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Inquiry now needed into Minister's interference


Tony Ryall National MP

8 November 2001

Inquiry now needed into Minister's interference

The growing case of ministerial interference against Tariana Turia clearly shows that an official inquiry is now needed if New Zealanders are to have any confidence in the running of our prisons, National MP Tony Ryall said today.

"Tariana Turia has made verbal and written demands and directions on behalf of inmates in her capacity as Associate Minister of Corrections. Today in Parliament National released more information showing Mrs Turia also met with individual inmates at New Zealand's maximum-security prison.

"These meetings all involved inmates handpicked by the Associate Minister. Some involved inmates from different parts of the prison who would not normally be allowed to meet together, and excluded prison officers from the room.

"The Corrections Minister has confirmed that this year every inmate the Associate Minister visited came from the Wanganui region.

"Mrs Turia wasn't just getting letters from upset families and acting on them as the Prime Minister claims, she was in fact travelling to Paremoremo and meeting with Prisoners and seeking to use her influence on the Department of Corrections in their favour. The latest documents show that clearly. None refer to moving inmates closer to their families.

"The Associate Minister conducted a prolonged, systematic campaign of political interference in the operations of the Department of Corrections. That is serious and must be inquired into by the Government.

"Lots of people are calling us with all sorts of information. There must be an inquiry in which Corrections officials can be assured of anonymity and that their jobs will not be at risk.

"An inquiry by the State Services Commission would help establish exactly what has gone on in the Associate Minister's dealings with the Department of Corrections. We have only heard about the cases the Government reluctantly agreed to give to us under the Official Information Act.

"How many more cases of transfers, security classifications, extended releases and reviews of charges are there? What else has the Associate Minister interfered in that we do not know about?

"The Associate Minister must be held accountable for her actions," Mr Ryall said.

Ends


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