5 Aug 2020

Sacked Labour ministers Iain Lees-Galloway, Clare Curran bid farewell to Parliament

6:41 am on 5 August 2020

Disgraced former minister Iain Lees-Galloway is adamant he didn't spend public money to keep up the affair that later got him sacked.

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Iain Lees-Galloway. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The outgoing MP returned to Parliament last night to give his final speech in the debating chamber, drawing his 12-year political career to a close.

Lees-Galloway put it bluntly: "There was the near-end of our marriage, the death of my father, and now the end of my political career - we even had to put the dog to sleep a few weeks ago. It's been a rough year," he said.

The MP for Palmerston North returned to Parliament yesterday, the first time since his sacking.

"Just two weeks ago I was not preparing to deliver my valedictory speech, but here I am, ready and happy to say goodbye," he told the House.

Lees-Galloway was last month stripped of his Immigration, ACC, and Workplace Relations and Safety portfolios for having an affair with a former staffer.

The relationship was inappropriate and did not meet expectations, so he had to leave, he said.

"We must recognise, not only the imbalance of power involved but also the impact such a relationship can have on a workplace. That's why I have to go, anyone who thinks otherwise hasn't been paying attention."

"Just because it was tolerated in the past, doesn't mean it ought to be in 2020," he said.

Speaking after his speech, Lees-Galloway said he was leaving Parliament with his head held high.

"We've drawn a line under some things which have happened in the past which I hope won't happen in the future," he said.

But until then, Lees-Galloway said he would continue working right up until election day.

"I've had a little mental health break, that's a good thing.

"I think workers should get the opportunity to do that when they need it and ... the events of the past few weeks have been quite traumatic, but as you can see, I'm feeling well and I've still got a job to do. So I'll be doing my job through until election day," he said.

Ministerial Services is investigating whether the MP used any public money while having the affair.

Lees-Galloway said no public money was spent.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she had been given the same assurances but was waiting for that to be confirmed.

"I did get a preliminary view that there did not appear to be anything out of order," she said.

Scandal aside, Lees-Galloway used the rest of his speech to reflect on his political career and snuck in a few final digs at coalition partner, New Zealand First.

"At the beginning of the term I would never have guessed that I would be the immigration minister who closed the border.

"I mean, I knew we were going into coalition with New Zealand First ... but it still never crossed my mind," he said.

The former minister now plans on heading back to school and has enrolled in post-graduate study.

"The most important thing for me is that my career allows me to spend more time with my family in the future, they've been quite unequivocal about that, they've actually really enjoyed having dad at home over the last couple of weeks.

"Whatever happens next it will mean a lot more time for my family and my friends," Lees-Galloway said.

Clare Curran answering questions in parliament, 5 September 2018

Clare Curran. Photo: Screengrab / inthehouseNZ

Another former Labour minister who gave a valedictory speech was Clare Curran.

She was sacked as a Cabinet minister in 2018 after she failed to disclose two meetings - with RNZ's then head of news Carol Hirschfeld, and the other with tech entrepreneur Derek Handley.

"Over 12 years, I've been promoted and demoted too many times to count," she said.

Her time as an MP, she said, was not an easy ride, and she often felt targeted.

The former broadcasting minister used her farewell speech to criticise the "sick" culture at Parliament and the role the media plays in that.

"Politicians should be held accountable, but we are not prey," she said.

Journalists often act as if they're not accountable for their actions and urged them to turn the mirror on themselves, she said.

Also saying farewell to Parliament yesterday were former Labour minister Ruth Dyson, Labour list MP Raymond Huo and Green MP Gareth Hughes.

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