The Press
June 28 2003

Ellis petition with Select Committee
by Jan McCarthy

The fate of the petition calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry on the Peter Ellis case rests with Parliament's justice and electoral select committee.

The 140-name petition was presented to Parliament on Tuesday and tabled at the select committee's Wednesday meeting.

Committee chairman Christchurch Central MP Tim Barnett said the petition had been received by the committee and the Ministry of Justice and petitioners had been asked to provide a briefing. He expected this would take a month.

Mr Barnett said public interest would not pressure the committee into a fast decision. Rather, it would take its time and "deal with it thoroughly".

He did not see as a conflict of interest the fact that the civic creche had been located within his electorate, or that he had been lobbied by both sides "everyone has been lobbied on it".

Mr Barnett considered his links to the case no greater than anyone else's. "I have not taken a position on the issue."

A reason he did not consider signing the petition was the realisation it would probably be dealt with by the justice and electoral select committee.

Committee deputy chairman ACT MP Stephen Franks signed the petition, a fact Mr Barnett was unaware of until contacted by The Press yesterday.

Whether the committee recommends a Royal Commission or not, Justice Minister Phil Goff retains the power, under the Commission of Inquiry Act, to seek approval from the Cabinet to call for an inquiry.

A spokesman said Mr Goff would not be calling for an inquiry at this stage, but would review the proceedings of the committee.