Topic: Politics

Bennett claims Whaitiri inquiry info leaked by Labour's Māori Caucus

By Talisa Kupenga

Ikaroa Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri has appeared in parliament for the second time in as many weeks since the allegations that she assaulted a former staffer.

The investigation outcome is pending but National's deputy leader Paula Bennett says a decision has already been made to let Whaitiri stay.

Labour’s Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene says, "I understand she's had leave and she's due back in the house and that's why she's here today.  Just doing her duties as an MP."

But rumour is she's here to stay.

Bennett says, " I've just heard from sources pretty close to the Māori Caucus that they already know what the outcome is going to be, that she is going to be safe, that they weren't going to allow anything but that to happen and that there's strength in their numbers."

So who's been blabbing to Bennett?

Tirikatene denies he is the source, so does Nanaia Mahuta.

Labour’s Māori Caucus co-chair Willie Jackson says, "we didn't leak nothing and all this rubbish that Paula Bennett has been putting out is just nonsensical."

It's been a week since Whaitiri was last seen here in parliament.  She remains on ministerial pay and retains her position as Māori Caucus co-chair.

Tirikatene says, "That's the position she holds and there is an ongoing process at the moment but she's still the co-leader along with Willie."

The investigation was expected to take two to three weeks, but it's been two weeks to the day since Whaitiri stood down as a minister and there is still no outcome.

Ministerial Services say the investigation is ongoing and won't comment further.