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Labour goes to great lengths to conceal facts

Jenny Shipley Leader of the Opposition

11 July 2001

Labour goes to great lengths to conceal facts in Rankin case

Labour is continuing to go to great lengths to withhold information concerning the involvement of the Prime Minister and her staff in the Christine Rankin case, Opposition Leader Jenny Shipley said today.

Under intense questioning by the Social Services select committee, Steve Maharey today refused to answer questions about who wrote the cabinet paper which led to the public announcement that the Ministry of Social Policy and WINZ were to be merged.

"The Minister refused to answer questions, then refused to seek further advice as to whether or not Heather Simpson, from the Prime Minister's department, had been the person who put together that cabinet paper which ended up under the signature of Trevor Mallard," Mrs Shipley said.

That cabinet paper ended the role of Christine Rankin as Chief Executive, and its origins would reveal who might be responsible for that decision, and whether the Prime Minister's fingerprints are on it.

Mrs Shipley today revealed that in a conversation with Dame Margaret Bazley on the 28th of March this year, Dame Margaret had indicated that her Minister and her Ministry were not involved in the drafting of the cabinet paper.

"She clearly left me with the impression that Heather Simpson in the Prime Minister's department was responsible for putting the proposal together," Mrs Shipley said.

"This begs the question of the extent of the involvement of Prime Minister Helen Clark and State Services Minister Trevor Mallard in concocting the circumstance where Christine Rankin would be ineligible to apply for a new role.

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"In the select committee today Mr Maharey indicated great unwillingness to provide the information requested. When we pressed the matter to a vote, Labour and Alliance MPs on the select committee shielded the Minister by refusing the opposition's request for full disclosure of the details of whether the Prime Minister or her staff were involved in preparing the cabinet paper.

"Such behaviour by the Minister and Government members of the select committee further fuels the suspicion, held by the opposition and the public, that dirty tricks and slippery behaviour have been involved in this case.

"We will continue to pursue the details of this issue via all the avenues open to us, including written and oral questions, and requests under the OIA, until the Government is forced to come clean," Mrs Shipley concluded.

Ends

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