Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson has defended her decision
not to stand down from all her ministerial portfolios after her
department was heavily criticised by the Royal Commission of
Inquiry into the Pike River disaster.
Speaking for the first time since handing over the Labour
portfolio, Ms Wilkinson said it was her decision to resign.
"At the end of the day, 29 men died under my watch."
She did not feel she had been made a scapegoat for the
"I value my integrity, and I thought it was the right and
honourable thing to do."
Attorney-General Chris Finlayson will take over the Labour
portfolio in an acting role, but Ms Wilkinson will keep her
conservation portfolio and remain in Cabinet.
Asked why she did not resign from Cabinet, Ms Wilkinson said:
"I've done nothing wrong."
The Royal Commission report released yesterday said the
Department of Labour had failed to maintain health and safety
standards in the mining industry.
Labour Leader David Shearer would not call for Mr Key to
strip Ms Wilkinson of her other portfolios; however, he said
the Prime Minister should "take a good look" at what she was
doing in them.
"Given the fact that in this case she advised us when we
wrote to her that there was no problem with health and safety
in mines, they should be looking very closely what she's
doing in her other portfolios."
Mr Shearer said Labour's MPs would "search" themselves as to
whether they could have done more while in Government to
prevent the disaster, but the party had tightened up relevant
legislation in 2003 and Trevor Mallard while Labour Minister
in 2008 initiated a review of mine safety.
That review produced a set of recommendations "which the
National Government did not take up" he said.
Mr Mallard said that review made clear the need for "check
inspectors" or mine workers with an official safety oversight
"We were on track to change the Mining Act as a result of
that review. The review was scrapped by Kate Wilkinson, and
that's something I think is very regrettable."
Mr Mallard said he had thought about the mine safety issue
"every day since Pike River".
"People died. I ask myself is there more I could have done?
But I'm absolutely certain that we were on track. We had a
review process, it was working well. It was being resisted by
mine owners, but my view is that the regulatory environment
would have changed."
- Isaac Davison of the New Zealand Herald