10 Nov 2010

Key staffer's use of expletive 'sign of tension'

8:06 pm on 10 November 2010

Labour MP Pete Hodgson says the fact Prime Minister John Key's chief press secretary used an expletive to describe him is a sign of tension in Mr Key's office.

Kevin Taylor told journalists that Mr Hodgson was a f...wit, following his questioning of Minister for Women and Ethnic Affairs Pansy Wong over a business deal involving her husband.

Mr Hodgson says he does not think the comment is helpful or accurate.

He says it may reflect tension in Mr Key's office and the Government's belief that does not feel it should be held to account.

Mr Hodgson says the comments are a sign of ill-discipline, but he does not take them personally.

Mr Key says Ms Wong was following the law in the way she witnessed one of her husband's business deals in China.

The Labour Party says Ms Wong signed the document while on a private trip to China and should not have used her ministerial title because she could be seen as furthering her husband's business interests.

Documents released by Labour show that in January last year she acted as a witness to an agreement involving two hovercraft companies.

Her husband is a director of one of the companies.

Mr Key said the advice from the Cabinet Office was that there was nothing in the rules against a minister witnessing a document.

Mr Key said that in doing so, it was a legal responsibility of Ms Wong to record her occupation accurately.

But Labour leader Phil Goff says it is clear Ms Wong should not have signed the document as a minister and Mr Key should tell her she was wrong to do so.

Mr Goff says Mr Key is treating Ms Wong differently to former National minister Richard Worth, who was rebuked for travelling to India on private business when a minister.

Later, Acting Prime Minister Bill English accused Labour of running a smear campaign against Ms Wong, saying it is impuning Ms Wong unfairly, and its actions are disgraceful.

For a second day in a row, Labour questioned the Government about her use of a ministeral title in signing her name as a witness.