Curran on personal leave after email grilling


Embattled Dunedin South MP Clare Curran is on personal leave after failing to front at Parliament this afternoon to answer more questions about her use of a private email.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is making sure ministers know her expectations around the use of personal email accounts being used for Government business, after Ms Curran was caught out by the practice.

Ms Curran, the Minster of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, gave a fumbling performance in Parliament yesterday while being questioned on her use of a Gmail account for Government business and today asked for personal leave.

In oral questions in the House this afternoon, National MP Melissa Lee wanted to ask the minister if she stood by all her answers to oral and written questions.

Ms Lee sought leave to hold over her questions until Ms Curran was present.

Clare Curran. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Clare Curran. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Her request was denied and instead Labour MP Megan Woods answered questions on her behalf.

When asked if Ms Curran stood by all her answers to oral and written questions, Ms Woods simply answered, "Yes".

Supplementary questions about what other businesses Ms Curran had conducted using her private Gmail account and what she was doing which meant she council not be in Parliament, could not be answered by Ms Woods because she said she did not have the details.

There is nothing in the Cabinet Manual, the rulebook for ministers, about the use of alternative email accounts.

But Minister of Ministerial Services Chris Hipkins said today that the Prime Minister had asked the Cabinet Office to issue guidance on the use of alternative email accounts by ministers to clarify the issue.

$1000 ride at Commonwealth Games

While on a visit to the Commonwealth Games in April this year, Clare Curran took a chauffeur-driven car from Brisbane to the Gold Coast at a cost of $1000, it has been revealed.

Government ministers spent roughly $1.5 million on travel and accommodation between April and June.

Spending details have been made public after weeks of delay due to a processing error by the Department of Internal Affairs.

Minister 'may not see year out'

With Ms Curran under fire again, the under fire MP may not see the year out, a political commentator says.

Yesterday Ms Curran was questioned in Parliament about her use of a private email account for government business.

During an exchange with National MP Melissa Lee, Ms Curran admitted using her personal email for official government business ''from time to time''.

But the Communications Minister then struggled to answer and tripped over her words when replying to a supplementary question from Ms Lee about what type of business she used her personal email for.

''To the best of my recollection, um, ah, ah, I haven't, um, I haven't used my, um, I've answered, um OIA, ah, ah, OIA responses and personal, um, and parliamentary questions correctly and to the best of my recollection, um, ah, you know, that, that has, that's what I've done.''

Ms Lee asked what steps the minister had taken to ensure any correspondence she received through her personal email was recorded in accordance with official record-keeping practices.

Ms Curran replied she had worked with her office to make sure she was responding appropriately to Official Information Act requests and parliamentary questions.

The use of use of private email by a government minister is allowed as long as they adhere to their obligations as a minister.

Ms Curran's office could not be contacted for comment.

Stripped of portfolios

Last week, Ms Curran was sacked from Cabinet by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and stripped of two of her portfolios - Government Digital Services and Open Government - after she failed to disclose meeting entrepreneur Derek Handley at the Beehive.

The pair met to discuss the Government's chief technology officer job.

It was the second time she had not been upfront about undisclosed meetings. Previously, she had failed to diary a meeting with RNZ's former head of news, Carol Hirschfeld.

Ms Hirschfeld was forced to resign from RNZ after repeatedly lying to her bosses about the meeting she had with the minister at a Wellington cafe in December last year.

Political commentator Bryce Edwards said it was clear National was targeting Ms Curran and would be trying to find any indiscretion she had made, and there was a good chance they would find something.

''The incident with Derek Handley was back in February. It's not something that's just been dredged up and National will be trying to dredge up anything which has happened between then and now.

''Chances are they will find some indiscretion, so I would say there's a good chance of her not surviving the year.''

Using personal emails for official business was nothing new for ministers in both Labour and National parties, so it was unlikely the latest incident would lead to a demotion, he said.

tim.miller@odt.co.nz

Comments

She should be out already. Instead Ardhern has moved her sidewards with a fabulous salary and perks. Sign of weak leadership and cronyism

Sign of due process.

 

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