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MPs Coached As Govt Handles The Heat Over Rankin Appointment

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Christine Rankin
Christine Rankin

Wellington, May 20 NZPA - National Party MPs are being told how to answer questions about Christine Rankin as the Government handles the heat over her appointment to the Families Commission, it was reported tonight.

One News said it had a leaked email from Prime Minister John Key's research unit telling MPs what to say to journalists.

"I refer you to John Key's previous statements that she has been appointed as a commissioner, one of seven in a part-time job to advocate for families because of her expertise when it comes to abused children."

It isn't unusual for MPs to be given advice about how to deal with the media, but confirmation that it happens is very rare.

Ms Rankin's appointment has been mired in controversy since last week's announcement.

It was kept on the boil today when Women's Refugee and the association representing New Zealand psychotherapists have joined the chorus of concern.

They said Ms Rankin's opposition to the child smacking law made her unsuitable for a post where she would advocate on behalf of children.

Labour's social development spokeswoman, Annette King, released letters the groups had written to Mr Key and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, questioning Ms Rankin's suitability.

Ms Rankin was appointed by Ms Bennett with cabinet approval and so far the Government has stood by the decision.

"John Key and Paula Bennett need to listen to the growing number of community and expert voices calling for the Government to reverse its decision and do the right thing," Ms King said.

The National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges chief executive, Heather Henare, said commissioners should have proven experience in their commitment to the purposes of the commission.

"They need to support the existing child discipline law, which protects children from assault on the same basis as adults."

Ms Rankin spoke out against the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act, which removed the defence of reasonable force for parents who physically punish their children.

Marlyn Robson, secretary of the New Zealand Association of Pyschotherapists, also expressed concern about Ms Rankin's stance on the child discipline law.

"I am not sure of the suitability of someone with her very public private life to be a role model, and wonder what exactly she has done to reduce child abuse."

Sunday newspapers reported Ms Rankin was involved in the break-up of the marriage between Wellington real estate agent Margo McAuley and Kim MacIntyre.

Ms McAuley was found dead in October last year. Her death has been referred to the coroner.

Mr MacIntyre and Ms Rankin married in January this year.

Ms Rankin has strongly denied having an affair with Mr MacIntyre before Ms McAuley's death.

Her appointment to the Families Commission caused an uproar even before the reports were published because of her high-spending track record when she was head of Work and Income.

NZPA

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