Jacinda Ardern putting a pretty face to some rather ugly politics.
National leader Chirstopher Luxon has called for the resignation of Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta, saying that she defied Cabinet during the vote to entrench part of the Three Waters legislation.
While it is common for the opposition leader to criticise ministers, calling for their sacking is relatively rare. Luxon called for former police minister Poto Williams to be stood down from that job (Ardern later reshuffled her). This time Luxon has called for Mahuta to go from all portfolios.
“Has she lost so much control over her Cabinet that she’s now either unwilling or unable to remove a minister who has openly defied her?,” Luxon asked Ardern in the House.
He said Mahuta has broken the Cabinet Manuel [sic] by supporting an SOP (an amendment) to entrench part of Three Waters despite Cabinet resolving to oppose entrenchment.
“Cabinet agreed on May 30 ‘that the [Water Services Entities] Bill should not entrench the privatisation provisions in the Bill’. Despite ruling out entrenchment of any form or threshold, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta openly defied the Prime Minister and forcefully backed the entrenchment clause in the House two weeks ago,” Luxon said.
“In that speech, Ms Mahuta led the charge for the Government, claiming a ‘moral obligation’ of those opposed to privatisation to support entrenchment of the provision. Labour then unanimously voted for it.
“But Cabinet opposed any form or threshold of entrenchment, not just one requiring 75 per cent support. Therefore, the Minister’s claim that her efforts to entrench aspects of the Bill with a 60 per cent threshold is somehow different, is nonsense.
“The Cabinet Manual is clear. It says, ‘once Cabinet makes a decision, Ministers must support it, regardless of their personal views.’ Yet despite breaching the Cabinet Manual and openly defying her colleagues and the Prime Minister, Ms Mahuta remains a minister,” he said.
Luxon asked in Question Time, whether she tolerated ministers “keeping her in the dark” about what the party might be voting on.
The dissembling from Ardern and the Labour Party over this debacle is incredible. Two weeks ago they were defending the entrenchment clause. At a stand-up while at Fieldays in Hamilton Ardern attacked the National Party, claiming they wanted to privatise water, but on Sunday they had walked back their support and are now claiming it was all a big mistake.
The Prime Minister’s excuses are starting to look and sound incredibly like Father Ted when he was caught stealing money.
Ardern: ‘It was all just a mistake…’
Commentators: ‘Yes, yes but you chaired cabinet and decided against entrenchment.’
Ardern: ‘But, but it was a Green Party SOP’
Commentators: ‘But your minister brought that to caucus which you chair, and agreed on it’
Ardern: ‘But, but I didn’t know about the SOP’
Commentators: ‘But you voted for it Prime Minister’
Ardern: ‘It was just a mistake, and now we’ve fixed it”
Commentators: ‘But you defended it for two solid weeks’
Ardern: Look it was just a mistake, the important thing is we fixed it’
Commentators: ‘But you tried it on didn’t you?’
Ardern: ‘No, no, no…yes…[pout]…harruph.
And that basically sums up the utter flannel and dissembling coming from Ardern.
Even if we accept it was a mistake, was it a mistake that Nanaia Mahuta negotiated it with Eugenie Sage?
Was it a mistake that the caucus voted on it at a meeting chaired by Ardern?
Was it a mistake when the entire caucus voted in the parliament on the SOP?
For someone who is trying desperately to portray herself as competent and in command of everything that sure is a whole lot of negligence, incompetence and lack of control.
Just who is in charge of this government? – because it sure looks like Nanaia Mahuta from where most of us are looking.
The government has been humiliated and looks to be in complete disarray. The ever-widening cracks in the divided Labour Party caucus and Ardern’s dysfunctional leadership team are so obvious even Blind Freddy can see them.
The voters can see it too, which is why Labour is now polling in the 20s according to the latest Roy Morgan poll.
There is a saying in politics that a party is dog tucker at the next election.
Cam Slater is a New Zealand-based blogger, best known for his role in Dirty Politics and publishing the Whale Oil Beef Hooked blog, which operated from 2005 until it closed in 2019. This article was first published HERE