David Benson-Pope Explains His Neither Recall Nor Believe Position
By Alastair Thompson
In response to pointed questioning in the house this afternoon Minister of Social Development and Employment David Benson-Pope has defended his apparently inconsistent statements on whether he can remember jamming a tennis ball in the mouth of a pupil at Bayfield High School in 1982.
Yesterday Mr Benson-Pope responded three times to questions about the incident saying:
"I am one of the 19 people who either do not recall the events or do not believe they happened."
This was apparently inconsistent with a statement in his police interview, namely:
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.
ACT's Rodney Hide and National's Judith Collins were today very keen to determine to which of the two groups Mr Benson-Pope now belongs. Those that can't remember the tennis ball incident or those that believe it didn't happen.
After several unsuccessful attempts to elicit an answer to this apparently simple question – one involving the trick of quoting Mr Benson-Pope's statements to the Police back to him - Mr Benson Pope was finally asked the question directly by Judith Collins.
"Which group do you belong to, those who do not recall the events or those who do not believe they happened?" she asked.
"Both," replied the Minister to jeers of astonishment from the opposition.
After order was restored Mrs Collins continued, "how can you belong to both?"
"I would have thought that was self evident," Mr Benson-Pope said. "I have no recall of the alleged events nor do I believe they happened."
Immediately sensing that this was inconsistent with Mr Benson-Pope's categorical denials to the police Rodney Hide jumped back into the affray. He asked Mr Benson-Pope why if he now cannot remember whether the event occurred he has now not changed his statement to the police.
"I have had no further direct contact with the police," Mr Benson-Pope replied.
Parliament: Scoop On Politics - Alastair Thompson reports that 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. See... David Benson-Pope Hedges In House On Tennis Ball
Scoop Audio: PM's Presser December 5, 2005