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Key in the gun over Smith's resignation

Thursday 22 Mar 2012 5:38 a.m.

John Key and Nick Smith

John Key and Nick Smith

By Peter Wilson, NZN Political Writer

Opposition parties are heaping blame on Prime Minister John Key for not sacking Nick Smith as soon as he knew the MP was embroiled in a conflict of interest.

Dr Smith resigned from the cabinet on Wednesday but Labour and the Greens are still demanding an independent inquiry.

They say Mr Key didn't do anything until he was "trapped" by the escalating row over Dr Smith's support for a friend who was involved in a dispute with ACC.

At the time Dr Smith was ACC minister and he wrote a letter Bronwyn Pullar could give to ACC assessors testifying she was fit and healthy before a cycling accident.

On Wednesday he revealed he was guilty of another conflict of interest error when he signed off a second letter involving Ms Pullar.

Mr Key on Tuesday accepted an apology from Dr Smith and said he could keep his environment and local government portfolios.

On Wednesday he said making two errors of judgment tipped the balance and accepted Dr Smith's resignation.

Labour leader David Shearer says Dr Smith abused his position as a minister to help a friend.

"That is wrong. It's as simple as that. The prime minister should have removed him from his portfolios immediately," he said.

"John Key knew days ago about the letter Nick Smith wrote on ministerial letterhead and he shrugged it off."

Mr Shearer says there must be an investigation "so that New Zealanders can be reassured that there has been no further wrongdoing on the part of Nick Smith, John Key or other MPs who may be caught up in this case".

Green's co-leader Metiria Turei and NZ First leader Winston Peters also want an inquiry and they're going to demand it again in Parliament today.

"John Key delayed until he was trapped and that's not good leadership," Ms Turei said.

NZN

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