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Date:
5 April 2012
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1. Prime Minister—Statements

[Sitting date: 05 April 2012. Volume:679;Page:1725. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]

1. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his answers to questions in the House this year?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes. The Prime Minister has answered 36 primary questions covering a large range of topics, and if the member wants specific answers, then he will have to ask a more specific primary question.

Grant Robertson: Does he still stand by his answers that Ministers involved in the ACC saga showed only a lapse of judgment and “not a terribly significant one”, given that there are now five separate inquiries under way into the ACC saga, and why does he just simply not appoint a judge or a QC to do a proper inquiry?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, of course, the member has taken the partial view of what the Prime Minister said. The quote the member used was in respect of the first letter, I think, that the Minister for ACC at the time had written. Of course, in that case further evidence came to light and the Minister decided to stand down. We also need to bear in mind that the focus of a number of those inquiries is actually the privacy processes of ACC, which, of course, are of great interest to all those who are claimants and might be claimants in the future. We believe that those matters are being adequately inquired into.

Grant Robertson: Does he still stand by his answers around the appropriateness of chairing the committee and appointing his electorate chair, Stephen McElrea, to the board of New Zealand On Air, given Mr McElrea’s attempt to intervene in the broadcast of a programme?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: In answer to the question about appropriateness, I did chuckle when I saw Mike Williams on TV going on about getting rid of cronyism, when he was appointed by the last Prime Minister to, I think, five large public boards, in which he interfered in every decision any of those entities made.

Grant Robertson: How can he express confidence in all of his Ministers when his Ministers have stuffed up the reform of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and stuffed up the Crafar farm decision, and when his finance Minister can give only a guess as to the real value of the assets that are his only economic plan?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: All I can say is that the Prime Minister has more confidence in his Ministers than the deputy leader of the Labour Party has in his leader.

Grant Robertson: In reference to the Prime Minister’s answers in question time on 7 March on the provision of unconditional love by his pet, and in light of what his own pollster has described as a “quartus horribilis” for his Government, will he now reconsider his apparent decision to appoint his cat Moonbeam as the Government’s strategist?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No. I do not believe the Prime Minister would do that. The Prime Minister has great affection for Moonbeam, and being the Government strategist is somewhat challenging, and Moonbeam might not be up to it. [Interruption] But he is available for the Labour Party.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Grant Robertson: Does he still stand by his answer that he has confidence in all his Ministers, given that the Hon John Banks failed to declare a $15,000 donation from Skycity in his electoral return for the Auckland mayoralty?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister is not aware of those issues, and the inquiry should be directed to the relevant Minister. The Prime Minister would expect that all Ministers comply with the requirements of the Register of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests of Members of Parliament and the Cabinet Manual.

Grant Robertson: Would he still have confidence in the Hon John Banks as a Minister if he was aware that Skycity publicly stated that it had given $15,000 to both main mayoral candidates in Auckland, that it has a policy of asking those who get donations to declare them, and that that donation to Mr Banks does not appear in his return for the Auckland mayoralty expenses?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister’s concern is that members comply with the Register of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests of Members of Parliament and with the requirements of the Cabinet Manual, and any inquiries related to that should be directed to the relevant Minister.

Grant Robertson: Would the Prime Minister continue to have confidence in a Minister who has not declared a $15,000 donation from Skycity when running for the Auckland mayoralty, given that the penalty for failure to properly declare a donation, under the Local Electoral Act, is up to 2 years in prison—enough to force a resignation from Parliament?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I can only repeat the answer I gave before, and in that respect the Prime Minister is more demanding than the previous Prime Minister, who tolerated a Minister who did not declare a $100,000 donation that was arranged by the Labour Party from one of the Labour Party’s principal donors.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister recall the Hon Nick Smith telling this House, at the same time, that he made a declaration of his legal fund—identical to mine—to Dame Margaret Bazley, only to have her tell this House that he lied, that he made no such declaration? Does he recall that?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am not familiar with the details of that. What I am pointing out is that the Prime Minister has a standard he expects Ministers to reach, and that standard is higher than what was applied by the previous Labour Government to its Ministers.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the Prime Minister is so keen on certain standards being upheld, why is he not concerned as to what Nick Smith did when, for an egregious reason being sued for defamation, he had such a fund to his pecuniary advantage whereas the fund we had was for an electoral democratic purpose?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, the purpose of the significant donation to New Zealand First by Labour’s principal donor was, I think, discussed at the time. Nick Smith was involved in a defamation action. The matters around his legal fees were all canvassed, in detail, at the time.