National leader Chirstopher Luxon has called for the resignation of Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta, saying that she defied Cabinet during the vote to entrench part of the Three Waters legislation.
While it is common for the opposition leader to criticise ministers, calling for their sacking is relatively rare. Luxon called for former police minister Poto Williams to be stood down from that job (Ardern later reshuffled her). This time Luxon has called for Mahuta to go from all portfolios.
“Has she lost so much control over her Cabinet that she’s now either unwilling or unable to remove a minister who has openly defied her?,” Luxon asked Ardern in the House.
He said Mahuta has broken the Cabinet Manuel by supporting an SOP (an amendment) to entrench part of Three Waters despite Cabinet resolving to oppose entrenchment.
“Cabinet agreed on May 30 ‘that the [Water Services Entities] Bill should not entrench the privatisation provisions in the Bill’. Despite ruling out entrenchment of any form or threshold, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta openly defied the Prime Minister and forcefully backed the entrenchment clause in the House two weeks ago,” Luxon said.
“In that speech, Ms Mahuta led the charge for the Government, claiming a ‘moral obligation’ of those opposed to privatisation to support entrenchment of the provision. Labour then unanimously voted for it.
“But Cabinet opposed any form or threshold of entrenchment, not just one requiring 75 per cent support. Therefore, the Minister’s claim that her efforts to entrench aspects of the Bill with a 60 per cent threshold is somehow different, is nonsense.
“The Cabinet Manual is clear. It says, ‘once Cabinet makes a decision, Ministers must support it, regardless of their personal views.’ Yet despite breaching the Cabinet Manual and openly defying her colleagues and the Prime Minister, Ms Mahuta remains a minister,” he said.
Luxon asked in Question Time, whether she tolerated ministers “keeping her in the dark” about what the party might be voting on.
Ardern responded saying she “would not have an expectation that for every bill coming through this house that we would see every single SOP,” however she did not respond to Luxon’s specific allegation that Mahuta had kept her “in the dark”.
Ardern said Mahuta upheld the decision of Cabinet to resolve against entrenchment at the same time that Mahuta voted in favour of the entrenchment clause.
She justified this by noting the amendment came from the Green Party, rather than Labour.
In Question Time, Mahuta defended the vote, saying the Cabinet resolution did not apply to the amendment Labour voted on, which was put up by the Green Party.
She said the “lower threshold” of the amendment put up by the Greens meant it was distinct from the Cabinet decision.
Under questions from National’s local government spokesman Simon Watts, Mahuta would not say whether she acted with Cabinet’s authorisation when she spoke and voted in favour of the Green vote.