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Accident Compensation Corporation—Chair of Board

Tuesday 5 May 2009 Hansard source (external site)

Mallard10. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) Link to this
to the Minister for ACC

Who was the chair of the ACC board on 12 March 2009?

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for ACC) Link to this

Mr John Judge was the chair designate on 12 March. This was in the middle of the process I had embarked upon to reconfigure the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) board and strengthen its financial governance skills. His predecessor was dismissed as chair on 9 March, the Cabinet decision to appoint Mr Judge was made on 9 March, I phoned him with the decision, and Mr Judge accepted the role. The appointment was announced that day. He changed from being the chair designate to the chair on Friday, 13 March, when he signed the formal letter of acceptance.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very clear question. It was “Who was the chair …”. I did not ask who the chair designate was; I asked who the chair was. The Minister knows who the chair was at the time. It was a very simple question to answer, and I ask you to ask him to answer it.

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH Link to this

With any appointment process, whether it be for a member of Parliament, a Minister of the Crown, a Prime Minister, or a chair of a board, there is some time between it being publicly announced and the formal legal steps that need to take place—for instance, what we have seen between Dr Cullen’s resignation and the time of Damien O’Connor’s appointment. So I set out in my answer the formal process, from the Monday through to the Friday, of the appointment of the chairman of the ACC board.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I believe that the Minister gave a very comprehensive answer to the question. The member has further supplementary questions.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

Who was the chair of the ACC board on 12 March 2009?

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH Link to this

As I have stated to the member in answers to written questions and in this House, the chair designate was Mr John Judge. His appointment was announced after Cabinet had met on the Monday; on the Friday, when he signed the letter of acceptance, he formally became the chair. I can hear the grinding on the bottom of the barrel as a desperate Opposition tries to make news out of nothing.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As before, I asked a very clear question: “Who was the chair …”. There is always a chair under the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Act. If the chair was not Ross Wilson, it was Peter Neilson. I did not ask who the chair designate was. If I had wanted to know who the chair designate was, I would have looked at the answers to written questions in which that question has been answered by the Minister. I asked who the chair was, and I think it is your job, Mr Speaker, to ensure that Ministers address the question that was asked, not a question that they have made up.

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH Link to this

There are times in an appointment process—for instance, from the time that the previous Prime Minister, Helen Clark, resigned, to the time when the new Prime Minister, John Key, took the formal oath—when there are these periods. This is exactly one of those periods. Mr Judge’s formal appointment as chair was announced on the Monday, following a Cabinet meeting; I am advised that he formally became the chair on Friday, 13 March, when he signed the letter of acceptance. That is why I quite correctly stated that Mr Judge was the chair designate on the Thursday.

HodgsonHon Pete Hodgson Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It might help your judgment, Mr Speaker, if I observe that the Minister has twice now answered the question, which was “Who was the chair …”, by advising the House who was not the chair. It was not the previous guy, it was not—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

The member is now getting into the substance of the answer, which is not a matter of order; I invite the member to resume his seat. The dilemma that the honourable member has raised with me is the difficulty I have in judging the quality of the answer that has been given. The Minister gave an explanation as to the status of the various people—the former chair and the newly appointed chair, or the chair designate. I believe that it is within the honourable member’s grasp to ask further supplementary questions; if he wishes to elucidate a particular issue, then he has got further supplementary questions, and I believe he can do that. It is unreasonable, I think, to expect the Speaker to rule on the quality of the answer, because, certainly, the information given was pretty comprehensive.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

Was Peter Neilson the chair of the ACC board on Thursday, 12 March 2009; if so, why did the Minister lie to the committee, to the media—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

If I heard correctly what the member just said, he cannot ask that in a supplementary question. He will withdraw it. Did the member impugn the Minister in his supplementary question by saying that he had been untruthful?

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

He certainly did—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

The member cannot do that. I ask him to withdraw that part of the question before I ask the Minister to answer.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

I withdraw. Do you want me to rephrase it?

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

No. The Minister will answer the first part of the question.

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH Link to this

I am advised that Mr Peter Neilson was not the chair on 12 March.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

You’ve got a bit of paper that says he was. Why didn’t you read it? Why did you not read the bit of paper?

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH Link to this

I think Mr Mallard should go back to his anger management classes, now that he is back on the front bench. I am advised—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

The member will resume his seat. The question has been answered. I asked the Hon Trevor Mallard to withdraw a statement he had made, and we will not have the problem being added to. If the member wants to ask a further supplementary question, he may.

WoodhouseMichael Woodhouse Link to this

Did the Minister think it was appropriate that Peter Neilson appear before the select committee, given the reflection he was having on board membership and future direction?

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH Link to this

At the point of 12 March, I had been quite public about the fact that all the board members’ positions were up for review as part of the reconfiguring of the board. So I did not think it was appropriate that Mr Peter Neilson appear. That was why I attended, and that was why I said that the new board members would make themselves available at the earliest opportunity, and they did so.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

I seek leave to table a document. It is legal advice to, I think, the Chief Executive of the Accident Compensation Corporation. The advice was supplied to the Minister’s office, and makes it—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

We know what the document is. Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not hear. Was there objection or not?

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

There was objection.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

There was objection. Sue Bradford, question No. 11.

BradfordSue Bradford Link to this

My question is to—[ Interruption]

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

Members cannot even interject that kind of comment in this House. The member cannot say that.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

Well, what can I do, Mr Speaker?

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I am going to ask the honourable member to withdraw and apologise, because he knows he cannot say that.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What remedy does a member have when he knows that a Minister has advice that says one thing, and he assumes that the Minister has read it, because the Minister has given it to a select committee, and the Minister comes into the House and says exactly the opposite?

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

The member does not need to seek the Speaker’s advice on that. The member is a very capable politician. I am sure he can imagine all sorts of ways to get his point across, if he wishes to.

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