More Hauhama links to NZ First revealed

The controversy over the appointment of Wally Hauhama grows, with more links to NZ First revealed. The appointment of a new chair for the inquiry into his appointment will be closely scrutinised, after NZ First MP Tracey Martin tried to defend her appointment of Pauline Kingi until Kingi stepped aside.

It was already known that Hauhama came close to being an NZ First candidate in 2005 (until his wife stole $24,000 to replace money she gambled from his campaign fund).

But the Herald have been digging, and finding a number of other links between Hauhama and NZ First.

NZH:  NZ First deputy leader Fletcher Tabuteau’s ‘whānau’, marae links to Wally Haumaha

New family links between New Zealand First and controversial deputy police commissioner appointment Wally Haumaha have emerged, as one of the party’s senior ministers looks to restart the inquiry into the process which led to his promotion.

Fletcher Tabuteau, the deputy leader of New Zealand First, comes from Waiteti Marae in Ngongotaha near Rotorua, of which Haumaha is the chairman.

They are both Ngāti Ngāraranui and Tabuteau referred to Haumaha as a member of his whānau in his maiden speech to Parliament in 2014.

Tabuteau’s uncle Tommy Gear – a close friend of Winston Peters – is a trustee of the Ngāti Ngāraranui Hapu Trust along with Haumaha.

Gear and Haumaha are senior leaders on the Waiteti Marae, where a special function was held in June last year to celebrate Haumaha’s promotion to assistant police commissioner.

New Zealand First leader and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters was one of the speakers at the function, along with Police Commissioner Mike Bush.

Hauhama was appointed before NZ First helped Labour form a government last year, so they wouldn’t have been involved in his appointment – other than celebrating it.

Haumaha’s appointment became controversial after the Herald revealed comments he made in support of fellow officers involved in historic police rape allegations made by Louise Nicholas.

When the Herald broke the news in June, Peters was the Acting Prime Minister.

He announced an inquiry would be held into the process of Haumaha’s promotion to deputy commissioner and appointed Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin – a longtime New Zealand First member like Tabuteau – to oversee the inquiry.

That’s where it gets tricky for NZ First.

At the time, Peters and Martin both downplayed Haumaha’s link to New Zealand First.

They have both handled this poorly.

Martin said she could not see any conflict of interest.

“I’m setting up an independent Government inquiry, and that means that I will receive recommendations of a person to led that inquiry from Crown Law,” Martin told The Nation.

“I will appoint that person, they will run that inquiry completely independent from me, and it’s about a process, not a person.”

But the process of due diligence looks to have been severely flawed.

Martin, Peters and NZ First should make sure that anyone recommended to lead the inquiry now can not be linked to NZ First in any appreciable way, or this mess will get worse for them.


This also shows the degree of connection between NZ First MPs. Martin has been an MP since 2011 and was deputy leader for several years. Her mother was close to Peters and involved with the administration party.

Tabuteau is now the deputy leader and also works closely with peters as Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. He and his family also have close links to Peters.

Kingi steps down, Martin grizzles, move on

I think that despite ongoing support from NZ First MPs Tracey Martin and Winston Peters, Pauline Kingi had little choice but to step down from her role as chair of the inquiry into the appointment of Wally Haumaha as Deputy Chief Police Commissioner.

Yesterday she did this. Minister of Internal Affairs Tracey Martin announced it in Parliament yesterday.

Newsroom: Pauline Kingi steps down over LinkedIn endorsements

Dr. Pauline Kingi has stepped down as the chair of the inquiry into the appointment of Wally Haumaha as Deputy Chief Police Commissioner.

Haumaha’s appointment has been mired in controversy since it emerged he had a close relationship with the police officers accused of raping Bay of Plenty woman, Louise Nicholas when she was a teenager. Two of the officers, Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum, were later convicted of the rape of a Mount Maunganui woman.

The appointment was also controversial as Haumaha had once been selected to stand for New Zealand First, although he withdrew his candidacy before he ran.

The appointment of Kingi, a prominent Māori lawyer and community leader, was announced on July 23.

But it emerged on Tuesday that Kingi had endorsed Haumaha 23 times on the social networking site, LinkedIn. The endorsements from an account in the name of Kingi endorsed Haumaha’s skills in 23 areas, including leadership, public sector and public safety.

Martin had a grizzle in Parliament.

However, it is with regret that I have to inform the House that Dr Pauline Kingi advised the Government just before I came to the House that she is going to stand down from the inquiry and to the appointment process for a Deputy Commissioner of Police. Ever since she was appointed to the role, she has been the subject of political attack.

Those have been attacks on her integrity, attacks on her reputation, and even attacks on her legal qualification. Dr Kingi has a 28-year career in public service as both a community member and senior public servant, and as a lawyer. She was asked to perform a public duty, and yet became the subject of an undue and unwarranted criticism.

Ms Kingi resigned because of disgusting accusations by the Opposition that impinged on her integrity, based on a LinkedIn profile, which is a social media account that has been shown, and advice has been received, does not—[Interruption]

Winston Peters joined in:

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Should people who have offered to fill a public office be the subject of vituperation, defamatory statements and comments, and have their integrity challenged purely for a venal political purpose?

Hypocrisy hyperdrive – how often has Winston challenged the integrity of how many people for venal political purpose over the years?

The challenges on Kingi may have been overhyped, but this is a mess largely of Martin’s and NZ First’s own making.

It marked an inglorious end to Winston’s tenure as acting Prime Minister.

I suspect that Jacinda Ardern will be relieved this is largely over before she takes charge again today.

Kingi controversy re inquiry into the appointment of Wally Haumaha

Questions were raised over the independence of Dr Pauline Kingi , who was appointed as chair of the Government inquiry into the appointment of Wally Haumaha as the Deputy Commissioner of Police. It was claimed that Kingi had ‘endorsed’ Hauhama on his LinkedIn profile 23 times.

There was a reaction of surprise and concern on Twitter and in Parliament.

RNZ: National calls for inquiry head to step down

Pauline Kingi is leading an investigation into the process that led to Mr Haumaha being made deputy police commisssioner – despite comments he made defending police officers accused of rape in 2004.

Dr Kingi has endorsed 23 of Mr Haumaha’s skills on the professional networking platform LinkedIn, including law enforcement, crime prevention and leadership development.

National’s police spokesperson Chris Bishop said that constituted a conflict of interest and she must go.

“She simply has no credibility to chair the inquiry. It’s a blatant conflict of interest, she must stand down or Tracey Martin must sack her,” he said.

Ms Martin is the minister overseeing the inquiry, and said Dr Kingi signed a form declaring there was no conflict of interest.

Martin made some odd statements in her defence of Kingi.

Ms Martin said she was frustrated that National had sunk to this level.

“A LinkedIn profile, a networking digital platform, that somehow is supposed to be the judge of a person’s character? Have you seen this lady’s CV?” she asked.

Ms Martin said the suggestion that liking somebody on Facebook or endorsing them on LinkedIn made somebody unqualified was frustrating.

Endorsing someone many times does raise valid questions about their independence.

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters described LinkedIn as a career enhancing utility. He said everyone endorsed everyone else, and the only person that had not been endorsed happened to be himself – because he did not have a profile.

That’s crap. I’m on LinkedIn and I don’t recall having endorsed anyone. Certainly nowhere near 23 times for one person.

Mr Peters said he had complete confidence in Dr Kingi and the process.

“It’s not like writing a fully-fledged reference, and sending it off with a signature on it. It’s social media after all and you know how skitterish that can be.”

That’s a skitterish defence.

11. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Does she have confidence in the process that led to the appointment of Dr Pauline Kingi as chair of the Government inquiry into the appointment of Wally Haumaha as the Deputy Commissioner of Police?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Minister of Internal Affairs): Firstly, the premise of the question is incorrect—there is no inquiry into Mr Haumaha. There is, however, a Government inquiry into the appointment process for a Deputy Commissioner of Police. Having said that, I can confirm that the process used to establish the independent Government inquiry into the appointment process for a Deputy Commissioner of Police is the same as that used for the chair of any other inquiry. It is a process run by the Department of Internal Affairs and supported by other agencies. It is the same process established by the previous National Government in November 2009, and was updated by the National Government in 2013 and used by that Government to establish the whey protein concentrate contamination incident in 2013, the royal commission of inquiry on the Pike River coal mine tragedy in 2012, and the Government inquiry into the Havelock North drinking water.

Chris Bishop: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was an interesting traverse through the last few years of Government inquiries, but it didn’t really go to the question of whether or not the Minister has confidence in the process.

Mr SPEAKER: I think it did. Does the member have a supplementary?

Chris Bishop: How can she have confidence in the process that appointed Dr Pauline Kingi when she has publicly endorsed Mr Wally Haumaha 23 times for a range of attributes, including for leadership, governance, public safety, crime prevention, and stakeholder management?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Dr Kingi has declared that she knew Mr Haumaha in a professional capacity when she was a highly respected public servant. She has also declared that she attended a tangi either in 2015 or 2016—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat. This is a very important answer that goes to the integrity of at least two people, and will be heard in silence.

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Dr Kingi has declared that she knew of Mr Haumaha in a professional capacity when she was a highly respected public servant. She has also declared that she attended a tangi in either 2015 or 2016 that Mr Haumaha also attended. Dr Kingi has signed, as is standard procedure, a declaration confirming that she has no conflict of interest in relation to the appointment—which, I remind the member, is into the process by the State Services Commission around appointment processes. If the member if asking if LinkedIn is a usual port of call for Government departments to ascertain the suitability of an inquiry chair, than I would have to say no. Rather than resort to social media, this Government looks to the substantial CVs of candidates and the fullness of their service to their communities and their country, and Dr Kingi is a New Zealander that has given great service to her country. I would suggest this is why the 1999 Shipley-led National Government awarded Dr Kingi the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Chris Bishop: When Dr Pauline Kingi was appointed to lead the independent inquiry into the appointment process around Mr Wally Haumaha, was she aware that Dr Kingi had publicly endorsed Mr Haumaha 23 times on LinkedIn, for every skill Mr Haumaha has listed on that website, and in some cases being the only person to endorse him, and that Mr Haumaha has endorsed Dr Kingi on at least three occasions for her skills listed on the LinkedIn website?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I was unaware of the LinkedIn endorsements until my office was contacted by media this morning. I requested that the chief executive contact Dr Kingi to clarify the suggested conflict. While Dr Kingi could not remember making these endorsements, she did confirm—

Hon Members: Ha, ha!

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: This is important. Would you like to listen? The integrity of a highly respected public servant is being questioned; it’s important that her answers be placed on the record. She did confirm that she had, like many New Zealanders, set up a LinkedIn account when it was first launched, and that at time it was—

Hon Simon Bridges: Are you that useless?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: —common practice for Māori professionals to—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat. The Leader of the Opposition will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon Simon Bridges: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: It was common practice at that time—16 years ago—for Māori professionals to support each other on this new medium, through endorsement.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it a fact that not only did Dr Pauline Kingi get a substantial honour from the National Party, but so did Wallace Haumaha—not once but twice?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! This member has no responsibility for that.

Chris Bishop: Further to that answer, is the member aware that the endorsement function on LinkedIn was only invented and established in 2012, so references to LinkedIn profiles 15 years ago are an utter irrelevance?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: My understanding is that LinkedIn was developed in 2002, 16 years ago. It may be that the member is more au fait with social media than I am because I spend most of my time working on things important to New Zealand, not on Twitter.

Chris Bishop: Can the Minister give a categorical assurance that Dr Pauline Kingi was not involved in recommending promotions or appointments of Mr Haumaha in her role as a member of the Auckland district advisory taumata and her role assisting the Auckland district police with police recruitment?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I can give an assurance of the complete and proper process around the appointment of Dr Kingi as the chair of an independent inquiry into the process by which the State Services Commission provides information to Ministers for appointment. I can also direct the member to the Office of the Auditor-General’s Managing conflicts of interest: Guidance for public entities if he would like to avail himself of that information with regard to how conflict of interest is managed in this country.

 

Nation: Minister of Children on Oranga Tamariki changes

Minister of Children Tracey Martin will be interviewed on Newshub’s Nation this morning:

2017’s launch of Oranga Tamariki signaled hope for New Zealand’s most vulnerable children. Lisa Owen asks Minister for Children Tracey Martin how much has changed under the revamped organisation – and whether life is really better for our kids in care.

Progress will be difficult to measure and it may be too soon to tell whether things have improved appreciably. This is a very challenging portfolio.

Tracey Martin says only 150 caregivers have been recruited since Oranga Tamariki’s formation. The target is 1000.

Newshub Nation has learnt that children in state care are being kept in motel rooms because there are not enough caregivers for them – Tracey Martin says that is a major concern.

…says Oranga Tamariki is not fulfilling its promise to kids they took out of their homes

One caregiver told Newshub Nation that a social worker didn’t meet their child for eight months, others say they are fearful of the Ministry’s direction. Tracey Martin said thats “interesting”.

Social workers and carers have told Newshub Nation that they are on the verge of revolt.

Martin says she wasn’t aware of this level of concern and says she has had good feedback from meetings she has had.

It could be that progress (or lack of) varies in different parts of the country.

Ireland abortion vote puts New Zealand law to shame

Ireland has just resoundingly voted to modernise their abortion law, giving women the choice the should have.

This highlights New Zealand’s shameful persistence with law that is not fit for purpose to the extent that it is virtually ignored in practice, although it forces women into a demeaning process.

We should add abortion to the referendum list for next year, along with personal use of cannabis and euthanasia.

The last Government was not interested in addressing the abortion anomaly.

Abortion was not addressed in either the Labour-NZ First or Labour-Green governing agreements.

However Jacinda Ardern campaigned against the current law – Abortion ‘shouldn’t be a crime’ (September 2017):

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says abortion should not be in the Crimes Act and she would change the law.

Access to abortion is governed by the Crimes Act 1961 and the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977.

“It shouldn’t be in the Crimes Act. People need to be able to make their own decision. People need to be able to make their own decisions. I want women who want access to be able to have it as a right.”

At the same time Bill English supported the law as it is but also supported a conscience vote:

Prime Minster Bill English, a conservative Catholic, said he supported the law as it was and he would be opposed to liberalisation. He described the current set-up, where a woman has to get a certificate from two separate medical professionals saying she needed an abortion, was “broadly acceptable” and was working.

However, English said it would be a “conscience decision”, so his MP could vote freely on it.

Why not let the people vote on it?

February 2018: Labour moves to legalise abortion

Andrew Little surprised observers today when he revealed that a draft referral on reforming New Zealand’s abortion law had been circulated to New Zealand First and the Greens. Little said today that he received a letter from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after the coalition was formed directing him to begin the process of reforming the law.

Once the two parties give feedback, the referral will be sent to the Law Commission to make a recommendation.

New Zealand is not just out of step with modern law, it is also out of step with modern practices.

New Zealand is an outlier among OECD countries for the time it takes to get an abortion and the way abortions are provided to patients.

In New Zealand, a patient must be referred to two specialists to sign-off on the abortion. If one refuses, the woman may need to find a third specialist. The average time from referral to procedure is 25 days.

In other countries the it can take just a week from referral to procedure. This makes it more likely for New Zealand patients to require a surgical, rather than a medical abortion, as they have passed the nine week mark.

In New Zealand, only 15 percent of abortions are medical abortions. By contrast, 62 percent of abortions in the UK are medical abortions and 45 percent of abortions performed before nine weeks (two-thirds of the total number) in the United States are medical abortions.

Terry Bellamak, President of the Abortion Law Reform Association…

…said that she would like to see abortion wiped from the Crimes Act and the restrictive grounds for abortion abolished.

Currently, abortion can be granted on the grounds that the pregnancy is a risk to the physical or mental health of the mother; that there is a substantial risk the child will be seriously handicapped; that the pregnancy is a result of incest; or that the woman is deemed to be “severely subnormal”.

Bellamak said she would like New Zealand’s law to be reformed along the lines of Canada.

“Canada has absolutely no abortion laws and no regulations around abortion. They simply trust women,” she said.

Andrew Little refused to give much detail on what reform might look like…

…but suggested it might be broader than taking abortion out of the Crimes Act.

“There are more issues than just what’s in the Crimes Act … it’s also the hurdles that have been put in the way of women who are faced with making that decision”.

The vote would be a conscience vote, meaning MPs would be given the ability to vote freely without following a party line.

Why not a people vote, in a referendum along with cannabis and euthanasia?

Ardern and Little support reform.

Greens have actively campaigned on reform: Abortion – it’s time to decriminalise

The Green Party supports the decriminalisation of abortion because we trust women to make decisions that are best for them and their whānau/family. We want to ensure equal access to all potential options are available to pregnant women.

We want to change the abortion laws because:

  • The fact that 99% of abortions are approved on ‘mental health’ grounds reveals the dishonesty of the current legal situation.
  • The time taken to see two consultants means abortions happen later in the pregnancy. This is more dangerous for the woman, and it makes it difficult to access medical abortions (those which are conducted using medicine rather than surgery), which can only be performed at under 9 weeks’ gestation.
  • Rape (sexual violation) is not grounds for abortion under NZ law.
  • To reduce the stigma and judgement that happens over the reasons a woman chooses to have an abortion (e.g. rape being seen as more justified grounds for abortion than poverty).
  • Abortion’s continuing criminal status helps reinforce geographical variations in access to abortion services.
  • The current laws are discriminatory towards people with disabilities.

We also want to change the presumption that currently exists within medical culture and wider society, encouraged by the wording in the legislation, that if there is a significant disability diagnosis then an abortion is assumed to be desirable.

While English supported an MP conscience vote on abortion Simon Bridges could be different. In February when he became National leader:

Bridges told Mediaworks abortion should be “rare, safe and legal and I think the emphasis there is on rare. I think that’s where the vast majority of New Zealanders are”.

If that’s his view I think Bridges is out of touch with new Zealand.

Vice have noted he: “Voted to appoint a doctor strongly opposed to abortion to the Abortion Supervisory Committee.”

In principle NZ First supports people deciding things by referendum. In March last year Tracey Martin pointed this out in Politically, Abortion change rests with NZ First so what does that look like?

What’s our view on abortion legislation?

Abortions should be safe, legal and rare.

We have a policy of citizen-initiated binding referendum, held at the same time as a general election – a policy we have had for 23 years – this is one of those issues for such a referendum. It should not be decided by temporarily empowered politicians but by the public.

We need a 12 to 18 month conversation around this issue and then let the people have their say.

Topics that we would be suggest be associated with this discussion would include: Moving the issue from the Criminal Act to the Health Act, ensuring women get the best possible advice, getting more research into “why” women find themselves needing to seek this service and how can we assist them to avoid having to seek this service.

It makes more sense to me to have a referendum a year before the election. It separates issues decided from the politics of general elections, and is a very good way of engaging the public in democracy.

 

Ardern, Martin harshly criticised over possible closure of residential children’s service

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised making it a priority to address ‘vulnerable children’, as has Minister for Children Tracey Martin. Both have been harshly criticised over the possible closure of a village providing services for vulnerable children in Roxburgh – this has been around as long as i can remember, it used to be called the Roxburgh Health Camp.

ODT add to the criticism: Not too late to keep promise

The Prime Minister stands accused of breaking a promise and there would seem some foundation in the accusation.

Labour campaigned on policies aimed at improving the lives of children and, once elected, the focus on social policy was heavy: pledges to end child poverty, provide affordable housing, change parts of the welfare system, improve health delivery, lift the incomes of the “working poor”.

The Stand Children’s Services Roxburgh children’s village — tasked with changing the lives of vulnerable children who have suffered trauma — is sadly familiar with the social and health ills Jacinda Ardern has pledged to fix.

The village’s possible closure, announced last month because of a shortfall in funding, flies in the face of the promise of social focus from Ms Ardern, and the Prime Minister and Minister for Children, Tracey Martin, came in for harsh criticism at a public meeting held in Roxburgh last week to try to stop the closure of the village.

The Labour-led Government said it was serious about the children of New Zealand, but instead had “fallen at the first fence”, Teviot Valley Community Board chairman Raymond Gunn said.

Ms Ardern has been conspicuously silent about the village, refusing to comment about its future, passing the buck instead to Mrs Martin.

Such silence smacked of a “guilty conscience”, Roxburgh staff member and New Zealand Public Service Association delegate Carol Hastie said.

The Roxburgh village helps 380 children a year, and they are some of the nation’s most vulnerable.Luckily, most people cannot imagine the kinds of trauma that means a child needs to be sent to an intensive, residential, wrap-around service such as the Stand children’s village.

But for the children who have ended up there, through no fault of their own, the village can literally change lives.

It has done for decades.

Southern social service agencies have said there is no equivalent to the residential Stand service for the children who need it.

Stand chief executive Dr Fiona Inkpen says if the Roxburgh village closes, children will suffer, and fall through the cracks.

But all are also reminding of the loss of 31 jobs in Roxburgh if the children’s village closes.

If it was in the Dunedin North electorate then Minister of Health David Clark may have more of an interest in it.

Perhaps this is a service that has been overlooked in funding guidelines. Ardern could front up and address this anomaly, but unfortunately she is getting a bit of a record for avoiding awkward issues.

 

 

30% increase in funding for family violence services

One pre-budget announcement, a 30% increase in funding for family violence services, is long overdue.In dollar terms it isn’t a lot, but it is critical that much more is done to reduce both family violence and the effects of family violence.

I think it is one thing that was genuinely neglected by the National led government.

Significant funding boost for family violence services

Social services dealing most directly with the harm caused by family violence will get much needed support as the Government boosts funding to front line agencies for the first time in ten years.

“Nearly half of those receiving the increase are women’s refuges who provide vital support keeping women and children safe,” said Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni.

“The 30 percent increase in funding is critical to the Government’s efforts to begin to turn around New Zealand’s tragic family violence record.

“Additional funding in 2019/20 will enable these critical front line agencies to expand into areas where there isn’t currently any support or start addressing over demand in existing services.

“Family violence has a damaging, yet often hidden, impact on victims’ lives including their ability to work and lead a normal life,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

Through Budget 2018, the Government is allocating an additional $76.157 million over four years to support the delivery of Ministry of Social Development-funded family violence services for victims, perpetrators and their families.

Carmel Sepuloni said, “This funding will provide a boost to around 150 providers of family violence services nationwide.”

This has benefits across portfolios.

 Jan Logie, Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice on Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues, also welcomed the new funding.

“This funding is an important first step, supporting organisations which do vital work but have been stretched to breaking point,” Jan Logie said.

“As we get started on the broader work of challenging and responding to family and sexual violence, it’s crucial that victims and their families are able to get the support they need now. Because they can’t wait.”

Minister for Children Tracey Martin said Budget 2018 funding would have an impact right across New Zealand.

“The announcement delivers on the Coalition Agreement between Labour and New Zealand First to increase funding in this area,” Tracey Martin said.

Family violence feeds general societal violence, so it is critical it is reduced and dealt with more effectively.

I don’t care whether this funding was promised during the campaign, negotiated when the Government was put together, or has come later. Better funding to address awful amounts of family violence is something that had to happen.

Jenny Marcroft tainted but protected (so far)

Serious allegations were made against rookie NZ First MP Jenny Marcroft. Claiming she was under the instruction of a Government Minister she threatened National MP Mark Mitchell.

After Mitchell went public her party leader Winston Peters remarkably instructed her to apologise, something he is unfamiliar with doing, and put it down to ‘a misunderstanding’.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she sought assurance from all NZ First ministers – Peters, Ron Mark, Shane Jones and Tracey Martin – that they were not involved and has accepted their denials.

RNZ: Nats out for blood over Marcroft-Mitchell dust-up

Mr Mitchell said NZ First MP Jenny Marcroft told him over the weekend to stop supporting a project in his Rodney electorate if he wanted it to get public funding.

He said he was also asked for an assurance National would not ask questions about the Mahurangi River Restoration Project in Parliament if it went ahead.

“Ms Marcroft told me this was because the government was unhappy with me revealing the illegitimate use of Defence Force aircraft by Defence Minister Ron Mark.”

Speaking to RNZ, Mr Mitchell said Ms Marcroft – who entered Parliament last year – had revealed she was acting on behalf of an unnamed minister.

Ms Marcroft declined to comment when contacted by RNZ, but New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said in a statement Mr Mitchell had “misunderstood her underlying point”.

“After the conversation had got out of hand [Ms Marcroft] consulted with me late on Saturday afternoon and was advised by me to issue an apology,” said Mr Peters.

“Ms Marcroft was not under instructions by any NZ First Ministers regarding funding … New Zealand First does not seek to constrain opposition MPs from criticism of the government.”

That is not a full denial that a Minister was involved – “not under instructions by any NZ First Ministers regarding funding”.

It is a very big stretch to think that Marcroft, the most junior NZ First MP, would do anything like this one her own. It is also a stretch to believe that Peters was not in the know to some extent, given his influence and control in NZ First.

Mr Mitchell rejected the response and said he had yet to receive an apology.

“There was certainly no misunderstanding at all … I was very, very clear on the message I’d been given and I was also very clear with Jenny with what I thought about that.”

He said the only response he’d had from NZ First was a text message from Ms Marcroft an hour after the meeting at Orewa Surf Club.

“Hi Mark, on reflection I have considered the substance of our conversation to be incorrect and would therefore ask that you kindly disregard it. Thank you for your generosity in this matter.”

That’s remarkable – not an apology, but also not a denial. It appears that, at best, Marcroft ‘misunderstood’ instructions from someone in NZ First and then retracted.

Stuff: Junior NZ First MP trying to use Govt fund to heavy Opposition ‘acting alone’ – PM

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she had sought assurances from every NZ First Minister that they had not sent NZ First MP Jenny Marcroft to do their bidding, when she threatened Mitchell that funding for a local river restoration project would be in doubt if he did not cease his involvement.

Ardern said the matter had been resolved and she would not be looking into it further.

She has said that as she is satisfied that a Minister wasn’t involved it is not her problem, it’s a NZ First matter. It is still a serious matter.

Ardern was questioned about it in Parliament yesterday by Simon Bridges.

Hon Simon Bridges: Was the discussion where the Prime Minister “sought assurances” from Tracey Martin regarding Jenny Marcroft and the provincial growth fund carried out by her in person; if not, how was it carried out?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member will know from the sequence of events that I outlined that I intended to seek assurances from each member on the Tuesday morning.

Hon Simon Bridges: Intended?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, at that point, I hadn’t done that. Immediately after, I phoned each of those Ministers and spoke with them directly. Of course, the phone was a quicker way for me to be able to do that.

Hon Simon Bridges: So how long was that phone call with Tracey Martin?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Seeking an assurance from a Minister that they were not involved in a situation doesn’t take that long.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has the Prime Minister or her office done any further checks to corroborate Tracey Martin’s version of events?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I take Ministers who work within Cabinet at their word, as, I’m sure, the leader takes his members at their word. That is how Cabinet operates.

Paula Bennett also asked Winston Peters about the matter.

Hon Paula Bennett: Why did the Deputy Prime Minister put out a statement on Monday under the heading of “Deputy Prime Minister” when now we are informed that he has no responsibility for the content?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I think, with precision, I was seeking to help out my friend Mr Mitchell and make sure he was on the straight and narrow.

Hon Paula Bennett: So what does he mean, then, by saying that Mr Mitchell needs to be on the straight and narrow?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Ah yes, well, given how wide the parameters of behaviour are in that party, I know that’s a great stricture, but what I’m really trying to ensure is that he gets the correct story before he wantonly goes public with it.

Hon Paula Bennett: So the question is, then: what is the correct story when he was approached by a member of the Deputy Prime Minister’s party who informed him that he had been sent by a Minister; so is the correct story that he was sent by one of your Ministers?

Mr SPEAKER: No, I can deal with that very, very easily. The responsibility for the member of the party is not that of the Deputy Prime Minister, and responsibility for the Minister is not either. That is the responsibility of the Prime Minister, but there is no ministerial responsibility for the actions of backbench members of Parliament.

Hon Paula Bennett: What was the underlying point that he refers to frequently, and what is the message that Mr Mark needed to get on Saturday afternoon?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The underlying point would have been that this was about a conversation to do with the provincial growth fund; that because of the previous Government having thrown Warkworth and Wellsford against their wishes into the super-city, they could not qualify; but that because we are an open-minded party it would not pre-empt us trying to see our way through it in the future to help the people from Warkworth. [Interruption] But it’s what I’m saying and it’s a fact.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does he still believe that “transparency and openness” is the middle name of this Government, as he’s said previously, when both Minister Tracey Martin and MP Jenny Marcroft avoid media questions?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER: No, no, the member cannot answer it, because he—I don’t care if he wants to. The member cannot answer it because that is not an area that he has any ministerial responsibility for.

It is obvious where National are looking for responsibility for Marcroft’s approach to Mitchell.

If a National back bencher had done anything like what Marcroft had done while in government it is easy to imagine how Peters would have acted.  Typically he would have implied he had evidence, he would have demanded resignations, and he would have pursued the matter for some time.

National may be taking there time with this. Marcroft has not been held to account properly yet, and if someone did instruct her then there is more holding to account would be appropriate.

This is potentially a far more serious matter than the Curran meeting, but which took most of the media’s attention yesterday.

This may or may not be a Government problem, but regardless, it adds to an appearance of the coalition government being out of control. With the other problems Ardern is having to deal with, and some of them not very well, this could end up being a big deal early in their term of government.

I wouldn’t be surprised if National took this further in Question Time today. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Tracey Martin found she had more important ministerial business elsewhere.

New deputy predicted for NZ First

There has never been any doubt who will lead NZ First while Winston Peters remains an MP, but the deputy spot is less secure. In 2015 Ron Mark got the numbers to oust Tracey Martin, but it looks like the knives are out for Mark, with the position up for a caucus vote next week.

Martin and Shane Jones appear to be too busy to consider going for it, so it looks like the way is open to Fletcher Tabuteau to take on some more responsibility.

Stuff: NZ First deputy leader Ron Mark looks set to be rolled at caucus on Tuesday

They say what goes around comes around and in Ron Mark’s case he’ll be hoping that’s not the case.

Mark rose to be NZ First’s deputy leader in 2015 after he challenged Tracey Martin and got enough support in the caucus to roll her.

But the party’s deputy leadership is up for grabs again on Tuesday and it’s understood the job is NZ First MP Fletcher Tabuteau’s – if he wants it.

Tabuteau was fourth on the NZ First list last election, behind Peters, Mark and Martin (Jones was 8th).

Mark need not worry about Martin, whose popularity amongst colleagues exceeds his, as it’s understood she’s not interested in the job due to her heavy ministerial workload.

NZ First new-comer but old-timer in terms of political experience, Shane Jones, has long been touted to take over the leadership from Winston Peters if he ever decided to throw it all in and head to Whananaki to retire.

But he’s not interested in the job either – he says he’s got one billion trees to plant and a $1 billion regional economic fund to spend, which would keep him far too busy for anything else.

So it looks like a contest between Mark and Tabuteau, if Mark doesn’t read the writing on the wall and say he’s too busy being a minister.

While he (Jones) says it’s not a “priority” for him to be deputy leader and in the short term he has a “hell of a role” he possibly also doesn’t see the deputy job as any sort of assumed stepping stone to the leadership.

 

Inquiry into abuse in state care

For a long time abuses of children in state care has been a serious and unresolved problem.

As promised by Labour (Taking action in our first 100 days), the Government has launched an overdue inquiry into these abuses.


Inquiry into abuse in state care

A Royal Commission of Inquiry into historical abuse in state care has been announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister of Internal Affairs Tracey Martin today.

“We have a huge responsibility to look after everyone, particularly our children in state care. Any abuse of children is a tragedy, and for those most vulnerable children in state care, it is unconscionable.

“Today we are sending the strongest possible signal about how seriously we see this issue by setting up a Royal Commission of Inquiry,” says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

“This is a chance to confront our history and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again. It is a significant step towards acknowledging and learning from the experiences of those who have been abused in state care”.

A Royal Commission is a form of public inquiry. It has the same legal powers as other public inquiries, but is generally reserved for the most serious issues of public importance.

Former Governor-General, Rt Hon Sir Anand Satyanand, will chair the Royal Commission.

“The independence and integrity of the inquiry and the process it follows are critical and Sir Anand has the mana, skills and experience necessary to lead this work. The process will be responsive to the needs of victims and survivors and support them to tell their stories,” says Jacinda Ardern.

Minister Martin said that the draft terms of reference approved by Cabinet task the Royal Commission with looking into what abuse happened in state care, why it happened and what the impacts were, particularly for Māori. They also ask the Commission to identify lessons that can be learned from this abuse today.

“We have set a wide scope. The time period covered is the 50 years from 1950 to the end of 1999 and, unlike some similar overseas inquiries, the Royal Commission will take a broad view of abuse and consider physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect,” says Minister Martin.

The ‘state care’ definition covers circumstances where the state directly ran institutions such as child welfare institutions, borstals or psychiatric hospitals, and where the government contracted services out to other institutions.

“We know this is an issue that has affected not only people who were abused in state care, but their families, whānau and wider communities too. It is therefore crucial that members of the public, including victims and survivors, have a chance to have their say,” Minister Martin says.

The Minister said that Sir Anand’s first task was to consult on the draft terms of reference for the Royal Commission. “We want people to have their say before we even start.”

The draft terms of reference provide for the Inquiry to provide its final report within the current Parliamentary term and a process for agreeing to any extensions to reporting deadlines if needed. They also authorise the Inquiry to make interim findings or recommendations and consider ways of working that will ensure public understanding of its work.

Following the consultation period, Cabinet will make a final decision on the terms of reference, the additional Inquiry members and the final budget for the Inquiry.

The Inquiry, which is formally established today, will start considering evidence once the terms of reference are finalised and published.

For the Inquiry: royalcommission.statecare@dia.govt.nz

More information can be found athttp://www.dia.govt.nz/Royal-Commission-into-Historical-Abuse-in-State-Care