Curran emails fail to surface at Question Time

Clare Curran. Photo: ODT
Clare Curran. Photo: ODT
Emails from former minister Clare Curran's personal Gmail account have failed to materialise at Parliament's Question Time, but Labour says they will still be made public.

State Services Minister Chris Hipkins was yesterday given 24 hours by Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard to front up with the emails at today's Question Time.

The emails related to the ongoing saga over the Chief Technology Officer position, which cost Ms Curran her portfolios and technology entrepreneur Derek Handley his new title.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson, fielding questions in the house from National's Dr Nick Smith this afternoon, outlined three email exchanges between Ms Curran and Mr Handley between August 11 and August 21.

In the first, Mr Handley emailed Ms Curran on August 11 about the CTO position, including asking about resourcing and potential conflicts of interest, and Ms Curran replied on August 14 to confirm a phone call to discuss.

Mr Handley replied the following day, confirming the time for the phone call.

In the second exchange, beginning on August 19, Ms Curran emailed Mr Handley about "logistics'' to do with the next step in the appointment process, Mr Robertson told the house.

That included discussion about the content of any public statements that might be made, and referred to contract discussions with the Department of Internal Affairs, he said.

On August 20, Mr Handley responded, including discussing the contact he had with DIA and management of conflicts of interest, Mr Robertson said.

The third exchange was on August 21, when Ms Curran emailed Mr Handley about what would be on the CTO work plan, and attached relevant background documents on those issues, Mr Robertson said.

Mr Handley replied the same day, acknowledging the material and referring to discussions he was having with the DIA.

Mr Robertson told the house he had "sought and received an assurance from the former Minister [Ms Curran] that these email exchanges will be made available for release, subject to the normal OIA [Official Information Act] processes.''

Mr Smith pressed on, asking Mr Robertson whether the emails would be released publicly or tabled today, in line with the Government's commitment "to be the most open and transparent ever''.

Mr Robertson reiterated they would be released in accordance with the OIA.

Asked if there was anything "inappropriate'' in the emails which influenced the Government's decision to not proceed with Mr Handley's appointment, Mr Robertson said the decision "does not relate to those emails''.

Mr Smith then asked if Mr Robertson agreed with an earlier statement from Mr Hipkins, when in Opposition, who said: "The only conclusion that can be drawn from Ministers using private Gmail addresses for government business is that they have something to hide.''

"If so, what was Minister Curran and the Prime Minister doing having Government business communicated through a private Gmail account?'' Mr Smith asked.

Mr Robertson replied: "One of the things we learn on becoming Ministers is that we receive a lot of correspondence from a lot of different sources to a lot of different places.'' 

Additional reporting RNZ

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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