More Empty Rhetoric From Dunne

  • Jack Elder
Internal Affairs

There have been no new revelations regarding the appointment of the new Fire Service Commission despite the claims of Peter Dunne, Internal Affairs Minister Jack Elder said.

"Peter Dunne has been making exactly the same baseless claims for months now, and doesn't stop even when he has it explained in words of one syllable."

Mr Dunne's latest 'shock horror' claim is that Mr Estall will be rejoining Marsh McLennan at the end of his term as chairman of the Fire Service Commission.

"But I very clearly told Mr Dunne and Parliament on 30 July that Mr Estall would be taking leave of absence as a director of Marsh McLennan for the term of his appointment, and that he would be working as a contractor.

"I would have thought Mr Dunne had the ability to remember the answer to his own question in the House from July," Mr Elder said.

A story in the Dominion this morning perpetuated a variety of inaccuracies being spread by members of the Opposition. They include:

  • Mr Estall being paid up to $70,000 annually. His remuneration is actually $50,000, with no bonus payable;
  • that he will only work 50 days a year. Incorrect. The letter of appointment makes no mention of days of work. The 50 day figure in some papers that have been released is purely notional, and relates to chairpersons of boards and commissions generally;
  • that he remains on the payroll of Marsh McLennan. This too is wrong, with Mr Estall only being paid as a contractor.

The Dominion also made the claim Mr Estall's appointment had been widely criticised within the insurance industry, although no sources were given, Mr Elder noted.

"A quick phone call to the Insurance Council this morning revealed it is happy with the appointment, and with the direction Mr Estall wants to take the Fire Service."

And an editorial in the Dominion made the claim Mr Estall was an insurance broker at Marsh McLennan. Again, this is incorrect. Mr Estall is a former professional firefighter, and works as a fire protection engineer and risk management adviser.

The claim a parallel could be drawn between Mr Estall's appointment and that of former EQC chairman Ian McLean to the NZI board was also off-beam, Mr Elder said.

All insurance companies act as agents of the EQC - a total different relationship to that between the Fire Service Commission and Marsh McLennan. Also, at that time, a degree of competition existed between the EQC and NZI.

Mr Elder said when he first discussed the possibility with Mr Estall of him being appointed to the position, it was Mr Estall himself who raised the need to deal with possible conflicts of interest in one small area of the Commission's work, and undertook to resolve them.

On 28 August, Mr Estall declared an interest on each and every occasion that the Commission was required to consider the issue of levy payable, audit or legal proceeding against any individual levy payer and/or other party acting for a levy payer or involved in the assessment or collection of levy.

"Unfortunately, the Government cannot employ Mr Estall full-time on the Fire Service Commission. He therefore needs to have a job and there is nothing wrong in him carrying on his normal profession as a fire protection engineer and risk management adviser," Mr Elder said.

"If Mr Dunne thinks he can revive his political fortunes by reissuing the same baseless claims week after week then he is on track to preside over the demise of his second party as leader.

"To lose one political party may be seen as a misfortune. To lose two looks like carelessness."