The Herald reports:
Labour MP Meka Whaitiri has been sacked as a minister over allegations of a fracas with a staff member but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has left the door open for her to return to Cabinet.
Ardern said today she no longer had confidence in Whaitiri as a minister after receiving a report last night into an incident in Gisborne on August 27 between Whaitiri and a staff member.
Whaitiri was suspended as Customs Minister on August 30. The details of the incident have never been revealed but it is believed there was a physical altercation between Whaitiri and a press secretary who had been in the job for only a week.
“While the facts are in dispute, the report says an incident occurred. Meka Whaitiri continues to contest details of the incident, but there are elements which are agreed,” Ardern told reporters.
She would not reveal further details of the report by Ministerial Services because it was an employment matter and to protect the privacy of the staff member involved.
But she said a version of the report would be publicly released.
This is the right decision and kudos to Ardern for making it.
When facts are in dispute, you look at credibility and motive. Why would a brand new press secretary fabricate an alleged assault by their Minister?
So good to see Ardern make the right call on her remaining a Minister.
However I note she is saying she can remain as an MP despite allegedly assaulting her press secretary and she may even become a Minister again. Compare that to Aaron Gilmore who was basically forced to resign over merely big noting at a restaurant.
Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi, who took over the Customs portfolio when Whaitiri was stood down, would keep it, Ardern said.
Whaitiri’s associate minister responsibilities would revert to the lead ministers, and Ardern said there were no plans for a Cabinet reshuffle.
It’s good they are not being replaced as the Executive was far too large anyway. Not the best way to trim its size, but hey the end result is good.
But it does give Ardern a problem in terms of gender. Labour now has two fewer female Ministers than Bill English had. For some people, this would not be an issue. But Labour has said they think there should be equality of numbers and under 30% of the Ministry are female. And if you only include Labour Party Ministers they are at just 26% female.
Now compare that to National. Bill English had 25 National Party Ministers and 10 were female, which is 40%. So 40% vs 26%.