Thursday, 22 November 2007

Another Labour MP accused of Political Interference

What is it about Dunedin-based Labour Party MPs?? They certainly punch above their weight in the "dodgy mass media story" stakes!

David Benson-Pope has led the way in recent years with his run of headline-hitting sagas, while Pete Hodgson made the news in 2005 when Police found he committed assault against a female political protester at Otago University.

Former Otago (now List) MP David Parker looked like the best of the southern Labour bunch, being reinstated to Cabinet following his rehabilitation for dodgy financial dealings relating to a Property company.

But now Labour's Climate Change ambassador (and State Services Minister) has again hit turbulent waters, with claims of political interference by him at the Ministry for the Environment.

Former employee Erin Leigh claims Dunedin-based Labour Party activist Clare Curran was hired on contract (in a non-competitive process) by the Environment Ministry in the middle of last year "to look after David Parker's personal political agenda".
Leigh was appalled by the political appointment, resigning in disgust when told Curran's role was to act as a watchdog, to ensure Parker's agenda was being "looked after" (for a reported $120/hour!)

This is the same Environment Ministry previously overseen by David Benson-Pope, which had just fired Madeleine Setchell over a possible "conflict of interest", because she was the partner of National Party press secretary Kevin Taylor.

The National Party says these latest developments in the Setchell/Curran saga prove the New Zealand public service is no longer neutral, and that departmental budgets are helping advance party political agendas.

Labour's professional "bovver boy" Trevor Mallard led the party's defence today, but the State Services Commission is to investigate the Environment Ministry's hiring of Clare Curran.

Curran works as a communications consultant in Dunedin. She is the Otago/Southland representative on Labour's national council, and is standing against Benson-Pope for the party's Dunedin South nomination (although after these revelations, her chances must be slim).

* 3 News: "Political Interference" (Video clip)
* NZ Herald: Activist was minister's watchdog: Staffer
* NZ Herald: Inquiry clouding Parker's future

* NZ Herald: SSC takes another look at Labour Party activist's contract

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