LIVE: Labour MP Clare Curran addresses media on her resignation

Posted by nzherald.co.nz on Thursday, 6 September 2018

Jacinda Ardern insisted in an interview today that she would not fire Clare Curran - but the Prime Minister had accepted the errant MP's resignation the night before.

The under-fire Curran has quit as a minister, saying the pressure on her had become "intolerable". She becomes the first casualty in the Ardern administration.

Ardern told Newstalk ZB's Chris Lynch - in an interview recorded at 8am this morning - that she would not fire Curran.

But it has now emerged the errant minister told Ardern last night that she would quit - and Ardern accepted her resignation.

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When asked by reporters in Gisborne today about her comment to Newstalk ZB, Ardern said: "The question that I was asked this morning was whether I'd asked her to resign, and the answer was no."

Ardern said Curran had contacted her last night and they had talked it through.

"There's no doubt there was a huge amount of pressure on her," she said.

"I think the pressure that she felt was pressure she put on herself."

Ardern conceded Curran had made errors of judgment.

"There is no doubt the minister made a mistake. The pressure she is under is stopping her from doing her job.

"The expectations on us as politicians is high."

Curran would continue to be a "passionate representative" for Dunedin South, Ardern said.

But she insisted her Cabinet was "absolutely" stable.

Curran told reporters today she had made mistakes but they had been amplified and the pressure was "intolerable".

She was proud to have worked in the coalition Government and was "deeply saddened" that she could not continue her work.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had defended Clare Curran but accepted her resignation last night.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had defended Clare Curran but accepted her resignation last night.

Curran thanked the Prime Minister and colleagues for their support.

She addressed the use of her Gmail, saying she used it only infrequently for work purposes and it was discoverable.

Curran read from a prepared statement and walked away quickly - without taking questions after she finished reading the brief statement.

Clare Curran's statement in full

"I am, like the rest of you, a human being, and I can longer endure the relentless pressure that I've that I've been under.

"I've made mistakes, they weren't deliberate undermining of the political system. But my mistakes have been greatly amplified and the pressure on me has become intolerable.

"We all bring to our jobs strengths and weaknesses. Our political system should never try to cast people in the same mould. I was really proud to have served in the coalition government ministry.

"During my time as a minister I've worked hard on issues I've really believed in. How to bring more depth, maturity and sustainability to our media system, particularly publicly-funded media, to fundamentally make our democracy stronger.

"How to give New Zealanders more confidence and trust in our political system and the motivation to be active and understand how they can have their voices heard. And how to build an inclusive, productive digital society that leaves no one behind.

"I'm deeply saddened I won't be able to do that.

"I thank my Prime Minister for the chance she gave me. I thanks all my colleagues and my party for the support, encouragement and solidarity that they show every day.

"On the question of Gmail use. I use my Gmail account infrequently for work and it would have been discoverable, and it hasn't been used to conceal anything.

"And I will continue as the MP for Dunedin South."

Still questions: Bridges

National leader Simon Bridges said there were still questions to be answered about Curran's use of her private Gmail account.

"Is there information contained in these emails which has forced the resignation of Ms Curran," he said.

National leader Simon Bridges said there were still questions to be answered about Curran's use of her private Gmail account. Photo / File
National leader Simon Bridges said there were still questions to be answered about Curran's use of her private Gmail account. Photo / File

"Jacinda Ardern had two chances to show leadership and sack Ms Curran – when she first misled New Zealanders over secret meetings and then when she did it again recently," he said in a statement.

"The Prime Minister also needs to explain why she misled New Zealanders this morning by saying Ms Curran's job was safe when Ms Curran says she resigned last night."

'Unacceptable distraction for the Government'

Earlier, announcing Curran's resignation, Ardern said: "Clare Curran contacted me last night to confirm her wish to resign as a minister and I accepted that resignation.

"Clare has come to the view the issues currently surrounding her are causing an unacceptable distraction for the Government and immense pressure on her personally.

"I agree with her assessment that resigning is the best course of action for the Government and for her."

Just this morning Ardern had said Curran's job was safe.

Ardern told Lynch said she had not considered firing Curran over a series of stumbles in recent times.

"No, because I think she's paid her price. I have huge expectations of my ministers and those in the ministry but I also accept from time to time they will also have bad days.

"I have to keep in mind that we do want to make sure that we don't set the bar so high that you can't have a situation where you show a bit of human frailty and lose your job over it," Ardern said.

Curran said today: "I advised the Prime Minister last night I would resign as a minister, which she accepted.

"I have come to the conclusion the current heat being placed on me is unlikely to go away. This pressure has become intolerable.

"For the benefit of the Government, and my personal wellbeing, I believe that resignation is the best course of action."

Curran took personal leave on Thursday after a nightmare in Parliament on Wednesday.

She had been sacked from Cabinet and stripped of her open government and digital services responsibilities by Ardern on August 24 after not disclosing a meeting set up using her personal email account.

Kris Faafoi will become the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, remaining outside of Cabinet, and Peeni Henare will become the Associate Minister for ACC.

Curran has been under fire again this week after bungling an answer in Parliament about whether she had used her personal Gmail account for government business.

She was previously in hot water over failing to correctly diary meetings.

The February meeting with entrepreneur Derek Handley was over his interest in the vacant chief technology officer role.

It was held at 8pm in Curran's Beehive office with nobody else present, and was not put in her diary.

The next month Curran responded to a written question from National but failed to disclose the meeting.

It was her second strike, after a similar omission in relation to a meeting with former Radio NZ boss Carol Hirschfeld earlier this year.

Correspondence released by Curran's office showed Handley messaged Curran on Twitter on February 13 about his interest in the CTO role. The February 27 meeting was later set up using Curran's Gmail account.

In March and in response to a message from Handley, Curran texted through an MBIE email address where applications could be sent.