Chop chop motherfucker.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for our Labour-led government with dismissals of multiple staff, clashes within the coalition, and tens of thousands of dollars being splashed out for a return flight from Nauru. It was around this time last year that the general election took place and although there are always murmurs of political scandals and drama, none have really matched up to what has happened recently.
Meka Whaitiri, the MP formerly responsible for the Customs Portfolio, was stood down due to allegations of ‘manhandling’ her new ministerial press secretary in an altercation in late August. Radio New Zealand state sources told journalists Whaitiri pushed her newly appointed press secretary. There is currently an investigation going on and both Jacinda Arden and Whaitiri are refusing any questioning on the matter.
Another MP of Ardern’s that was removed from Cabinet is Clare Curran. Curran failed to record a meeting she had with Derek Handly for a job vacancy in parliament in her diary. She also didn’t record the meeting in a written parliamentary question. Written questions are one of the ways that allow parliament to keep the government to account. Failing to record the questions asked, and then subsequently answered, within a written parliamentary question can cause reasonable concern over what was said in the meeting. This was one of the main concerns for Ardern as well, which resulted in her accepting Curran’s resignation as MP.
So that’s two MPs gone from Ardern’s team in late August, but that isn’t the end of it. New Zealand’s refugee quota is something that is highly debated and there seems to be a never-ending struggle between dreams and logistics, ethics and nationalism. Despite Ardern having to deal with the fact that she has had two of her MPs gone, she is now seemingly at loggerheads with Winston Peters. Ardern has been softly tiptoeing around doubling and/or raising the quota for a while, but she has recently taken a stand and says that she wants to double our current refugee quota to 1500. This quota conversation is happening currently as it’s been prompted by her visit to the Nauru detention centre.
Winston Peters has now come out and said that “there is a coalition government, and that coalition government did not promise to double the refugee numbers”, and he’s right in a weird sort of way. There has been no official announcement from the government stating that the refugee quote will be doubled, it’s only individuals like Ardern and Iain Lees-Galloway saying this. Ardern has also recently come under fire for taking a return flight from New Zealand to Nauru as it cost $80,000 in fuel to get her to the Pacific island and back. Her reasoning was that it gave her the ability to ‘fulfil my obligations as Prime Minister’ as she was visiting the detention centre as well as attending the three-day international forum held in Nauru.
It seems like a very fine balancing act that our Prime Minister is having to maintain between upholding behavioural expectations of her MPs, keeping in-house fighting to a minimum and trying to spend our money in the most cost effective way.