Families Commission questioned over political links

The Families Commission is facing scrutiny over political links, after one of its commissioners was photographed campaigning with Prime Minister John Key.

During a select committee hearing, Labour MP Dr Rajen Prasad held up a photograph of commissioner Dr Parmjeet Parmar wearing a National Party ribbon with Key at a recent Auckland event.

Prasad said he understood Parmar was planning to run as National Party candidate and asked chief commissioner Belinda Milne whether it was appropriate for a potential candidate to remain as a commissioner.

Milne said she had heard "rumours" of Parmar's political involvement but she had no knowledge of any candidacy.

"There are all sorts of rumours going around about who is doing what," she said.

"Until there is a firm situation ... we can't do anything."

She said another staff member was intending to run as candidate for Labour, which he had declared to the commission. They had already discussed with him how to separate his political activities from his work.

"Everybody in New Zealand is entitled to have their own political activities that have to [keep] clear from their work activities," she said.

Milne said she would raise Parmar's political activities at a board meeting next week but would not be drawn on whether Parmar would have to surrender her role.

The Families Commission also faced a grilling by Opposition MPs over the organisation's "politicisation" and whether this affected its research - specifically claims that no more funding was needed to tackle family violence.

Chief executive Clare Ward said all the commission's research was peer reviewed and published regardless of the implications of the findings.