Key questions whether Carter unwell

BY JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 10:29 03/08/2010
John Key
KEVIN STENT/Sunday Star Times
SICK SURPRISE: John Key is quizzed about Labour and Chris Carter's woes on his way to caucus today.
CHRIS CARTER:
JOHN SELKIRK
CHRIS CARTER: Has asked Speaker Lockwood Smith for leave from Parliament because he is unwell.

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Prime Minister John Key has laughed at suggestions the shunned Labour MP Chris Carter is unwell.

Key this morning challenged Carter to "tell the New Zealand public that he genuinely believes that he is sick".

Carter was last week thrown out of Labour's caucus after a bungled attempt to post an anonymous letter to press gallery journalists undermining Labour leader Phil Goff as leader.

Carter publicly repeated, after he was exposed and expelled from the party, that Goff had no hope of leading Labour to victory at next year's election.

Senior Labour MPs responded by questioning his state of mind and yesterday party president Andrew Little said Mr Carter was "unwell" and wanted two months off.

Key said the bid for sick leave was "a bit remarkable".

"Here's Chris Carter, he's told the truth about his leader and now he's in the sick bin for two months," Key said.

"He didn't look very sick to me last week. He looked fairly exercised about the fact that he didn't think Phil Goff could win an election, but he didn't look terribly sick."

Key joked that Carter should have to provide a doctor's certificate - something proposed legislation would require of ordinary Kiwi workers who take three days of sick leave.

"He's going to have to tell the New Zealand public that he genuinely believes that he is sick," Key said.

"He was asked that question last week, and he said no. He said he was concerned about the Labour Party and he was concerned about his leader. Miraculously, that's changed."

Key said he understood Labour was having great difficulty trying to expel Carter from the party and putting him on sick leave was "a way through that".

Labour leader Phil Goff said Carter's leave was nothing to do with him now Carter was out of the caucus.

"I'm not giving it or withholding it."

He said the extent of his leave was an issue between Carter and the Speaker.

"I'm not his doctor."

MPs can take up to 14 days leave of absence without permission but if they take longer  than that are docked $10 a day from their pay for each day they are away.

Mr Goff said lawyer Claudia Elliott was now representing Carter but he believed that was more as a long term friend than as a lawyer.

He said Carter was out of the caucus and was not coming back. Nominations for Labour's candidate in his seat would now be reopened, because Carter had indicated publicly that he would not stand again in Te Atatu. His membership of the party would be decided by the party under its rules and it was necessary to follow due process.

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"However long that takes I am relaxed about it," Goff said.

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