Mana Party leader Hone Harawira reckons dumped Cabinet Minister Phil Heatley is a "smarmy p****'' who jokes about the poor, but the Whangarei MP says he takes poverty seriously and it's no laughing matter.
Mr Heatley was dumped from his Energy and Resources and Housing ministerial portfolios in Prime Minister John Key's latest Cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday.
Yesterday, Mr Harawira said on National Radio's Morning Report that the sacking of Mr Heatley would be a welcome relief for low-income families.
He said Mr Heatley presided over policies which make it harder to access affordable housing and called him a smarmy p**** who put poor people down by making jokes about them.
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Mr Heatley wasn't too concerned about the insult, but said poverty was no laughing matter.
"Local people who know me and who know Hone are quite capable of making their own judgment on our respective characters,'' the Whangarei MP said. "That aside, I take welfare policy seriously. Poverty is no joking matter.''
Mr Heatley's demotion took everybody by surprise and the MP heard he was to be dropped only that morning.
He said he would now be able to put more time into issues affecting Northland and would be pushing for better infrastructure, including road and rail, better broadband coverage and speeds, electricity supply security and economic development.
Mr Heatley said he would be working closely with Northland MP Mike Sabin to help address those issues.
National Party Whangarei Electorate Chairman Murray Broadbelt said he was surprised and disappointed at Mr Heatley's demotion, as all the feedback he had received from within the party was that he was doing a good job as a minister.
"It took everybody by surprise, but the positive is we will get to see him more in Whangarei,'' Mr Broadbelt said.