COMMENT:

Losing Clare Curran from Cabinet may have been a case of misfortune for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Losing Meka Whaitiri less than a week later looks like carelessness.

Whaitiri has been stood down as a minister altogether while an investigation is conducted into an alleged altercation this week between the minister and a new staff member.

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The Government's reputation was brought into disrepute by both ministers: Curran for failing to declare a meeting for a second time, which led to a false answer to a parliamentary question for a second time.

That has now been compounded by the Whaitiri investigation.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has had to stand down Clare Curran, top right, and Meka Whaitiri, bottom right. Photos File
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has had to stand down Clare Curran, top right, and Meka Whaitiri, bottom right. Photos File

At this stage it is being described as an employment matter and the investigation is being conducted by Ministerial Services as the employer of the staff member concerned.

But if it was not known before, Ardern will now be all too familiar with the fact that Whaitiri has had a high turnover of staff in 10 months and is considered difficult to work for.

That does not suggest a bright future for the first-time minister.

The latest recruit at the centre of the allegation, in a media-adviser position, had been there for less than a fortnight.

Being difficult to work with has never been grounds for dismissal from Cabinet – otherwise people like Murray McCully would never have survived.

But there is a world of difference between being hard on officials for falling short of expectations and a complaint of this sort.

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Ardern was swifter in her response with Whaitiri than Curran.

Ardern stood Whaitiri aside on Thursday after being told about a "staffing matter" on Wednesday.

The Curran demotion took four days.

Ardern has been more economical on her commentary about the Whaitiri matter too because of privacy interests which, happily for Ardern, coincide with her political interests.

Like many new Prime Ministers, Ardern came to office full of promises about doing Government differently and setting higher standards.

She may insist that she is meeting those standards when ministers pay the price.

But with a backbench itching with ambition, Ardern can afford to be fussier.