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Rankin appointed to Families Commission

Published: 10:19AM Tuesday May 12, 2009 Source: NZPA

Controversial former public sector boss Christine Rankin has been appointed as a Families Commissioner.

The Crown agency was set up to promote better understanding of families issues as part of a support deal between United Future and Labour following the 2002 election.

In the past National has mocked the commission and talked about closing it down or cutting it back, but agreed to its continuing existence as part of its support deal with United Future leader Peter Dunne.

Rankin was appointed as the head of Winz (now Work and Income) in 1998, but came under fire from the Labour opposition because of her unorthodox management style and claims of extravagant expenditure.

When Labour came to power in 1999, she was sacked and lost a colourful legal challenge to her dismissal in 2001, which featured numerous top level discussions about her dress sense.

In recent times she was a loud critic of the anti-smacking legislation, which was supported by the commission as being pro-family.

Rankin argued the law change would make thousands of parents criminals.

The law removed the defence of reasonable force when a parent was charged was charged with assaulting a child.

The changes were backed by National and Labour, but its opponents won the right to a referendum to be held later this year.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett announced the appointment of Rankin and Bruce Pilbrow to the commission, saying they were strong advocates for children and families.

Pilbrow is chief executive of the advice service Parents Inc.

The Press flagged the appointment of Rankin on Tuesday morning saying it had been hotly debated amongst ministers.

Lobby group Family First NZ has welcomed the appointments.

"Both Christine and Bruce will bring the commission 'down to earth' and rather than being blinded by ideology, it will hopefully start listening to the voice of families and advocating for them in a relevant way," said Bob McCoskrie, national director of Family First.