20 May 2009

Groups write to PM questioning Rankin appointment

4:12 pm on 20 May 2009

Organisations that deal with violence and work with children have written to the Prime Minister questioning the suitability of Christine Rankin as a Families Commissioner.

The letters, which were sent to other political parties as well, have been released by the Labour Party.

The chief executive of the National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges Heather Henare says Ms Rankin's appointment may be detrimental to the well-being of New Zealanders.

In her letter to John Key, Ms Henare says because Ms Rankin did not support changes to the child discipline law, which protect children from assault, her suitability as a Families Commissioner is questionable.

The Association of Psychotherapists raises the same issue and also questions Ms Rankin's "very public" private life and what she has done to reduce child abuse.

Labour's social development spokesperson Annette King says Mr Key needs to listen to the growing number of community and expert voices calling for Ms Rankin's appointment to be reversed.

Mr Key has released a statement saying Ms Rankin was appointed because of the skills the Government thinks she could bring to the issue of abused children.

Earlier, Ngati Whatua runanga chair Naida Glavish said Ms Rankin's published comments about Maori two years ago, criticising leaders for failing to denounce violence against Maori children, were insulting.

Mrs Glavish says she supports the decision by a commission senior adviser, Druis Barrett, to resign as a result of Ms Rankin's appointment.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, who endorsed the appointment, says Ms Rankin will remain in the role and is allowed to have her own views on the child discipline law.

"She's allowed to have a difference of opinion and allowed to voice it and that doesn't necessarily make her wrong."

Ms Bennett says she imagines Ms Rankin and the other six commissioners will have robust discussions on the issue.