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Peter Dunne Says He Expressed Misgivings About Rankin In March

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Peter Dunne. Pic: NZPA
Peter Dunne. Pic: NZPA

Wellington, May 13 NZPA - United Future leader Peter Dunne says he expressed "`major misgivings" about the proposed appointment of controversial former public servant Christine Rankin to the Families Commission in March.

The commission was set up at Mr Dunne's behest as part of a post-2002 election deal with Labour.

National were scathing about the commission but agreed to retain it when Mr Dunne entered a support arrangement with the Government after last year's election.

Mr Dunne told Radio New Zealand this morning that Social Development and Employment Minister Paula Bennett briefed him in March that Ms Rankin and Bruce Pilbrow, chief executive of the advice service Parents Inc were being considered.

"I expressed major misgivings to the minister at that point about Christine Rankin and suggested some other names. She appeared to take that on board and said she would come back to me."

The next he heard was that Ms Rankin was being given the job.

Ms Bennett has apologised for Mr Dunne for failing to keep him in the loop. She said the announcement was bought forward as the media found out about it.

Mr Dunne today repeated his call for Ms Rankin not to take up the role.

He said she had too much baggage to be effective.

Ms Rankin was not reappointed as Winz chief executive after staging a conference with a price tag of $235,000 and other extravagant spending. She then lost a colourful legal challenge to her dismissal in 2001.

Since then she has maintained a high profile and was spokeswoman of For The Sake Of Our Children Trust, opposing Green MP Sue Bradford's anti-smacking bill, which removed the defence of reasonable force in child assault cases.

She also caused a stir, calling former Prime Minister Helen Clark childless and saying Maori needed to face up to what a big problem child abuse was for them.

"I think Ms Rankin's profile and her record suggest that she will not be a team player and this commission will become politicised and it will become the sort of vehicle by which one's personal agendas can be pursued," Mr Dunne said.

"That's not what it was set up to achieve."

He was concerned about the commission's ongoing credibility.

"I know what is going to happen every time the commission makes a contentious decision the news media will be running off to Christine Rankin for comment, that's the danger we've got in this that we turn it into a side show."

Another government support partner the Maori Party has also raised concerns. Co-leader Tariana Turia said if it was up to her she would have suggested someone else.

Mr Pilbrow said he knew Ms Rankin and he thought her passionate, smart, and focused.

He believed the seven families commissioners were capable of holding open honest conversations and sharing different opinions.

Mr Pilbrow said he had not made his mind up about the anti-smacking legislation which the commission had supported.

Ms Rankin told NZPA she would be accepting the appointment.

"I guess if you say things that upset some people or that people agree with you are going to be controversial," she said.

"Good heavens, they must be really scared of my views." NZPA PAR mt kn

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