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Clark declares war on public service neutrality

John Key MP
National Party Leader

23 July 2007

Clark declares war on public service neutrality

National Party Leader John Key says he is alarmed by comments by Helen Clark that sacked communications manager Madeleine Setchell should never have been hired by the Environment Ministry.

"In her efforts to defend the indefensible, Helen Clark has been caught in an awful double standard. At the same time she has been trying to claim there was no undue political interference from David Benson-Pope's office, she has said that in her view the appointment should never have been made.

"This is a worrying new low standard. Helen Clark is effectively saying that people who have relatives, partners or friends connected to political parties other than Labour need not bother to apply for senior roles in the public service.

"This is proof positive that Labour sees the public service as an extension of its political operation.

"What's worse is that with those statements, Helen Clark has officially abandoned the long-standing convention of a neutral public service.

"Democracy can only suffer when appointments are made for political reasons rather than the person's ability to do a good job."

Mr Key says he is still waiting to hear how David Benson-Pope could tell the media he had no knowledge of the case, despite having a briefing.

"Was that before or after he told the media he knew nothing?

"Mr Benson-Pope also needs to tell the public precisely what he said to Hugh Logan, whether he had any discussions with his staffer, and exactly what was said during the phone conversation which triggered Madeleine Setchell's sacking.

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"The reality is that there was no problem until that phone call was made.

"Meanwhile, Helen Clark needs to reflect on the many hundreds of communications people that the Government employs, and consider how many of them have friends or relatives with connections to National.

"Through her statements today, Helen Clark has declared war on public service neutrality."


Morning Report:

PRESENTER: one sees that there are things that may have gone wrong all along this process, but primarily it seems the mistake that's made is that her application was progressed at all.

CLARK: That's probably right Sean, and in the light of the advice that the State Services Commission later gave Mr Logan.


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