New Zealand First leader Winston Peters made a personal explanation in Parliament today in a bid to distance himself from Wally Haumaha, despite Peters speaking at an event to celebrate Haumaha's promotion last year to Assistant Police Commissioner.
Peters said he had been invited to the event to mark Haumaha's promotion under the previous National Government and that the Police had asked Peters to make a speech.
"I do not think that in any way compromises me," said Peters.
The process by which Haumaha was subsequently appointed to Deputy Police Commissioner this year is the subject of a Government inquiry, which is being set up by Internal Affairs Minister and New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin.
At the heart of the initial controversy was whether the appointment committee knew about Haumaha's historic comments suggesting that rape allegations by Louise Nicholas against his former colleagues were nonsense, and whether the cabinet should have known.
But Haumaha's association with New Zealand First is coming under increasing scrutiny too – an association that was not declared to the cabinet.
Haumaha was briefly named as a New Zealand First candidate in 2005 before Fletcher Tabuteau, now the New Zealand First deputy, was selected as the candidate.
It was revealed by the Herald this week that Tabuteau and Haumaha are whanau and come from the same Rotorua marae, Waiteti, of which Haumaha is the chairman. Tabuteau mentioned him in his maiden speech.
The marae hosted a celebration last year to mark Haumaha's promotion as Assistant Police Commissioner at which Peters, then in Opposition, spoke.
Peters got the permission of all MPs today to make what is known as a personal explanation in the middle of Question Time while National's Chris Bishop was questioning Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin.
Peters: "It is true that I was invited to the marae to celebrate the appointment as an Assistant Commissioner of Police of Wallace Haumaha by the then Government of the day and the National Party who were the then Government, and the Minister of Police [Paula Bennett] as well, and there asked by the Police to make a speech. I do not think that in any way compromises me."
Bishop suggested that Martin had a conflict of interest in setting up the inquiry because she was a New Zealand First MP. He said any New Zealand First MP should recuse themselves from any further involvement.
Martin said she represented the Coalition Government and cabinet decisions. She did not see any conflict in her role as Internal Affairs Minister.
The Internal Affairs staff provide administrative assistance to public and Government inquiries set up under the Inquiries Act 2013, but that does not mean the Internal Affairs Minister must set up each inquiry.
David Parker as Attorney-General, for example, set up the Government inquiry into the Operation Burnham.
Police Minister Stuart Nash was not considered the appropriate commissioning minister because he was involved in the appointment process.
The person first appointed by the cabinet to conduct the inquiry, Pauline Kingi, resigned last week before starting her work after the Herald revealed she had endorsed Wally Haumaha's skills and experience on the professional networking website LinkedIn website 23 times.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday she hoped a replacement for Kingi would be named this week.
Haumaha has apologised for making the comments did about Louise Nicholas' allegations.