Nick Smith: 'I've messed up'

By Lloyd Burr

Former Cabinet minister Nick Smith has revealed another letter he sent to Bronwyn Pullar and cited it as the reason he resigned from his ministerial posts today.

Dr Smith spoke to media outside Parliament this afternoon after giving his resignation speech in the House. 

He says he resigned because two letters he sent to Ms Pullar breached the “good standards that apply to ministers”.

“This morning I worked my way through all of the correspondence and there were three new letters that I signed out,” he says.

Dr Smith says two letters were “entirely appropriate” and he declared his conflict of interest but it was the third which made up his mind to resign.

The letter in question appeared on his desk on March 2010 and “for some reason” he says he cannot explain, he signed it.

The letter had been rejected by then-associate ACC Minister Pansy Wong because she knew Ms Pullar and declared a conflict of interest.

Dr Smith failed to declare a conflict of interest and signed the letter.

He says when he saw the letter yesterday, it “added to the first [letter released yesterday] and in my view came to the point where I breached the good standards that should apply to ministers.

“That is when I informed the Prime Minister that I want to resign from all my portfolios,” he says.

Prime Minister John Key says he is disappointed in Dr Smith’s “unwise judgement” and accepted the resignation because he “erred twice”.

“What is clear is that Nick Smith should have realised he had a conflict of interest himself and he should have made that clear and shouldn’t have taken the responsibility.

“He erred twice, he offered his resignation and I accepted it.

“In writing the reference, he was pretty close to the line, he has used unwise judgement…What came about today is clear evidence that it is not just once he showed poor judgement but twice.

Mr Key rejected claims that the resignation was a way of getting himself ‘off the hook’ for sticking up for Dr Smith yesterday.

“If he hadn’t offered his resignation, who knows, but we are not going to go into hypothetical questions. He offered his resignation and I accepted it,” the Prime Minister says.

Dr Smith says one of the difficulties of this job is that “you have a lot of friends that put you under a lot of pressure to get things that they may wish”.

He says pressure came from Ms Pullar during the period he was reforming ACC while he was the minister. He says she was unhappy with his process.

“She did not threaten me at any time, she was just very persistent and repeatedly wanted me to interfere.”

But he says none of his actions led Ms Pullar to have any different entitlement than anyone else.

His relationship with Ms Pullar has also come into question amid the fiasco, however, he failed to shed any light on whether he had been in an intimate relationship with her in the past.

“I’m not going to comment on my private life apart from saying that I have a wonderful wife and family who are actually pretty distressed today.

“I have been absolutely loyal to my wife and I will be until the end of my days,” he says.

“I’m not going to get into a commentary of who I have been in relationships with or not and I say that with respect to this particular claimant.”

As he left the media conference, a teary-eyed Dr Smith said it was hard to make his final speech as a minister in Parliament.

“Twenty-one years in Parliament, this is a lot for my family. I’ve messed up and I apologise to all those people I have let down.”

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