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Rankin Should Resign Or Key Should Act Over Comments, Says Dunne

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

By Maggie Tait of NZPA

Wellington, June 23 NZPA - Comments in a magazine article show Christine Rankin is campaigning against the so-called anti-smacking law and she should not remain a Families Commissioner, United Future leader Peter Dunne says.

Green Party MP Sue Bradford says Prime Minister John Key should sack Ms Rankin before she causes the government or the commission any more embarrassment.

In the latest Investigate magazine Ms Rankin speaks strongly against the 2007 law change, which removed the defence of reasonable force in child abuse cases.

The magazine hit shops as a campaign by opponents of the law urging voters to vote "No" to the question "should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?" was launched yesterday.

Ms Rankin did not attend the launch despite earlier being listed as appearing. Organisers said her inclusion was an error.

Prime Minister John Key previously publicly warned against Ms Rankin campaigning on the issue given the commission holds an opposite view, but yesterday afternoon said she had not crossed that line.

Mr Dunne, who was responsible for the Families Commission being set up as part of a post-2002 election deal with Labour, disagreed.

"She's certainly taking a very clear position... She's taking that in opposition to the Families Commission, to which she has been appointed," he told NZPA.

"If she wants to take a view campaigning for that referendum as she's perfectly entitled to, then she stands down.

"You can't have your cake and eat it too. This is exactly the sort of thing that I speculated at the time of her appointment."

If she did not, then Mr Key should act, Mr Dunne said.

"I would have thought that the Prime Minister's view was very clear previously about what his expectations were and I think he now needs to honour those....He's got to live up to the statements he made previously."

Mr Dunne said the comments in Investigate would be interpreted as campaigning for a particular side of the referendum.

Ms Bradford agreed.

"It's (media interviews are) certainly part of what you do when you are campaiging," she told NZPA.

"It's certainly supporting the vote no campaign."

Ms Bradford said Ms Rankin gave the interview following controversy over her appointment; "she wasn't shy in coming forwards".

"It just adds to my huge sense of unease about her being position as a families commissioner that she's still out there even now, making her position very clear."

The initial listing of Ms Rankin to appear at the no campaign launch was "suspicious" Ms Bradford said.

"I think that she is an ongoing thorn in the side for (Social Development Minister) Paula Bennett and John Key and their original decision to appoint her as a families commissioner was either a huge mistake or a deliberate attempt to undermine the Families Commission.

"I think that the best course of action that John Key could take now would be to dismiss her as a families commissioner. That's the only clean and clear course of action the government could."

In the magazine Ms Rankin said the legislation had had a "huge" psychological effect on New Zealanders.

"I think parents are afraid of how to discipline their children now."

She said parents were being reported to police for incidents such as grabbing a child's arm. Damage was done even if charges were not laid.

Agencies failed to get involved in cases of serious abuse while minor smacks were followed up, she said.

Mr Key said he was relaxed about the article.

"I made it clear though that I wouldn't want to see her campaigning on the no vote and I think she's honoured that, she wasn't there today at the (launch)."

Bob McCoskrie, director of Family First NZ which is leading the "vote no" campaign, said Ms Rankin was being muzzled.

Mr Key said she would be able to speak out on issues, but when the commission reached a position it spoke collectively.

"I don't think we should be absolutely pedantic about that. From time to time she might make the odd comment but there's a big difference between that and broad characterisation of events and her actually actively campaigning. That would be unacceptable."

(Seeking comment from Ms Bennett)

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