David Benson-Pope Hedges In House On Tennis BallBy Alastair Thompson
In question time today Social Development Minister David Benson Pope repeatedly refused to directly answer questions over his alleged involvement in a tennis ball incident that occurred at Bayfield High School 23 years ago.
Questioned by ACT's Rodney Hide and National's Judith Collins Mr Benson-Pope three times repeated the answer:
"I am one of the 19 people who either do not recall the events or do not believe they happened."
This caused considerable consternation to Mr Hide who sought the speaker's intervention to insist on an answer to the question as to which of the two groups Mr Benson-Pope now believed he belonged - those who could not remember, or those who believed it didn't happen.
Mr Hide pointed out that Mr Benson-Pope has previously denied the tennis ball events occurred absolutely on four occasions to the house.
The speaker Margaret Wilson declined to intervene on the ground that Mr Benson-Pope had "addressed the questions" and that was all he was required to do.
Mr Benson-Pope's latest position in the house on the infamous tennis ball incident is somewhat similar to that which he initially advanced when interviewed by the police on September 21st this year.
[See page 16 - 18 Police Report Operation Inlet (PDF File)]
Asked about the allegations made by his students Mr Benson-Pope twice replied that he did "not recollect" any such event.
Mr Benson-Pope then went on to argue that the allegation was implausible. If it had happened a complaint would have been made, and none had been. Mr Benson-Pope's lawyer then intervened and asked Mr Benson-Pope about the complaints procedure.
In the interview the policeman then returned to the incident in question, this time referring to the fact that 9 of those in the classroom remembered the incident. This time Mr Benson-Pope did directly answer the question he was unwilling to answer today in Parliament.
[See page 19 Police Report Operation Inlet (PDF File)]
David Benson-Pope: … what I am saying is I have no recollection of any such incident, and I have never treated a child maliciously… or assaulted a student"
Inglis: Obviously in 82 discipline is different to in 2005.
Benson-Pope: Yeah yes it is um, but ah the sort of activity that I'm being accused of, of forcing a tennis ball into someone's mouth would be as unacceptable then as it is now and I was not, I have never committed such an offence.
[See bottom of page 20 top of page 21 - Police Report Operation Inlet (PDF File)]
Inglis: Okay. Um so as far as you're concerned the incident didn't occur?
Inglis: And there was no taping or tennis ball in the mouth?
Inglis: Um. We'll move on then.