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MPs deny bullying claims

Friday 30 May 2014 5:24 a.m.

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It's been confirmed that three National MPs, two of them ministers, talked to a Maori Party MP who had intended correcting his party's votes on Labour's paid parental leave Bill on Wednesday night.

But they're denying Labour's claim that bullying was involved and the Maori Party won't take the issue any further.

The Maori Party blundered when it handed in proxy votes with the wrong boxes ticked, and when National whips cast the votes against Labour's paid parental leave Bill it was defeated on its second reading by 63 votes to 58.

National MP Jami-Lee Ross says he was the one tasked with delivering the Maori Party's votes.

"I was actually the one that stood up in the House and said, 'three votes opposed for the Maori Party'. They gave us their proxy vote to vote that way. We vote according to the instructions the Maori Party gives us when they're not in the House."

That was reversed on Thursday, with no objection from the Government, and the Bill was given its second reading.

Labour's Grant Robertson says he saw Maori Party MP Pita Sharples come down to the debating chamber soon after the votes were cast, intending to correct them.

But he was waylaid by ministers Tony Ryall and Anne Tolley and Mr Ross, National's junior whip.

"They had always voted in favour, they had indicated to Labour that very day they would be voting in favour, so when we saw Pita Sharples go down to the House we assumed he would be correcting the vote," says Labour MP Jacinda Ardern.

"You could see a conversation was had down in the House; he then left the chamber and the vote wasn't rectified until the next day. It's only fair that we raise questions over what happened."

Labour's Bill proposes increasing paid parental leave to 26 weeks and the Maori Party had supported it on its first reading.

Mrs Tolley rejects Labour's bullying claim and Mr Ross says all they did was point out that the Budget included a provision to increase paid parental leave to 18 weeks.

Mr Robertson says that after talking to the MPs, Dr Sharples seemed to think it was a Budget issue and his party had to support the Government.

"I thought it was disgraceful and he was bullied into it," Mr Robertson said.

Mr Ross denies Dr Sharples was bullied.

"Someone as polite and charming as Tony Ryall would not bully Pita Sharples," says Mr Ross.

Dr Sharples isn't commenting.

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell says it was "an administrative error" and it's been fixed.

NZN / 3 News

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