Key not opposed to Elder fronting committee

Last updated 05:00 09/03/2013
DON ELDER
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ
DON ELDER: Solid Energy's former boss.

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Prime Minister John Key says he is "totally relaxed" about former Solid Energy chief executive Don Elder appearing before a select committee, but the decision was one for the committee and the board of the state-owned coalminer.

"If he wants to go and they want him to go he is not going to get any opposition from my office," Key said yesterday.

He disputed suggestions the Government MPs on Parliament's commerce select committee were blocking a move to summon Elder to appear.

"That hasn't been put to the test yet; let's wait and see what happens," Key said.

State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall also says he has no problem with Elder being summoned to Parliament for a grilling.

"It's a matter for the commerce select committee, Solid Energy and Dr Elder whether or not Dr Elder attends, but I don't have a problem either way," Ryall said.

Members of the commerce select committee will decide whether to accept Labour's calls for an inquiry into the collapse of the state-owned mining company, which is under a crippling $389 million debt pile.

Earlier, Labour confirmed it is seeking an inquiry into Solid Energy and also aims to summon Elder to give evidence.

The party's senior MP on the commerce committee, Clayton Cosgrove, said the party was writing to committee chairman Jonathan Young to request an inquiry and if necessary to issue a subpoena to Elder, who is still being paid his old salary of $1.3m a year to work from home for two months, to help the committee with his memory of events.

He has not given evidence to the committee.

"Solid Energy's collapse is a huge concern to the public. New Zealanders deserve answers on how this successful company turned into a basket case," he said.

Labour wanted an inquiry into "the clearly deep-rooted problems in this company".

New Solid Energy chairman Mark Ford and acting chief executive Garry Diack appeared before the committee on Thursday but were unable to answer many of the questions related to the company's past actions. Fairfax

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