Shipley ducks Mainzeal questions

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 16:31 07/03/2013
Jenny Shipley
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ
ASSURANCES: Jenny Shipley faced questions from Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove over her connection to Mainzeal.

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Former prime minister Dame Jenny Shipley ducked questions about her role in failed construction company Mainzeal, as she faced MPs in her capacity of chairman of Genesis Energy.

Dame Jenny was the independent chairman of Mainzeal until she quit just weeks before it collapsed when its major shareholder withdrew its support, leading to 200 job losses.

She appeared today before the commerce select committee as head of Genesis, New Zealand's largest gas and electricity retailer, but opposition MPs attempted to link questions to her other major role.

Labour state owned enterprise (SOE) spokesman Clayton Cosgrove asked her if anything about her role with Mainzeal would impinge on her heading Genesis, or hurt its reputation, assurances she may have already given to SOE Minister Tony Ryall.

"I can assure the member that in all of my roles, both current and former, I have sought to work in the best interests of the company," she said.

"I briefed a number of people prior to the company you are referring to failing, but I have not discussed other matters beyond that."

When Labour MP Clare Curran asked whether Genesis Energy was paying for Bill Ralston to act as her spokesman, Dame Jenny told the committee the that was an "absurd question" and was "totally out of order" before answering.

"I can categorically assure you that Genesis Energy is not paying for any private services to myself."

Following the hearing she refused to say anything other than about Genesis when approached by reporters.

"I don't have anything to add, other than I'm proud to be here to talk about Genesis' results," she said.

"To discuss anything other than that would simply to mask the purpose of why we're required to come and talk to the Parliament."

She agreed she was free to talk to reporters about Mainzeal, but would not.

"Those things will play out in the appropriate place and I don't intend to talk about them," she said.  

Dame Jenny would talk about Mainzeal matters "at the appropriate time".

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