Cabinet argues role for Rankin

The Press 12 May 2009

Controversial former public sector boss Christine Rankin has been appointed as a Families Commissioner. Social Development Minister Paula Bennett announced the appointment of Ms Rankin and Bruce Pilbrow to the commission, saying they were strong advocates for children and families. Mr Pilbrow is chief executive of the advice service Parents Inc. The Press flagged the appointment of Ms Rankin this morning saying it had been hotly debated amongst ministers. The Crown agency was set up to promote better understanding of families issues as part of a support deal between United Future and Labour following the 2002 election.

In the past National has mocked the commission and talked about closing it down or cutting it back, but agreed to its continuing existence as part of its support deal with United Future leader Peter Dunne. Commissioners are responsible for speaking out for families to promote better understanding of family issues, the autonomous Crown agency’s mission statement says. They are also expected to oppose any change to the so-called “anti-smacking” law despite Rankin recently campaigning for a referendum on the issue.

Lobby group Family First NZ welcomed the appointments. “Both Christine and Bruce will bring the Commission ‘down to earth’ and rather than being blinded by ideology, it will hopefully start listening to the voice of families and advocating for them in a relevant way,” said Bob McCoskrie, national director of Family First.