Former Mongrel Mob frontman and convicted wife-beater Harry Tam has got a job as policy adviser with the Corrections Department.

Jared Mullen, the department's general manager (policy development), said yesterday that a comprehensive interview and reference checking process was undertaken to ensure Mr Tam was the best qualified for the position.

Mr Tam will work in the Wellington head office, helping to advise management and the Government on policy covering women's issues, law reform, youth, health and drug strategy.

Mr Mullen said the personal information disclosed by Mr Tam was verified through appropriate checks.

In 1997 Mr Tam was controversially appointed a policy adviser in the Ministry of Youth Affairs.

The then opposition justice spokesman, Phil Goff, called for a rethink of his appointment, questioning whether he was the appropriate person for the job, given his track record as a gang member and convicted wife-beater.

Mr Goff said at the time that Mr Tam clearly still held to a "gang culture of violence, yet he is employed in a role that includes strategies to reduce violence in society."

Mr Tam kept his job but was put on a year's probation following a departmental review of his appointment.

Mr Tam, a former national coordinator for the Mongrel Mob advisory panel, was convicted in 1994 of assaulting his wife, in front of their three children, and was sentenced to three months' periodic detention and six months' supervision.

He appealed but this was thrown out in 1996.

Yesterday, Mr Goff's spokesman said it was not appropriate for the minister to comment on a public sector appointment.

In 1996, Mr Tam took issue with Mr Goff's calls for police to have wider powers to deal with gangs, calling on the Government to recognise that more police and legislation were not the answer to the proliferation of gangs.

He said the explosion in gang membership over the past decade had been the result of government policies that killed work schemes.

A Corrections Department spokeswoman said Mr Tam would start his job on July 16.

National's corrections spokesman, Brian Neeson, yesterday accused Mr Goff of hypocrisy and of using his position as minister as an excuse for not commenting on Mr Tam's new role.

"Mr Goff should stand by his earlier comments and I will call him to account in Parliament next week over his justification for this appointment."

Mr Goff, arguing against Mr Tam's 1997 appointment to youth affairs, had queried at a select committee whether a man who "savagely assaults a woman and shows no remorse" was a suitable person to appoint as a policy adviser on issues such as initiatives to prevent youth offending.

- NZPA