Minister questioned over Rankin appointment

CHRISTINE RANKIN: Prime Minister John Key says her personal life is not an issue.
CHRISTINE RANKIN: Prime Minister John Key says her personal life is not an issue.

The Government was challenged in Parliament today to say whether it would remove Christine Rankin from the Families Commission if it turned out she had been lying about rumours swirling around her private life.

Labour leader Phil Goff and two of his MPs, Annette King and Ruth Dyson, raised questions about Ms Rankin's appointment to the commission.

The appointment was announced a fortnight ago by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

It was followed by reports in Sunday newspapers that Ms Rankin was involved in the break-up of the marriage between Wellington real estate agent Margo McAuley and Kim MacIntyre.

Ms McAuley was found dead in October last year. Ms Rankin and Mr MacIntyre were married in January.

Ms Rankin has publicly denied that she was having an affair with Mr MacIntyre at the time of Ms McAuley's death.

Ms Bennett has said she heard about the rumours before the appointment, checked them out with Ms Rankin and was told they were baseless.

Mr Goff asked Prime Minister John Key what he would do if assurances Ms Rankin had given proved to be untrue.

Mr Key replied: "I can only accept people at their word and I accept the assurances that Christine Rankin gave to the New Zealand public at her word."

Later, during a debate on the Families Commission, Ms Dyson put a question directly to Ms Bennett.

"I want to give her an opportunity to answer this - will she remove Christine Rankin if it turns out that she has been lying over the last few weeks about allegations that had been made of her?"

Ms Bennett did not respond.

Ms King said Ms Bennett had not adequately investigated the rumours about Ms Rankin.

"I know what due diligence is," Ms King said.

"It's not a matter of getting on the blower and giving Christine a call and saying 'what have you been up to, are any of the rumours circulating about you true?'," Ms King said.

"Due diligence is ensuring that when you're going to appoint someone to the Families Commission, you do the work.

"And you, minister, didn't do the work."

Ms Dyson went on to raise Ms Rankin's appearance on TV One's Dancing with the Stars programme.

She said Ms Rankin's chosen charity for donations from viewers was a trust called For the Sake of our Children.

"The people who texted `Christine' to Dancing with the Stars were donating to an organisation that employed two people and did no research, no service delivery, but only did advocacy," Ms Dyson said.

"And the two people employed by For the Sake of our Children were Christine Rankin and her son.

"That is a very unusual charitable organisation where you would go publicly on television and say `I am dancing for a good cause' - dancing for your own salary."

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