Sacked minister Stuart Nash has broken his silence following his dismissal and taken a shot at Christopher Luxon, saying the National Party leader is “one of these guys who smiles to your face but stabs you in the back”.
Nash earlier apologised to his constituents in Napier and confirmed he will continue as the MP for the Hawke’s Bay electorate.
“First and foremost, I would like to apologise to the Prime Minister, Cabinet, caucus colleagues, my staff and the amazing, hard-working Labour members of Napier for letting them down and causing an unwanted distraction at a time when we all need to be laser-focused on delivering for New Zealanders and returning Chris Hipkins as Prime Minister this coming election,” Nash posted on social media.
“To the people of Napier, whom it has been an absolute pleasure and privilege serving and representing in parliament, I also offer my apologies.
“For now, I will continue to be your local MP and will work hard to ensure you get everything you need and deserve in your journey of recovery after Cyclone Gabrielle.”
While National continue to call for Nash to resign as an MP and trigger a byelection, Nash said he would not be doing so.
“There will be no unnecessary, messy and expensive byelection – this is the last thing our city needs.”
Speaking to 1News at Wellington Airport before he flew home to Hawke’s Bay, Nash said Luxon should concentrate on the issues important to Kiwis and not “gotcha politics”.
“Chris is one of these guys who smiles to your face but stabs you in the back. I’ve got no time for that sort of stuff,” he said.
Nash acknowledged he had been wrong “too many times” and said Prime Minister Chris Hipkins “did what he needed to do”.
“I have always considered the greatest challenge – but also the greatest opportunity – in politics is delivery. Execution.
“Getting stuff done and coming up with solutions to the issues of the day. I tend to go hard when often a softer approach would perhaps deliver superior results over the longer term.
“In times of crisis – like Covid-19 or March 15th or White Island or the Cyclones: all of which I had a ministerial responsibility for response – this hard execution-focused approach can work, but I absolutely acknowledge that I played outside the rules and that’s unacceptable.
“Never ever for personal gain, or to benefit anyone other than the people of NZ and my Napier constituents, but that doesn’t matter in the end. I let them down by not getting it right.”
Nash offered an apology to his family, saying “these events after often more traumatic for our partners and children than they are for us; so, to Sarah and our wonderful children, I am truly sorry”.
He said his wife had often commented that he needed to work on his emotional intelligence.
“She’s right, so it’s time to take her very sage advice as I embark on the next phase of my journey.”
Review into Nash’s communications
Hipkins has told the Cabinet secretary to review all correspondence between Stuart Nash and his donors - and has also revealed that staff in the Prime Minister’s office saw Nash’s email to two donors in 2021, but did not escalate it.
Hipkins said the 2020 email from Nash to donors Troy Bowker and Greg Loveridge was part of the wider material considered under an Official Information Act request in 2021. It was not released under the request because it was deemed out of scope.
He said Nash’s office had consulted the Prime Minister’s office about it - but the email was not brought to the attention of either then Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern or her chief of staff.
Hipkins said he had made clear to his staff that if something similar happened under his watch, he expected to be told.
“I have made it very clear to my office that I expect to be advised of any such matters should they arrive.
“I have made it very clear I expect to be alerted of any such communications in the future.”
He has also ordered a review of all of Nash’s communications with the donors listed in his election returns - expected to take two months.
“Stuart has advised me he will fully cooperate with that review.
“I expect a high level of conduct from Ministers and MPs and his actions raise perceptions of influence which cannot stand and therefore need to be checked,” Hipkins said.
He said it was important for public confidence to undertake such a measure, but did not believe a wider review of all ministers’ communications with donors was required.
And he said he was also keen to check after being given earlier assurances by Nash that there was nothing else amiss in his dealings - only for the email to his donors about Cabinet decisions on the rent relief scheme to come to light.
The review would look at whether there were any other breaches of cabinet collective responsibility or confidentially, or whether there have been perceived or actual conflicts of interest in communications Nash has had with donors.
“The scope of this review will be limited to emails, texts and other messages between Stuart Nash and any declared donor to his campaign,” Hipkins said.
Asked if the email was covered up in the handling of the OIA, he said it was not included because it was outside the scope of the request.
Nash is expected to reveal later today what his future plans are.
Hipkins would not comment on what Nash had decided for his own future, saying that was for Nash to announce himself.
Nash - ‘Labour to the core’
Nash told the Herald this morning that he would not quit as an MP early to force a byelection in his Napier electorate, and has hosed down speculation he might leap to NZ First, saying he was “Labour to the core.”
“The only thing I will say is I will not leave and create a byelection - there will be no byelection in Napier.”
Asked if he would contest the 2023 election, he said he would have those conversations with his wife and Labour.
He also hosed down speculation he might jump to NZ First - he is close to both Shane Jones and Winston Peters.
Nash said he had had a “long conversation” with Shane Jones last night but he had not been offered a place in NZ First.
“I’m Labour to the core - always have been always will be, Nashes have been for a long, long, long, long time,” Nash said.
Asked this morning at a police announcement about Nash’s future, Hipkins said being dismissed as a minister was not a standard he wanted to set for then being dismissed as an MP as well.
While National leader Christopher Luxon has called for Nash to leave Parliament immediately, Hipkins said that he did not think that was what the people of Napier would want at the moment given they needed an MP after Cyclone Gabrielle and Nash had been heavily involved in the response.
“I don’t think the people of Napier deserve that right at the moment, to be frank, they’ve got a lot on their plate already dealing with the recovery from the cyclone.”
Asked if Hipkins should kick Nash out of caucus, he said he did not want to set a “standard that high”.
“It is not unusual for ministers who have lost their ministerial positions to continue on in the caucus.
“In fact, the National Party still has some people in its current caucus who had previously been dismissed as ministers.
“I’m not going to set a standard that’s so high that others have never had that in the past. Stuart Nash has paid a pretty big consequence for the mistakes that he has made.”
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said there were various information requests in about police dealings with Nash which would be responded to.
He said his interactions with Nash had been “professional and they have been respectful”.
“Generally speaking I have been comfortable with the nature of those conversations.”
On the specific conversation that led to Nash resigning as Police Minister, Coster said while it appeared to be about a specific thing he “didn’t feel pressure from him”.
“I found him to be venting on a particular case.”
He said he did not feel the need to kick that conversation up to a ministerial level.
“I didn’t feel the need to in relation to that situation. I felt it was simply venting. But of course, the perception around that is different.”
He said he had not raised any concerns with higher levels about any of his conversations with Nash.
“In all my dealings with Nash, I found him to be passionate about policing and professional in his dealings.”
Hipkins has spent the morning at Trentham in Wellington, looking at the police tactical response model alongside Police Minister Ginny Andersen and Coster.
However, the subject of Nash, as former Police Minister, has been a focus of his media appearance.
Hipkins announced he had sacked Nash last night after Stuff revealed Nash had emailed two of his donors - Troy Bowker and Greg Loveridge - to update them on Cabinet discussions around a rent relief scheme during Covid-19.
Hipkins said it was a breach of Cabinet collectivity and confidentiality. Nash was already on his final warning after a string of scandals before the latest misstep came to light, but Hipkins said the most recent scandal was “inexcusable” and this incident alone would have seen Nash sacked.
Bowker had donated $10,000 to Nash for the 2020 campaign, Loveridge had donated $5000 via a company, GRL Holdings.
Both men, who Hipkins said had done nothing wrong, were also involved in the property industry.
“They are also commercial property owners who had an interest in the Cabinet decision.
“That crosses a line that is totally unacceptable to me,” Hipkins said.
National Party leader Christopher Luxon said Nash should leave Parliament altogether as a result of the email.
National MP Mark Mitchell, who hosted a radio segment with Nash for years and played alongside him in the Parliament rugby team, said this morning he wasn’t surprised by the revelations last night.
“There’s the old saying where there’s smoke there’s fire,” Mitchell said.
“I do have sympathy for Stuart but at the end of the day he is a Cabinet minister and he obviously is bound by Cabinet rules and he kept on breaking those.”
Mitchell said questions needed to be asked to Hipkins on whether this was an isolated incident.
“Has it been a wider pattern of behaviour? Because like I said to you when that first incident happened it became pretty obvious that even Chris Hipkins did not understand how serious it was.”
Mitchell said when Nash’s original scandal appeared he waited to see whether he’d publicly apologise.
“But he didn’t do that he doubled down on it so what it clearly signalled to everyone is that there is no self-awareness.”