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Is The Government Mulling Making Cigarettes Cheaper?

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The Associate Health Minister has apologised in Parliament for "causing confusion" when answering questions about whether she specifically sought out advice on freezing the tobacco excise tax.

Documents show Casey Costello asked her ministry for advice on freezing the excise, despite denying in an interview with RNZ she had specifically sought the information.

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Costello maintained under questioning in the House last month she had not specifically asked for the advice.

On Tuesday afternoon, Costello told MPs she had since reviewed that response.

"I'm speaking specifically to the questions that asked if I was being truthful when I denied to the media that I had requested advice on freezing tobacco excise tax.

"On review of my response, I acknowledge that there is confusion arising from my understanding of the differentiation between seeking specific advice and accepting advice being offered.

"I had no intention of misleading the house and I apologise for any confusion."

Unsatisfied with that statement, Labour leader Chris Hipkins stood and told the House: "I don't think anyone in this house would be any the wiser as to exactly what it is the minister has just corrected."

Parliament speaker Gerry Brownlee disagreed, saying: "I'm very wise on these things, and right up with it, as it happens."

Hipkins then asked for further clarity on Costello's statement.

"The minister was repeatedly asked whether she had requested advice and she repeatedly said no. Is her correction now saying that she did ask for that advice? If so, she should say that."

Brownlee said that was not his understanding but promised to revisit the transcript and consider what was said.

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