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Alliance Minister Passed Over For UNHCR Meeting

Sport Minister Trevor Mallard will replace Associate Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Matt Robson at a United Nations High Commission for Refugees meeting in Geneva this week, in a move that appears to be yet another snub to the junior coalition partner.

The switch is being made to allow the Sport Minister to fly on to Sir Peter Blake’s funeral in Hampshire, England, on Friday, Prime Minister Helen Clark said during her post cabinet press conference yesterday.

A spokesperson for Alliance minister Matt Robson said the decision had been made purely on budgetary grounds.

But the move comes as disquiet within the Alliance about the party’s invisibility within the coalition government continues to simmer, and the party’s fortunes plunge further in the opinion polls.

Support for the Alliance fell 1.4 points to 2.9 per cent in yesterday’s TV3/CM Research poll.

Mr Robson, who is the Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, was scheduled to attend the UNHCR Ministerial meeting on the 1951 Refugee Convention on December 12 and 13, in Geneva where he said New Zealand would be strongly supporting a proposal for dealing with explosive remnants of war.

"Cluster bombs, anti-vehicle mines and unexploded ammunition left behind after conflict are one of the major impediments to people trying to rebuild their lives," he said in a statement last week.

Meanwhile Miss Clark says she is also considering attending Sir Peter’s funeral because of the high esteem the yachtsman commands among New Zealanders.

The Prime Minister also cited as a reason for her attendance at the funeral her very recent visit to Sir Peter’s boat, the Seamaster, where he was murdered by pirates last week.

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