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Sir William Birch loses objectivity - Hide

Wednesday 4th Aug 1999
Rodney Hide
Media Release -- Economy

ACT Finance spokesman Rodney Hide said today that it appeared Revenue Minister Sir William Birch had lost objectivity over what was being revealed by the inquiry into the IRD.

"Sir William is refusing to accept the evidence that his own Department has put before the Select Committee.

"The Minister does himself no credit by continuing his personal attacks on me. All I am doing is reporting what the IRD has tabled before the Select Committee. While the Minister is wasting his energy on me, he is missing the vital opportunity he has to change the Inland Revenue Department and its operation.

"Sir William constantly attacks me for researching the 37,000 pages that the IRD put in front of the Select Committee as evidence. He is attacking me for doing what I was elected to do: holding the government to account.

"The memo to staff of Special Audit dated 27 April 1998 says, "Special Audit regularly receives files from the Police, Customs, SFO, Fisheries etc. The information received is not to be released under the Official Information Act. To prevent this from happening the information received is not to be filed in your normal files. The information must always be kept separately. Such as a separate ringbinder of a clearly divided area in one of your investigation ringbinders. As soon as the information's use has passed, destroy the information."

"This instruction is clearly contrary to the Official Information Act. The presumption of the Act is that information is to be available. Its release can be refused for certain prescribed reasons but a government department can't just declare files off-limits to the Official Information Act.

"Instead of attacking me, Sir William should be standing up for taxpayers. He's elected to represent taxpayers - not the tax department. Driving the much-needed change to the IRD's culture and practices should have been Sir William's final act. It's a shame to witness Sir William ending his long Parliamentary career not on a high note but in a bunker mentality issuing a string of unnecessary invective against an MP simply doing his job," said Rodney Hide.

ENDS

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