Ministerial Interference Means Turia Must Go
The gross interference by the Associate Minister of Corrections in a number of cases involving prison inmates is extremely serious and raises questions about Tariana Turia's fitness to hold a Ministerial Warrant, National MP Tony Ryall said today.
Documents obtained by National under the Official Information Act over a period of months show a pattern of behaviour, dating back to early last year, that goes well beyond the acceptable conduct of a Minister.
"I don't think we've ever seen a situation where a Minister has so systematically involved herself in day-to-day inmate management issues such as placement and security classification.
"Is this the culture that is allowed by the Clark Government? There are very good reasons why Ministers do not and should not have the power to make directions about individual inmates placement and security classification.
"Some people may say this is just an MP doing their job and writing on behalf of constituents. But Tariana Turia's letters go much further than that. She directed and demanded actions from the department in her capacity as Associate Minister of Corrections. The letters on inmates A, H and J were all on ministerial letterhead or from her ministerial computers and signed 'Associate Minister of Corrections'.
"These documents raise questions about the nature of the inmates' relationship with the Associate Minister. We know from parliamentary questions to Matt Robson that Tariana Turia has not declared any 'conflict of interest or family interest relating to any communication or action regarding an individual inmate'.
"However, Tariana Turia notes in correspondence with Corrections 'you will be aware of my relationship with [inmate]' and 'you will be aware that I have a particular interest in the situation for [inmate]'. Any failure to declare a conflict of interest is a serious breach of the Cabinet Manual.
"The Associate Minister of Corrections may decide to make an apology to the public of New Zealand. This will not be acceptable. We know from the past that Tariana Turia's apologies are hollow. She has to go," Mr Ryall said.