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PM Ducks For Cover Over Welfare Merger & Rankin

Wednesday 2nd May 2001 Dr Muriel Newman Media Release -- Social Welfare

Helen Clark is deliberately dodging questions aimed at revealing her key role in the Christine Rankin affair and the proposed merger of the Department of Work and Income and the Ministry of Social Policy, ACT Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman said today.

“When I filed an oral question for the Prime Minister today about her pivotal role in this matter she chose to refer the question instead to State Services Minister Trevor Mallard – despite the fact that the question was directed solely at Helen Clark.

“Later, I gave the Prime Minister, who was present in Parliament, the opportunity to answer the question instead of Mr Mallard and she refused.

“Why is she doing this? She is doing this because if she started answering questions it would be revealed that she was a driving force in a sham merger dreamed up purely to get rid of Christine Rankin.

“The earliest dated document among those released by the Government on the merger is a letter on December 18, from the State Services Commissioner stating: ‘Dear Prime Minister, YOU have asked for my views about the future of the Ministry of Social Policy and the possibility of amalgamation with the Department of Work and Income’.

“Bizarrely, despite the State Services Commissioner’s clear recollection that it was the Prime Minister who asked him for information, Trevor Mallard today tried to claim that ‘I asked to have the Prime Minister supplied with a briefing on the possibility of this merger’. How can he claim this when the most senior public servant has said something totally different?

“The Prime Minister’s deliberate evasion is extending to her responses to written Parliamentary questions as well. Questions simply asking her about meetings and discussions relating to the merger are being met with a blanket: ‘This question touches on issues awaiting judicial decision. It is therefore inappropriate for me to comment’.

“This is again bizarre. If the Prime Minister says she won’t answer questions about the merger because of the pending court case from Ms Rankin, then how does she square this with her reported comment on April 23 that the merger ‘had nothing to do with getting rid of Christine Rankin’.

“It is time Helen Clark fronted up to the people of New Zealand and started answering questions,” Dr Newman said.


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