5.00pm



Gay Labour MP Chris Carter asked to be judged on his deeds, not his sexuality, when he was today elevated to Cabinet.



Mr Carter, who will be New Zealand's first openly gay cabinet minister, said his appointment showed attitudes to "diversity" had changed.



"I'd like to be defined by my efficiency, not my sexuality.

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"I'm looking forward to representing the diversity of New Zealand."



Mr Carter saw no difficulties in dealing with United Future MPs who have vowed to support Labour on confidence and supply votes.



Several United Future MPs since the election have expressed fundamentalist Christian views at odds with Labour's more liberal leanings.



Mr Carter said he was reassured by United Future leader Peter Dunne saying he represented a centrist moderate party.



While he supported a proposed Civil Unions Bill, allowing same sex marriages, that would come to a conscience vote for individual MPs.



With a backlog of 94 bills due to the election, such legislation was likely to go into the ballot as a private member's bill, he said.



"It's part of Government policy, but we are exploring avenues where ... if there is a way of fast-tracking it through the private member's strategy, I would welcome that progress."



Mr Carter, who has operated as Prime Minister Helen Clark's right-hand man in the past term, said he was happy to serve in whatever capacity she chooses for him.



A former teacher, he was a member of the foreign affairs select committee in the last Parliament.



Mr Carter won West Auckland seat Te Atatu with a majority of almost 13,000 at this year's election.



He felt being an Aucklander had helped win him a place in cabinet.



"It's very important because one third of the population of this country live in the city of Auckland, I think Aucklanders will want to know there is a strong voice advocating for their issues in Parliament."



Police documents released last month showed the former junior whip was less than co-operative over the police inquiry into Paintergate.



During the investigation into whether Miss Clark had signed a painting she did not do, Mr Carter refused to hand over cellphone records to police.



He also refused to sign his police statement.



Mr Carter was accused of "digging dirt" on Maori Affairs Minister Dover Samuels, before he was sacked in 2000.



Miss Clark backed him to the hilt after he was accused by National of phoning ex-convict John Yelash, to ask what he knew about Mr Samuels.



Mr Carter said he made the call after Mr Yelash had visited his electorate office in Auckland offering information.



Mr Yelash denied that and said Mr Carter was the first one to make a call.



Miss Clark said she preferred to believe Mr Carter rather than a convicted criminal.



Mr Carter was the first openly gay MP elected to Parliament, when he came to Wellington in 1993.



He lost Waipareira at the 1996 election by 107 votes to National MP Brian Neeson, then won Te Atatu in 1999 and 2002.



In 1995, he travelled on HMNZS Tui to Mururoa Atoll as one of a number of MPs planning to protest French nuclear testing.



- NZPA





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