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Aussie rugby bosses coy over NZ minister claims

Published: 7:14AM Tuesday September 13, 2011 Source: ONE News

The Australian Rugby Union is refusing to comment on a report that a New Zealand Government minister booed and abused the Wallabies at North Harbour Stadium on Sunday.

All three ministers who attended the Australia versus Italy World Cup match say The Sydney Morning Herald story about a Kiwi minister's unsporting behaviour is not true.

The newspaper reported today that the behaviour of a minister left officials from the Australian Rugby Union "gobsmacked".

But following inquiries by ONE News today, Karl Schubert, Media and Government Relations Manager for the Australian Rugby Union said: "We have no comment to make on the story".

Well-regarded rugby writer Greg Growden said his source told him one of the Kiwi dignitaries in the official box at the North Harbour Stadium on Sunday "booed and abused the Wallabies all game".

''He was yelling out, '---ing cheats' and other offensive remarks, and then when the Wallabies started to get on top, he suddenly left.''

When the officials from the ARU asked an Auckland Government official about the man, he replied: ''Sorry. I can't do much about it. He's a Government minister".

The "stunned officials" apparently gave him the nickname the "Minister For Bad Manners".

But Prime Minister John Key says the trio at the game did nothing of the sort. Jonathan Coleman, Maurice Williamson and Wayne Mapp were the Government's representatives and say the story is made up.

Key says his Ministers have assured him they all behaved appropriately at the match, rejecting the newspaper report that one of them was rude and abusive about the Australian team.

They also say they did not witness the behaviour described in the article.

Key said he would have been very disappointed if the story - which detailed swearing and abuse - was true, but to the best of his knowledge it was not.

Key also said he has checked the Ministers' accounts with independent witnesses who were asked to give him an "unvarnished" account of any incident.

The Prime Minister says witnesses confirmed the version of events given to him by Mapp, Williamson and Coleman.

Williamson also said he and the other Ministers stayed for the entire game - they did not leave - and fulfilled their hosting duties.

Wallabies respond

The Australian players seem a little bemused by the fuss.

"It doesn't bother me, we'll just go out there and play," Will Genia said.

Ridike Samo said: "I've haven't heard anything, I haven't seen anything."

That is similar to the ministers' story.

"All I can be is accountable for my own behaviour and absolutely nothing wrong was done or witnessed," Coleman said.

ONE News political editor Guyon Espiner says with the Government already under pressure over transport and overcrowding problems at the launch of the Rugby World Cup, the last thing they needed was a ministerial scandal.

Key said there is simply no evidence of that.

"This is an unnamed gossip columnist reporting a theoretical unnamed minister in a gossip column," Key said.