19 Sep 2018

Emails between Curran and Handley to be revealed

7:16 am on 19 September 2018

The state services minister is expected to turn up to Parliament this afternoon with copies of former minister Clare Curran's personal emails to technology entrepreneur Derek Handley.

Clare Curran

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Chris Hipkins was visibly unhappy with the Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard, who gave him 24 hours to front up with the emails at question time yesterday.

It's just the latest in the ongoing saga over the Chief Technology Officer position, which has cost Ms Curran her portfolios and Mr Handley his new title.

It was National MP Nick Smith who complained to the Speaker, drawing attention to how many times he'd tried to extract an answer from Mr Hipkins about what was in those emails.

"I have now asked eight questions to try and establish the content of those emails. I've now had eight answers in which I've been told I can get them under the Official Information Act, that they might be archived. How can that be an acceptable answer?

"If that were the case we wouldn't bother with question time in Parliament, and members of this house would simply go through Archives and the OIA," he said.

Mr Mallard initially told Dr Smith to ask better-worded questions, and so he tried again. But Mr Hipkins revealed little more.

Another complaint from Dr Smith followed, and Mr Mallard decided it wouldn't be all that hard for Mr Hipkins to find them - given they're now in the hands of the chief archivist.

"In fact, I think it would be a good thing for transparency if in answering a specific and detailed and well-worded question, the minister brought the emails to the House and made them available in that way."

Mr Hipkins was not happy with the instruction, but will be expected to have them on hand this afternoon.

The same question time also revealed the prime minister had personal contact with the man handed the Chief Technology Officer role by the previous minister, only to have it swept out from under his feet as Ms Curran was demoted from Cabinet.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she received a text message from Mr Handley.

Derek Handley

Derek Handley Photo: Supplied

"My best recollection is that I received some months ago, a text from Mr Handley mentioning the CTO role, which I do not recall directly engaging with as that would not have been appropriate," she told the House.

Ms Ardern said it had been at least a year if not two since she had spoken with Mr Handley.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs