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Ministers struck by March Madness

Roger Sowry Shadow Leader of the House

30 March 2001

Ministers struck by March Madness

A pattern of inaccuracy is emerging from the Beehive with four Ministers having to retract answers given in the House because they got it wrong, and that's just in the last two weeks, Shadow Leader of the House Roger Sowry said today.

"The Ministers seem to have been struck by March Madness. What's next, April Fools?

"Four Government Ministers, including the Prime Minister, have given incorrect answers in Parliament and then apologised or corrected themselves later.

* Pete Hodgson, when under fire from Nick Smith about using clear-felled African timber in the Beehive, claimed anegre timber was also used in Te Papa. He apologised six days later when the story had died down.

* Trevor Mallard tried to deflect criticism of Peter Davis by drawing spouses of two National MPs into his reply and later circulating a dirt file on MPs spouses. He later apologised for getting his allegations wrong.

* Mark Gosche was under pressure when it was discovered a state house tenant earns $125,000 a year. He said it happened under National but when the truth was revealed via questioning of officials in a select committee (the tenant was placed in February 2000) Gosche apologised to Parliament.

* In an attempt to hide a golden handshake at the Historic Places Trust, the Prime Minister lumped together payouts from different departments. She later corrected the figure in the House blaming officials for providing the wrong information. The Government is still hiding behind confidential clauses in an attempt to keep the payout secret.

"In addition to these incorrect answers in the House, the Government is also developing a habit of saying the wrong thing outside of it.

* Michael Cullen got it wrong when he blamed Quotable Value for 'inadequate' advice over the issue of taxing compensation to farmers for paying higher Maori land rentals. Quotable Value were contracted to provide valuations, not tax advice and the allegation is commercially damaging.

* We have another apology in the pipeline from George Hawkins as it looks like he gave the wrong answer in response to a written question from David Carter about the use of volunteer Firefighters when paid Firefighters stayed in their station watching the Rugby Sevens.

"When the Government comes under pressure they resort to inaccurate statements in an attempt to shut down a story. A few days later once media attention has died down they fess up, but try to absolve themselves of blame by blaming staff or officials.

"They don't seem to realise that in politics, the buck stops with the Minister," Mr Sowry said.

Ends

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