Ardern ignoring the Cabinet Manual

Radio NZ reports:

Assistant Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the New Zealand First Foundation – which faces investigation from the SFO – has nothing to do with her or Winston Peters’ role in her Cabinet.

So we have it on the record. False donation returns and false election returns are not a barrier to a role in Cabinet.

In the latest development last week, NZ First leader Winston Peters claimed photos taken of investigative journalists Guyon Espiner (RNZ) and Matt Shand (Stuff) had been taken by a party supporter – after earlier saying “we took them [the photos]”.

Speaking to RNZ’s Morning Report today, Ardern kept her distance from the whole affair, saying none of it was a matter for her. …

She was asked directly whether – considering the fact he was in her Cabinet and was the deputy Prime Minister and stood in for her when she was unavailable – it was truly not a matter for her.

She was also asked whether Peters’ conduct met the threshold required by the Cabinet manual of upholding the highest ethical standards.

“It is not conduct I’ve been engaged in. No, I don’t see these things as being explicit to the Cabinet manual, which is the conduct of how we run the government,” she said.

Ardern is flat out wrong her, and effectively she is saying the Cabinet Manual is no longer worth the paper it is written on. Let me quote sections 2.55 and 2.56

2.55A Minister of the Crown, while holding a ministerial warrant, acts in a number of different capacities:

in a ministerial capacity, making decisions and determining and promoting policy within particular portfolios;

in a political capacity as a member of Parliament, representing a constituency or particular community of interest; and

in a personal capacity.

2.56 In all these roles and at all times, Ministers are expected to act lawfully and to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards. This includes exercising a professional approach and good judgement in their interactions with the public and officials, and in all their communications, personal and professional. Ultimately, Ministers are accountable to the Prime Minister for their behaviour.

The Cabinet Manual is explicit (ie no wriggle room) that the requirement to behave to the highest ethical standards does not just apply to Ministers in their ministerial capacity but also in their wider political capacity.

So Ardern is either lying about the Cabinet Manual only being about “the conduct of how we run the Government” or she doesn’t know what it says. You can decide which one is more likely.

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