16 Dec 2013

PM criticises Harawira's Mandela trip

10:04 pm on 16 December 2013

The Prime Minister has criticised the Mana Party leader Hone Harawira for using taxpayer money to travel to attend Nelson Mandela's funeral in South Africa.

Mr Harawira on Monday returned from his trip to farewell the former South African president and pay his respects on behalf of all those who have marched against apartheid. His trip was paid for out of the Leader's Fund.

He was not included in the official delegation sent to South Africa to represent New Zealand, headed by the Prime Minister John Key.

Mr Key says Mr Harawira should never have gone.

"This is a guy that went to South Africa on a jolly and shouldn't be billing the taxpayer for it. The bottom line is we took a delegation - whether he likes it or not - that represented, in our view, the right mix. I personally don't believe there was a role for him to go to South Africa."

However, Mr Harawira says he was turned down by Mr Key to be part of the official delegation, so sought and received approval from Parliament's speaker to use his Leader's Fund to go on his own.

Mr Key took along the Labour Party leader David Cunliffe, the Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples, the former Commonwealth Secretary-General Sir Don McKinnon and ex-prime minister Jim Bolger.

There were debates about the decision to take Sir Don and Mr Bolger, who were both members of the National government during the Springbok tour in 1981, rather than people who led the fight against apartheid in New Zealand in the 1980s, such as John Minto, Trevor Richards and Mr Harawira.