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Labour tried to bring me down: Bennett

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 16/06/2016

National MP, Paula Bennett.: Minister for Social Housing, Paula Bennett. © RNZ / Alexander Robertson Minister for Social Housing, Paula Bennett. Paula Bennett is accusing Labour of besmirching her reputation in an attempt to bring her down over the police inquiry leak.

"What I've been accused of is that I'm a liar, that I've been running smear campaigns, and there's no element of truth to that whatsoever," she said on Newshub's Paul Henry Show.

"Day after day, to run that I'm a liar and that I don't have integrity besmirches my reputation unfairly - I think it's about bringing me down."

Labour has hounded the social housing minister after it was revealed that one of her press secretaries told a reporter that Te Puea Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis was under police investigation.

The marae has opened its doors to the homeless and Mr Dennis told Ms Bennett about the inquiry when they met last Friday.

Ms Bennett briefed her staff on the meeting, and told them about the inquiry.

Since then the press secretary has offered to resign, which Ms Bennett didn't accept, and Prime Minister John Key has said he has full confidence in his minister.

Ms Bennett's version of events is that the press secretary had a conversation with a reporter and mentioned the inquiry "in passing".

The press secretary had thought the inquiry was public knowledge.

Ms Bennett has previously said she didn't know her press secretary had talked to the reporter until she was questioned about it on Tuesday, and had nothing to do with the leak.

Labour's Phil Twyford has been leading the charge against Ms Bennett, and the party's deputy leader, Annette King, says he was justified.

"I still don't understand why a person from her office would pass on that information to the media," she told Paul Henry.

In parliament on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said it was "a matter of third-hand gossip, through a series of social events, that ended up as a story".

Labour doesn't accept Ms Bennett's explanation and claims she was behind the leak because she wanted to discredit Mr Dennis.

Police have confirmed that Mr Dennis was stood down as a police iwi liaison officer last September pending an inquiry.

The inquiry is reported to involve the way Mr Dennis intervened, on a personal basis and outside working hours, on behalf of a teenage boy who was in a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl.

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