Prime Minister John Key says it is possible United Future leader Peter Dunne will be restored to his ministerial posts before the end of the term - a decision likely to hinge on the Privileges Committee inquiry into how Mr Dunne's information was handled in an inquiry into a leaked GCSB report.
Mr Dunne said yesterday it was "frustrating" to find Mr Key had set out the grounds on which Act leader John Banks would get his ministerial posts back if he was cleared after legal proceedings into his 2010 Mayoral donations return, but had not given Mr Dunne the same treatment.
"I'm not being critical of either Banks or the Prime Minister, but it is a little frustrating to hear Banks is offered a way back if he is acquitted on criminal charges. I'm not facing criminal charges and I haven't heard an offer of a way back for me."
He said it was Mr Key's call on how that could happen. "I'm just making the observation that in a case where someone is facing criminal charges, which are yet to be proven, a very quick path to redemption is offered. I'm not in that situation, everyone says we've moved on, and it's been a little slower in coming."
Yesterday Mr Key said Mr Dunne might be returned, and while he was yet to consider the grounds on which it could happen, it could depend on the results of a Privileges Committee inquiry into the release of phone and email logs and swipe card details on Mr Dunne to the Henry Inquiry. Mr Key had instigated that inquiry to find the leak of a a GCSB report to Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance. Mr Dunne has said he did not leak it, but resigned his ministerial posts after refusing to hand over emails to the inquiry.
If that committee finds Parliamentary Service or the Inquiry acted outside their remits, it would provide Mr Key with an excuse to reinstate Mr Dunne to his ministerial posts. Mr Key could need Mr Dunne as a future coalition partner. Mr Dunne said he was yet to decide whether he would stand again in Ohariu but had had "a general discussion" with Mr Key about election possibilities.
His demotion had not affected his own preference for working with National instead of Labour - a preference he said was because many of Labour's policies did not fit with United Future's, such as the capital gains tax and increasing income tax for high earner. He said he had not spoken with Labour leader David Cunliffe about the election. "My position has always been that we work with people with whom we have policy comon ground, rather than try and put together awkward coalitions that aren't going to survive." Asked about a coalition which included NZ First leader Winston Peters, Mr Dunne said "it would be very difficult."
Yesterday Mr Banks said he would outline today what his next step would be after meeting with his legal team yesterday. He said he was confident that the matter would be resolved before the middle of next year.