‘Dodgy’: Judith Collins questions Govt’s approach to Derek Handley saga

The AM Show 28/09/2018

A Labour MP has challenged the Opposition to "go for their lives" over the Derek Handley affair.

The entrepreneur was lined up to take on a new role as the Government's chief technology officer (CTO), but the offer fell through after it emerged then-Digital Services Minister Clare Curran had met with him on the quiet.

Earlier this week Mr Handley released texts, chat messages and emails he'd exchanged with Ms Curran and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, before the Government released its versions.

National MP Judith Collins told The AM Show on Friday the releases show Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been "very, very dodgy" with her answers in Parliament about the botched recruitment.

"I think that's what made us very interested... it's all very strange."

Ms Ardern had previously said she "did not engage with [Derek Handley] directly on the issue of the CTO role". She told Parliament under questioning from National leader Simon Bridges that she'd known Mr Handley for "a number of years and have had correspondence with him for a number of years".

He had sent her an email saying he was applying for the CTO role on April 23, but she hadn't opened it. The pair did however exchange text messages over the next couple of days - Ms Ardern saying Mr Handley's move back to New Zealand was "great news", but not directly replying to his text message mentioning that he had applied for the CTO role.

Ms Ardern said Mr Handley sent her another email to her private account in June, which she didn't open, and only found out from her staff that he had applied.

Winston Peters, Acting Prime Minister while Ms Ardern is in New York at the UN General Assembly, told Parliament on Tuesday "hundreds" of people have offered their services and there's "nothing untoward in that at all".

"To try and extrapolate out from that that the Prime Minister knew about the job - the particular job - is, again, demonstrably false."

Ms Collins said Ms Ardern would have been "jointly responsible" for Mr Handley's appointment as CTO, which was rescinded after Ms Curran's unrecorded meeting in February emerged.

"The Prime Minister's going to have to answer some questions because she's certainly being very economical around some of the information she's given us in Parliament."

Labour MP slams National for "obsessing"

Labour MP Michael Wood, appearing on The AM Show alongside Ms Collins, said the Opposition was "obsessing about the sequencing and the number of text messages and emails".

"Everything is actually being released here, it's all on the table. If there's actually something damning that the Opposition can pick up on, then go for their lives… We're getting on with building houses and rebuilding the health and education systems - things that actually make a difference."

He said mistakes "happen", and the Government had managed the fiasco well with Ms Curran's resignation and the apology issued to Mr Handley.

Mr Handley said while he's glad the Government released the communications, he wished it had done so sooner - but there's no hard feelings.

"I wish them all the best," he told reporters on Thursday.

Watch the full panel with Judith Collins and Michael Wood above.

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