Hide defends dance defection

Act leader Rodney Hide has defended his absences from Parliament to practise for the television show Dancing With The Stars and has denied a new rumour he is also taking a job as a DJ.

Since joining the show as one of its celebrities, Mr Hide has been at Parliament for only three of the past 10 sitting days and has missed voting on 11 bills. Last night he was not there for a confidence vote.

Act MP Heather Roy has also been absent - she is on a six-week Army camp in Waiouru training to be a Territorial soldier. She is keeping her MP's pay but is giving her pay from the Territorials to the Returned Services Association.

Mr Hide told Television One's Close Up programme that he had told the staff on Dancing With The Stars his number one priority was to the people in his electorate. "I've certainly put Epsom first."

Although it was correct that he had missed 11 votes in Parliament, other MPs also took leave and missed votes.

"None of those mattered."

The votes included those on legislation relating to paid parental leave for the self-employed and allowing for majority verdicts on juries.

Mr Hide said he would have voted against every one of the 11 bills but the Government still had the numbers to pass them.

His attendance record would be bettered only by Parliament's whips.

"I've learned more in the last three weeks ... than I have three years sitting in Parliament.

"New Zealanders are a very positive people and they love the fact that someone stands up and gives it a go."

The slimmed-down Mr Hide - he has lost 23kg - said he would keep dancing after the show ended or he was voted off.

He said a lot of rumours were circulating about him but the latest - that he was about to be a radio disc-jockey - was not true.

Mr Hide said he had taken flak when he joined the show because people thought he would treat it like a joke. Now, he was criticised because he was taking it seriously.

- NZPA

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