Parata blasted over 'karma' quip

By Kate Shuttleworth

Minister of Education Hekia Parata. Photo / APN
Minister of Education Hekia Parata. Photo / APN

Education Minister Hekia Parata has been blasted for calling it "karma" that staff in her own ministry had not been paid, as she faced more controversy on her first day back.

Ms Parata, who survived a Cabinet reshuffle last week, was asked on her way into Parliament yesterday if she had been briefed on Education Ministry staff not being paid today,

"Yeah, karma eh," she replied.

She then added: "I understand it was human error, the wrong date was entered in the instruction, so they weren't paid yesterday - but they're being paid today."

The comment was quickly linked to the problems with the Novopay system which has caused pay headaches for school staff for months.

Ministry staff are paid through a separate payroll system.

The Public Service Association national secretary, Brenda Pilott, slammed Ms Parata for her response, saying ministry staff had worked hard to try to solve Novopay issues.

"The minister should not be making such flippant remarks about ministry staff which, at the same time, seem to make light of the whole Novopay debacle," Ms Pilott said.

"The fact is there are many ministry staff who have been working very hard to try and pick up the pieces and help fix the Novopay problems.

"For their minister to then turn around and joke about the fact they themselves haven't been paid is pretty unacceptable.

"What would be real karma is for Hekia Parata not to be paid."

During the first question time of the year yesterday opposition parties tried to target her over the resignation of Education Secretary Lesley Longstone, but the questions were passed to Minister for State Services Jonathan Coleman because the Government deemed it an employment issue.

Prime Minister John Key said he didn't know what Ms Parata had said, or the context in which she had made her comment, and would not say whether she should apologise.

But Labour's education spokesman, Chris Hipkins, said true karma would be if Ms Parata apologised for her comments. "How would Hekia Parata feel if she didn't get paid until Novopay was working? Now, that would be karma," he said

Karma is a Buddhist concept linking a person's actions as determining the reality of their state in life.

Ms Parata was spared losing her ministerial role in Mr Key's Cabinet reshuffle two weeks ago, partly on the basis that she was one of the Government's best communicators.

- APNZ

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