Pressure mounts for Wilkinson to quit Cabinet

DANYA LEVY
Last updated 05:00 07/11/2012
kate wilkinson
Fairfax NZ
Former Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson.

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Praise for Kate Wilkinson's decision to quit as labour minister over the Pike River disaster has quickly turned sour, with pressure building on her to resign from the Cabinet altogether.

Within minutes of the publication of findings by a royal commission that the Labour Department contributed to the deaths of 29 miners by not closing down unsafe operations at Pike River, the MP for Waimakariri fell on her sword.

After initial admiration from West Coast-based Opposition MPs, questions were raised yesterday about why she remained in the Cabinet on a $250,000-plus salary.

Before publishing the commission's report, the Government spent six days trawling through paperwork before Prime Minister John Key announced that none of Ms Wilkinson's "actions or inactions" made her "culpable".

But yesterday Labour's industrial relations spokeswoman, Darien Fenton, called for her to step down from her remaining portfolios which include conservation.

Asked yesterday if she was going to resign from the Cabinet, an emotional Ms Wilkinson replied: "What else have I . . . what have I done wrong?"

Mr Key said the Government had to shoulder its share of responsibility despite the commission finding failures in the direction of the department under consecutive governments.

Any minister in the past 20 years could have been "in the seat" at the time, he said.

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