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Key Defends Rankin Appointment As Sharples Speaks Out

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
John Key
John Key

Wellington, May 15 NZPA - Prime Minister John Key is backing the controversial appointment of Christine Rankin, even as Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples accuses her of running a crusade against his people.

The appointment of Ms Rankin angered the father of the Families Commission and Government support partner, United Future leader Peter Dunne, as well as the Labour and Green parties.

The Maori Party is also a support partner and co-leader Tariana Turia earlier said she wouldn't have picked Ms Rankin.

Mrs Turia was on the Cabinet committee that considered the appointment and is constrained by collective responsibility.

Her fellow co-leader Pita Sharples is not so restrained, and he today was highly critical of Ms Rankin's appropriateness after her negative remarks about Maori and child abuse.

"It's a little annoying because it polarises people who don't know much more," Dr Sharples told Radio New Zealand.

Ms Rankin made comments about Maori needing to address child abuse problems during a TVNZ 2007 interview.

A security guard at the station was sacked for confronting Ms Rankin over her remarks. This week Maori advisor Druis Barrett quit the commission over appointment.

Ms Rankin previously headed Winz, now and Work and Income, but was not reappointed after extravagant spending. She lost a colourful legal challenge to her dismissal in 2001.

She was spokeswoman for a group opposing "anti-smacking" legislation removing the defence of reasonable force in child assault cases and aligned herself with religious and conservative groups.

Dr Sharples said Ms Rankin had been chosen and there was nothing to be done.

"I wouldn't have chosen her myself, but it's a fait accompli," he said.

"She's been very hard on accusing Maori for child abuse and violence right across the board without recognising the enormous work Maori are doing in this whole area as a people.

"I don't see her levelling allegations against Pakeha or anyone else for other areas like paedophilia. It's a crusade for her to pronounce Maori as the ultimate culprits."

Asked if Mrs Turia spoke up during the Cabinet debate Dr Sharples expected she would have "jumped up and down".

Ms Rankin told NZPA this week she did not regret her remarks and said Maori did need to face up to child abuse issues.

"We need to stop being politically correct."

Asked to respond to the Maori Party criticism this morning Mr Key said: "I am simply not going to delve into that debate."

However, he strongly defended the appointment.

"No one's arguing that Christine Rankin doesn't come from the conservative right, there are also commissioners on the Family Commission that come from the liberal left," Mr Key told Radio New Zealand.

"That's what would make a healthy commission, one that would have a wide range of views."

He said the extravagant spending issue was over a decade ago and the Labour Government had done similar things.

In recent years Ms Rankin had shown her worth, he said.

"In the last few years Christine Rankin has probably done more to try and promote the issue of child abuse and to promote strongly that this country needs to change in this area than almost any other New Zealander that I can name."

The commission was set up at Mr Dunne's behest as part of a post-2002 election deal with Labour. National was highly critical of it but agreed to retain the Crown agency as part of a post-election deal with Mr Dunne.

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