'NZ Minister for Bad Manners' report denied

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 10:39 13/09/2011

RWC 2011 Australians react to Minister for Bad Manners

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The three Government ministers who attended the Australia - Italy game have "categorically" rejected claims one of them made a scene in the official Australian box.

Three ministers were at the game - Maurice Williamson, Jonathan Coleman and Wayne Mapp. And all three say reports in Australian media that one of them booed, jeered and swore during the game were made up.

"I saw no sign of anything," Williamson said.

"I enjoyed the game, it was an excellent match, there was no controversy and I've talked to everybody that I sat with now, and no one knows anybody that did anything. So where I was - there was nothing.

I have no idea what has generated [the story] but all I know where I was [with the] the Australian High Commissioner, several other ministers, I saw nothing, heard nothing, of even the slightest [controversy]."

A Sydney Morning Herald rugby column dubbed an unnamed Government minister as the "New Zealand Minister for Bad Manners" after claiming he made a scene during the Wallabies' opening Rugby World Cup game.

The Wallabies beat Italy 32-6 in their opening match at North Harbour stadium on Sunday.

The paper reported Australian Rugby Union officials saying the unnamed minister had "booed and abused the Wallabies all game".

"He was yelling out, 'f--ing cheats' and other offensive remarks, and then when the Wallabies started to get on top, he suddenly left."

The Australian Rugby Union representatives and their partners in the box were "gobsmacked", the paper said.

One of the Australians had asked a local Government official who the man was, saying his behaviour was "right over the top".

"The local suit replied: 'Sorry. I can't do much about it. He's a Government minister,'" the newspaper said.

Prime Minister John Key said he had looked into the reported incident and there seemed to be no truth in the allegations.

"I've spoken to each of the three ministers.

"They've assured me that they didn't use abusive language or swearing.

While the report said the minister involved left the match when Australia started winning, which was in the early part of the second half, Key said, "All three ministers assured me they fulfilled all their hosting obligations and stayed for the entire game.

"I also took the liberty of ringing two other people I knew were in the box who were quite independent and told them to give me a complete unvarnished, non-sugar coated version and they said ministers behaved appropriately."

Key said the report was from an unnamed source and written by a gossip columnist.

However, he said he was happy to hear any differing accounts of events in the VIP area.

Key said he expected his ministers to act appropriately.

"I always expect my ministers to act in line with the responsibly and authority they hold."

Mapp said the story was made up.

Everyone had a good time and he did not witness, nor participate, in any bad behaviour, he said.

The three ministers watched the game and then stuck around to mix with their hosts for about half an hour.

"I can tell you everyone had a good time and everyone enjoyed the game. So I think, frankly, this is essentially a made-up story."

He said none of the three ministers present had misbehaved or screamed out about cheats.

"Frankly there's nothing to see here."

Coleman said he could "categorically" state that there was no wrongdoing on his part.

Asked if he had seen any bad behaviour by others Coleman said "No, seriously not".

"I chatted to [Australian sports administrator] John O'Neill and other guys after the game so you know, absolutely, I didn't see anything wrong."

- Stuff

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