Saturday, May 28, 2022

Karl du Fresne: Nanaia Mahuta and the smell test

The mainstream media have been trying desperately hard to ignore profoundly disturbing questions about the appearance of conflicts of interest involving members of Nanaia Mahuta’s family.

The scandal has reached a point where media credibility, along with that of Mahuta, is on the line. That is, if it hasn’t been shredded beyond repair already.

Revelations about government jobs and contracts awarded to Mahuta’s family connections first emerged on The Daily Examiner website on May 22, illustrating the point that it’s often online platforms, rather than ethically compromised mainstream media, that break important stories – especially those that show the government in a poor light.

The Platform has since picked up the story and so has Kate MacNamara, a New Zealand Herald business reporter who displays a gutsy independent streak lacking in most of her colleagues – all of which raises questions about how much longer the rest of the MSM can go on pretending there’s nothing to see here.

Mahuta insists possible conflicts of interests have been properly managed, but readers who join the dots are bound to form their own conclusions. The Daily Examiner’s forensic breakdown of the jobs and contracts allocated to her husband and sister is, on the face of it, damning.

In any case, as Graham Adams points out, whether Mahuta’s handling of potential conflicts satisfies legal tests is largely irrelevant, because it’s all about public perception. The test that really counts is the smell test, and in this case the smell is “off”. It’s the whiff of nepotism, and even if Mahuta has behaved in accordance with the rules, she has shown appalling political judgment – or should that be arrogance? – by allowing the situation to arise.

Meanwhile we wait to see whether the controversy has reached the point where even the TV news bulletins can no longer ignore it – or whether, as on Newshub last night, the focus remains on the prime minister’s visit to the US, where she’s been feted for her supposedly tough action to prevent gun crime.

I waited for one of the Newshub presenters to note the obvious irony that the gushing coverage of Ardern’s visit was immediately followed by an item about the continuing epidemic of drive-by shootings in Auckland, but apparently Newshub doesn’t do irony.

Karl du Fresne, a freelance journalist, is the former editor of The Dominion newspaper. He blogs at


Badger said...

The ODT published this story in its Thursday or Friday print-edition although I couldn't find it online.

DeeM said...

In any other government Deny-a Mahuta would have resigned or been demoted. Just like Mallard.
Labour obviously have absolute faith in THEIR MSM that they'll continue to back them by ignoring stories like this. They obviously believe most of the NZ public are too apathetic, ignorant or just plain gullible to notice.
Once this awful government goes though the MSM will face the backlash and they better start building a big ladder to get them out of the corrupt hole they dug to put their PIJF money in before the next election or they will become irrelevant.

Ray S said...

As I have said before, rightly or wrongly, the perception that Mahuta has cocked up is all that matters.
The Prime Minister and MSM are complicit in the affair.

Why heads don't roll is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

The silence from the MSM is telling. If a white, National party cabinet minister indulged in such unadulterated nepotism, the MSM would be baying for his blood, and quite rightly too. (Yes, I accuse them of brazen racial and political bias). Is Mahuta’s corruption a vision for NZ’s cogovernance future?

Rex Mangham said...

As usual you are right on the money with your "smell Test" assessment. Arrogance rather than appalling political judgement would be my opinion. Worldwide, we are seeing the political elite drag western democracies down the collective gurgler and the only solution is going to be ugly confrontation as "the people" take back control of their own lives.

Anonymous said...

This will be why JA has disappeared overseas, to distance herself from the fallout on this evident cronyism becoming so evident since this govt in power. In National, it's called the "old boys club", but with this govt, it's just called plain obvious and stinks to high heaven, along with the 3 Waters asset theft led by Mahuta and everything else legislated since the last dodgy election.

ihcpcoro said...

Trust in the government process has been destroyed. We have become a stinking cesspit of corruption and deceit under this government. Most Kiwis feel that they are no longer participants in our once wonderful country. Greed and ego now rule. To hell with them.

Carl Kent said...

It is evident that our media is afraid , or incompetent, in terms of dealing with serious issues, such as the appalling nepotism which surrounds the Mahuta Clan. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Why are we so apathetic regarding such blatant corruption ? I am a long time Labour voter but this corrupt crew need to be held accountable. Can we really have any sort of confidence in this government? God help NZ if Ms Ardern and her cronies are not held to account. The sooner the better.