Woodhouse: Meeting migrants is policy development
Thursday 8 May 2014 9:39 a.m.
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse is defending a meeting last year where National Party donor Donghua Liu lobbied for a change in immigration policy.
Mr Woodhouse has confirmed he had a meeting in in Auckland in April or May last year with Mr Liu, the businessman linked with Maurice Williamson's resignation as a minister last week.
Mr Liu has donated thousands of dollars to National and Labour says the meeting, along with the "cabinet club" discussions involving people paying to attend lunches where politicians are present, is a bad look.
But Mr Woodhouse has defended his meeting with Mr Liu, saying it's a good thing to listen to views of someone who went through the immigration process.
"Certainly I didn't feel uncomfortable at that time. But I think it's really important that I hear from a wide range of people," Mr Woodhouse told TVNZ's Breakfast.
"I listen to refugees, I listen to skilled migrants, I listen to investors. That's policy development."
He said he didn't see a need to change the way he made himself available to anyone with an idea on immigration policy.
"What I think is appropriate and important is that members of the New Zealand public have access to ministers over issues that concern them.
Labour's immigration spokesman Trevor Mallard said Mr Woodhouse's meeting and the cabinet clubs created a perception of conflict of interest.
National criticised Labour in Parliament for raising the issue, saying it charged people $1250 to have one-on-one meetings with the MP of their choice at a Labour Party event.
But Mr Mallard told Radio New Zealand it was different when ministers were involved, saying he never had anything like a cabinet club when he was a minister.
"We do not systematically advertise access to ministers in just about every electorate in the country the way that the National Party does."