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PM a Risk to Taxpayers, Prebble says

PM a Risk to Taxpayers, Prebble says

Friday 11th May 2001 Richard Prebble Media Release -- Other

Attorney General Margaret Wilson’s attempt to justify the expenditure of more than $100,000 of taxpayers’ money to indemnify the Prime Minister for her reckless defamation, doesn’t stack up, ACT leader Richard Prebble says.

“Ms Wilson claims that this kind of payment is usual. It isn’t,” Mr Prebble said.

“The $55,000 payment, plus legal costs, is the largest settlement ever made by the taxpayer on behalf of a Minister in a defamation suit. It’s the first time the government has tried to make such a settlement in secret.”

Mr Prebble said the Attorney General should explain why she didn’t advise Parliament of the settlement, as has always been done in the past.

“To the best of my knowledge, no Prime Minister has ever had to pay out such a sum,” he said.

“Certainly, Jim Bolger never did in his eight years as Prime Minister, nor did Geoffrey Palmer, or Mike Moore or even Sir Robert Muldoon.

“Sir Robert was sued several times but won every case while he was Prime Minister. He lost once as Finance Minister and had to pay only a few thousand dollars.

“What should concern the Attorney General is that this is the second defamation case that Helen Clark has had to settle in less than two years.

“When she outrageously defamed a leading Auckland surgeon, for which she had to apologise and pay damages, the cost was believed to be more than $55,000. In that case, because she was Opposition Leader, she had to pay herself.

“It shows how indefensible this indemnity for the Prime Minister is,” Mr Prebble said.

“Our Prime Minister has a tendency to attack the man, not the issue, and speak without thinking, and this second case in two years shows our PM is now a real risk to the taxpayer.

“I could name a number of other New Zealanders who could sue the PM for defamation, including Kit Richards, the former Timberlands CEO and those distinguished civil servants she described as ‘geriatric generals’.”

Mr Prebble said in his 23 years in Parliament he had never received a lawyer’s letter related to defamation, so the idea that MPs face defamation cases all the time, just isn’t so. ”


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