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Tamihere - Personal Explanation To the House

Hon John Tamihere - Personal Explanation To the House 3 November

Over recent weeks a number of false, but serious allegations have been made about me. This morning I met with Mr Douglas White QC. On the basis of information I have made available to him I am confident that his inquiry will find that I have done nothing wrong. I wish to take this opportunity to deal with the range of false allegations in order to set the record straight for the House.

The allegation is that I did not pay tax on a payment I received from the Waipareira Trust. This allegation is groundless. The payment was made net of tax, this has been accepted by the Trust. I am advised that I have met all of my obligations to the Inland Revenue Department, Mr Speaker.

Second allegation – election expenses. I confirm that I provided a written declaration with my election expenses in 1999 and that in all respects they are correct. Allegations to the contrary have no substance.

The register of Minister's interests – another allegation. I confirm that my ministerial declarations are absolutely correct. In regard to an interest in Maori land the fact is that I have not succeeded to any interest and will not succeed to my father's interests because they will be vested in a Whanau Trust. Allegations were made that I should have declared an interest in two titles in the West Auckland area. Mr Speaker I have no beneficial interest in these properties. I am only a trustee for my nieces and nephews. My declaration is correct and the cabinet office have confirmed that.

The Toyota – allegations have been made against me about a second-hand Toyota vehicle that was provided to me as a Director of Westland Limited. I have always believed that I dealt with that issue according to my arrangements with the company and with the Trust. I have no knowledge of the payments of insurance. I have no knowledge of the insurance company. This is a matter that will be clarified by the White Inquiry and again I am confident that you will find I have done nothing wrong.

I come now to the Paragon Report. The media and Opposition members have made much ado about this report. I confirm that on the 29 October, 2004, last Friday, I contacted the Serious Fraud Office and I handed a full copy of the Paragon Report across to them asking them to investigate the matter urgently and expeditiously. It was me who referred the report to the SFO as I wanted the matter addressed properly and correctly.

It is correct that as Chief Executive Officer of the Waipareira Trust, I signed cheque requisition forms for hundreds of thousands of dollars at various times. That was part of my job. I state to this House that I have never signed forms authorising cash payment to which is what led to payments identified in the Paragon Report. I state to the House that I was not aware of any invalid invoices. I was not a recipient of any of the payments referred to in the Paragon Report. I have absolutely nothing to hide, which is why I instigated and welcome the SFO inquiry and the White Inquiry and I will continue to co-operate fully with those inquiries.

I come now Mr Speaker to the final matter. The final matter is the so-called golden handshake. The Rt Hon Winston Peters raised this matter in the House, 27 July 1999 by way of questions in the House. A large part of the so-called $195,000 package consisted of salary and performance bonus from previous years. Some of that had already been paid.

The balance was an ex-gratia payment from my overall contributions to the Trust over eight years as Chief Executive. I decided not to accept the ex-gratia payment and said so publicly at the time. I was again contacted by senior members of the Trust, including our Kuia, Auntie June Mariu, Chairperson, and the Trust Secretary, Mr Reg Ratahi . I did change my mind and I decided to accept the ex-gratia component of the payment following the election of 1999. It is correct that I did not advise the Prime Minister that I accepted this component of the package, for that I deeply regret.

Of course I was ware that we had campaigned in regard to golden handshakes. It was clear in my mind that this was not the kind that we were talking about here. During my years as CEO of the Waipareira Trust, the staff grew from 12 to 240, the assets from a million to 12 million [dollars]. Contrary to some claims, most of those increases in assets came from wise investment and management. The Trust made an ex-gratia payment to me, because they were grateful to me. I have broken no law and I am confident that Mr White's inquiry will find no improper behaviour on my part.

I have resigned from Caninet today because I did change my mind and accept a golden handshake. I did not tell my Prime Minister and some see that as hypocrisy and I will do my time. I came to Wellington to not just serve as a Minister but to work for my constituents. I could not, in all good conscience continue to take a cabinet salary awaiting the outcome of an inquiry three weeks from now.

There are significant ranges of work sir and I have come down here to represent my constituents from Tamaki Makauru

ENDS

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