PM gives ministers 'a bollocking'

Last updated 19:23 30/03/2009

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Prime Minister John Key has carpeted one minister for getting involved in a potential conflict of interest and shot down another for suggesting a tax on plastic bags after being blindsided twice in 24 hours.

It was the first time Mr Key had publicly criticised any of his ministers and he left reporters in no doubt about how he had dealt with them.

The first and most serious offender was Internal Affairs Minister Richard Worth.

He went to India on a private visit, sanctioned by Mr Key, and became involved in promoting an aviation company in which he had an interest.

The Dominion Post reported Dr Worth spoke in his capacity as a minister about the benefits of using New Zealand for aviation training.

Mr Key said he would not have sanctioned the trip if he had known Dr Worth was a director and shareholder in an aviation company which was in a joint venture with an Invercargill flight training academy.

Two other National MPs and several private individuals were in the delegation which was led by Dr Worth in his capacity as chairman of the India Trade Group, a business development council.

"I spoke to Dr Worth this morning and subsequently he has resigned as a director and shareholder of New Zealand Aviation and as chair of the India Trade Group," Mr Key said at his post-cabinet press conference.

"Dr Worth has apologised to me and I have accepted his apology. While he has learnt from this experience I don't expect it to be repeated."

Mr Key told reporters that if anyone in government "needed a bollocking" it would come from him.

"I'm happy to administer it. Just ask Dr Worth," he said.

His second target was Environment Minister Nick Smith, who floated a proposal to charge shoppers 5 cents for plastic bags.

Dr Smith said he had asked his ministry of investigate compulsory charges as a deterrent to using them.

Mr Key said there was no way he was going to support a charge that was in effect a tax going into the coffers of supermarkets.

"My preference is to find a voluntary and industry-led solution," he said.

"I've made that very clear to the minister."

Asked whether he would preferred to have known in advance about both issues, he replied: "I think it would be more useful if I found out about things before I read about them in the newspaper."



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