Goff raised earlier complaint about Worth

Minister resigns over 'criminal matter'

Last updated 20:10 03/06/2009

Richard Worth resigns as minister

Audio: PM on Richard Worth

WORTH RESIGNS: Dr Worth was minister for Internal Affairs, Land Information, Archives New Zealand, and the National Library, and associate minister of Justice.

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Labour leader Phil Goff took an allegation of Richard Worth's inappropriate behaviour towards a woman to Prime Minister John Key about a month ago, it emerged tonight.

Dr Worth resigned his ministerial portfolios abruptly last night citing personal reasons and Mr Key has since confirmed that Worth is the subject of a police investigation.


Do you know more about the resignation of Dr Worth? Email editorial@stuff.co.nz or call 04-4740098


Mr Key has confirmed he previously investigated allegations that former Internal Affairs Minister Richard Worth harassed women but nothing came of it.

Mr Goff's allegation is understood not to be the one which resulted in Mr Worth resigning his ministerial portfolio.

At 4pm today, police confirmed they were investigating a sitting Member of Parliament: "Police confirm that a complaint was made in Auckland two weeks ago and related to a recent alleged incident.  Preliminary inquiries were made and the complaint transferred to Wellington Police for further investigation by Detective Inspector Paul Basham, head of Wellington City CIB."

Mr Key is refusing to divulge the nature of the investigation, other than to say it involves "criminal" allegations.

But when asked if there had been previous allegations of Dr Worth hassling women and making a nuisance of himself Mr Key confirmed that someone had brought an allegation to him "of that nature".

"All I can say is I treated that allegation seriously, I investigated it and was satisfied with the answers I received."

When asked if the matter before police was of a similar nature, Mr Key responded: "There are different circumstances here and circumstances that certainly would appear on first blush to warrant a police investigation…but also information that would confirm to me that he doesn’t hold my confidence and shouldn’t be a minister."

When asked if the police investigation involved a "sexual allegation" Mr Key said he was "not at liberty" to discuss that.

''All I can tell you is his conduct does not befit a minister and I will not have him in my Cabinet,'' Mr Key told a press conference.

''If he hadn't resigned I would have sacked him.''

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Mr Goff's spokesman confirmed rumours tonight that the Labour leader had raised a complaint with Mr Key about a month ago after a woman approached the party.

Mr Goff had decided not to raise the issue publicly and allow Mr Key to deal with it as the woman had not wanted to be in the public arena.

The complaint was about "inappropriate behaviour. . . in the nature of unwanted attention."

The spokesman did not know how the complaint was resolved or what action Mr Key took, but did not believe it was in any way linked to the new complaint that cost Dr Worth his job.

Key faced several questions from Mr Goff during Question Time today regarding the resignation.

Mr Key told Parliament this afternoon he had become aware of Dr Worth's circumstances last Tuesday but had said there was a process to go through before any major decisions were made.

"I believe everyone is entitled to natural justice," he said.

He said he had all the information surrounding the case on Monday and "could point to other Prime Ministers that took a lot longer to act."

When asked about Dr Worth's past performance Mr Key said "there have been instances where he could've improved his performance," and singled out Mr Worth's trip to India as an example.

Mr Key said an outside party had informed his office of the allegation of a ''relatively recent'' incident last week.

Dr Worth had not come to him about it. 

In a brief statement, Wellington police said they were conducting a preliminary investigation into an allegation that had been made against a sitting MP.

Dr Worth was a minister outside Cabinet, responsible for Internal Affairs, Land Information, Archives New Zealand, and the National Library, and associate minister of Justice.

In a statement this morning he said he was standing down with "deep regret".

"I am resigning from the role for personal reasons," he said.

"I tendered my resignation to the Prime Minister last night and he accepted."

Mr Key said Dr Worth's ministerial responsibilities had been temporarily transferred to Maurice Williamson and he would permanently reallocate them in "the near future".

He said Dr Worth had advised him "of some private matters in respect of which he felt it appropriate that he should resign as a Minister."

Dr Worth said he had been granted a fortnight's leave of absence from Parliament.

It was up to Dr Worth whether he stayed in Parliament as an MP, Mr Key said.

He is the first minister to resign in the new Government, elected last November.

Mr Goff said Dr Worth's resignation came "several months too late".

In a statement, he said Prime Minister John Key had ample reason to sack Dr Worth earlier in the year but had lacked "the necessary leadership to do so."

"The resignation of a minister is a very serious matter and it is incumbent on John Key to explain to the public why this has occurred.

"It is completely unsustainable for John Key to say that resignation from a high public office is for a secret or undisclosed reason unless there are personal family matters behind Dr Worth's agreement to resign," Mr Goff said.

Dr Worth, who entered Parliament in 1999, has been embroiled in controversy this year, after The Dominion Post revealed that he helped to broker business for an aviation company he was associated with during a trip to India in February.

Although it was a private trip, Indian media quoted him in his capacity as internal affairs minister promoting New Zealand "as an ideal place for aviation training". He was publicly rebuked by Prime Minister John Key, who warned him not to embarrass the Government again.

He resigned from his business interests following the affair.

In April he faced questions over a potential conflict of interest after he visited a taxi driver allegedly attacked by members of a group that included the son of an acquaintance of Mr Worth.

Last weekend, Sunday News reported that Dr Worth had been called as a witness in a libel case involving rival gossip columnists Bridget Saunders and Rachel Glucina.

TIMELINE OF RICHARD WORTH'S POLITICAL CAREER:

November 1999 - Elected MP for Epsom in general election, retains the seat in 2002.
 
October 2002 - On an official trip to Egypt, skips a Maori Battalion service to instead go to Cairo, visit the pyramids and take a camel ride.
 
September 2005 - Loses Epsom to ACT leader Rodney Hide, returns to Parliament as a list MP.
 
November 2008 - National gains power, Worth again returned as a list MP.
 
November 2008 - Appointed a minister outside cabinet holding portfolios of internal affairs and land information. Also associate minister of justice. Ranked 22nd in executive list of 23 ministers.
 
March 2009 - Reports published about private visit to India during which he promoted aviation training in New Zealand while having an interest in an air training academy in Invercargill.
 
March 2009 - Prime Minister John Key tells press conference he gave Worth ''a bollocking'' over conflict of interest and failing to tell him about business interests.
 
April 2009 - Worth apologises to Key but says he has done nothing wrong.
 
April 2009 - Labour attacks Worth in Parliament, demands resignation. Worth continues to insist he has done nothing wrong.
 
April 2009 - More problems when Worth visits taxi driver allegedly attacked by members of a group that included the son of an acquaintance, Labour again calls for resignation on the grounds of conflict of interest.
 
May 2009 - Worth refuses to answer questions from Labour MP Chris Hipkins about his activities, saying they are a waste of time. Key says he will consider the situation.
 
June 3 2009 - Worth announces his resignation as a minister, citing personal reasons. Key accepts resignation, says ''private matters'' are involved. Police issue a statement saying an allegation has been made against an MP and a preliminary investigation has started.

WHO IS RICHARD WORTH?

From the lofty highs of an unsanctioned camel ride National's Richard Worth has fallen into the midst of a police investigation which has seen him resign from his ministerial portfolios.

Dr Worth first entered Parliament as the MP for Epsom in 1999. He won the seat again in 2002 but was toppled by Rodney Hide in 2005 and returned as a list MP.

Dr Worth stood again in the Epsom electorate last year but did not make any real effort on the campaign - though both ACT and National denied making a deal to see Mr Hide safely win the seat.

Over the last 10 years Dr Worth has been a declining force in the National Party.

When he entered for National in 1999 he was a top lawyer, a partner and later chairman for Simpson Grierson, with experience in international affairs and business and a PhD from RMIT University in Melbourne.

He was the Consul for Columbia for six years and Monaco for eight. In addition, he is a former president of the Hong Kong New Zealand Business Association and former chairman of the India Trade Group and Korea New Zealand Business Council.

Dr Worth, a former navy captain, was appointed an Officer of the British Empire (Military Division) and made a knight in the Venerable Order of St John of Jerusalem for his work with the order.

He was understood to have been promised the Speaker's job if National won in 2005. They lost. In 2008 he was appointed as a minister outside Cabinet.

Until today he was Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister for Land Information, Minister Responsible for the National Library and Archives New Zealand and Associate Minister of Justice.

In 2002, Dr Worth garnered attention when he chose to take a camel ride, visit the pyramids, and shop at a market rather then attend a service to honour the Maori Battalion during an official trip to Egypt.

Soon after he returned to New Zealand he quit as a director of Prada America's Cup (NZ) Limited because of suggestions it was disloyal for an MP to be linked to a challenging syndicate.

He said at the time he became a Prada board member before the previous Cup, when he was not an MP.

More recently Dr Worth was in trouble after he went to India on a private visit and promoted an aviation company in which he held shares and a directorship.

He resigned the directorship and sold the shares.

It was also reported that a company Dr Worth held shares in had links with another company which was investigated by the Serious Fraud Office.

Despite Labour's calls for him to be fired, Prime Minister John Key stood by him - until now.

Dr Worth and his wife, Lynne, have one adult daughter.

His profile on the National Party website lists his hobbies as mountain climbing, Bollywood films, Korean classical music and the early works of Sun Tzu.

- Dominion Post, Stuff.co.nz with NZPA

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