decided whether or not Ms Bunkle will get back her Customs and Consumer Affairs portfolios, which she relinquished while her enrollment and ministerial allowances were investigated, and she wasn’t giving enough away at this afternoon’s post-Cabinet press conference to confidently predict what the decision will be.

The Prime Minister did, however, drop enough hints to have Ms Bunkle worrying. She said there were obvious distinctions between her case and Marion Hobbs’ case and said living somewhere for a month isn’t reason to enroll there if your primary place of residence is somewhere else. Ms Bunkle was enrolled in Wellington Central while her primary place of residence was her home in Waikanae.

The Prime Minister said it was Ms Bunkle’s circumstances that were confusing more than the Electoral Act, although she said she had some suggestions about how the Act could be made clearer, including having list MPs stay in the electorate they were enrolled in at the time of an election for the purposes of allowances.

Miss Clark said Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton was meeting with Ms Bunkle this afternoon, then Mr Anderton and the Prime Minister will discuss the issue further.

The Prime Minister cited trust, confidence, natural justice and fair play as the key issues in deciding whether to reinstate Ms Bunkle. But she said Ms Bunkle will continue to be a target for opposition attacks, and said that will be a factor in the decision she comes to with Mr Anderton.

She said Mr Anderton would go to the Alliance caucus tomorrow with an understanding already agreed to by the two of them.

An announcement on Ms Bunkle’s future will be made after tomorrow’s Alliance Caucus meeting.

“It’s my decision that the Governor General sign ministerial warrants,” she said, indicating that the decision ultimately rested with her.

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